I know next to nothing about hunting, but I know a lot about needlepoint. Many of the hunters I know have trophies on their walls—preserved, marble-eyed animals. I suppose they are a reminder of the many hours spent planning, preparing, hiking, stalking, aiming, shooting, and gutting, then taking the unstuffed body to a taxidermist to preserve the exuberant moment of conquest. This becomes a narrative that is discussed with visiting family members and friends.
When we were young parents, we took our family vacation to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. We drove through the Wind River Reservation and spent an afternoon in Thermopolis, enjoying hot springs. Our hotel had a restaurant with over fifty taxidermied animals on the walls and ledges. The owner came to our table and began telling us about countless hunting trips he had taken all over the world! It sounded thrilling, expensive, and well-planned. The trophies on the wall were merely the prompts to tell the story of the hunt and to glory in the memory of all that was invested in the process.
When I married Dan, I wanted to have items in our home that I had handcrafted. While we were dating, I sometimes spent the night with the family of the Dean of Students of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. His wife, Annie, had many cross-stitched samplers in their home that reflected their love of God and one another. She was my mentor before I knew what a mentor was. I began by needle-pointing a border around our wedding invitation, and I have been needle-pointing, cross-stitching, quilting, and painting ever since.
I do not carry a bow and arrows or a gun, but I am a huntress.
I plan, I prepare, I pray, and I create trophy memories that mark my walls. The birth samplers of our children will one day hang on the walls of their homes. They must wait until my demise to hold and remember my love.
My gift to each grandchild is a pillow that takes thousands of hours to complete. The wool, the dyes, and the canvases (some painted and some self-designed) come from all corners of the globe. Fiber Arts have been prized from the beginning of time. Skilled, weary fingers create prayerful stitches to remind my grandchildren that painstaking labor reflects my delight in their beauty.
These pillows are keepsakes. They are trophies of love. When I give the pillow to them at a special moment, often when they are four or five years old, I don’t expect much appreciation or applause. What could such an artifact mean to a child who isn’t that excited about getting a pillow when what they want is a new toy? And to make sure my bona fide as a grandmother is assured, the pillow comes with a bundle of toys.
There is no one more precious to me than my grandchildren. Each one is a miraculous embodiment of mystery, beauty, and wonder. They know I love them, and I believe long after I leave this earth they will cherish my love as a lifetime gift. Memories, however, need memorials, or at least some degree of materiality to hold onto what is recalled. Like all of life, our past fades as we age and we need something tangible to see, touch, and hold to keep the memory alive. This is why we need icons, or Ebenezers, to be mounted on the wall to herald the hunt—or pillows with their name, birth date, and symbols that call out their unique being.
I am a huntress, and my prey is love. More like a photographer than a hunter, I labor to capture beauty and wildness to provide sustenance and nourishment for those I love. What trophies adorn your walls? What daily stitching brings you face-to-face with the inheritance you wish to leave your children and grandchildren? Not everyone needs to needlepoint, but everyone is meant to “hunt” love. A huntress must know her quarry, prepare for the hunt, and risk a process that may not accomplish what is desired. Nevertheless, after repeated failures and starting over, while gleaning wisdom from others and persevering, memories will cover our walls.
What you leave for your children and grandchildren needs to be more than an education, furniture, and a financial inheritance. It also needs to be more than photo albums and fun trips. Your greatest gift will be your creativity expressed through the countless hours of service in making something for them that reminds them of your daily delight in their lives.
Start with something simple: keep a journal of what you see each grandchild become as they grow into their unique self. Entries can be monthly, or even yearly. It is not the size or extent of the gift; it is simply a reminder that they were worth the hunt.
Becky Allender lives on Bainbridge Island with her loving, wild husband of 42 years. A mother and grandmother, she is quite fond of sunshine, yoga, Hawaiian quilting, and creating 17th Century reproduction samplers. A community of praying women, loving Jesus, and the art of gratitude fill her life with goodness. She wonders what she got herself into with Red Tent Living! bs