Sunday, November 8, 2009

My Sunday Blessings

The yellow shirt had long sleeves, four extra-large pockets trimmed in black thread and snaps up the front. It was faded from years of wear, but still in decent shape. I found it in 1963 when I was home from college on Christmas break, rummaging through bags of clothes Mom intended to give away.


'You're not taking that old thing, are you?' Mom said when she saw me packing the yellow shirt. 'I wore that when I was pregnant with your brother in 1954!'

'It's just the thing to wear over my clothes during art class, Mom. Thanks!' I slipped it into my suitcase before she could object. The yellow shirt be came a part of my college wardrobe. I loved it. After graduation, I wore the shirt the day I moved into my new apartment and on Saturday mornings when I cleaned.

The next year, I married. When I became pregnant, I wore the yellow shirt during big-belly days. I missed Mom and the rest of my family, since we were in Colorado and they were in Illinois, but that shirt helped. I smiled, remembering that Mother had worn it when she was pregnant, 15 years earlier.


That Christmas, mindful of the warm feelings the shirt had given me, I patched one elbow, wrapped it in holiday paper and sent it to Mom. When Mom wrote to thank me for her 'real' gifts, she said the yellow shirt was lovely. She never mentioned it again.

The next year, my husband, daughter and I stopped at Mom and Dad's to pick up some furniture. Days later, when we uncrated the kitchen table, I noticed something yellow taped to its bottom. The shirt!

And so the pattern was set. On our next visit home, I secretly placed the shirt under Mom and Dad's mattress. I don't know how long it took for her to find it, but almost two years passed before I discovered it under the base of our living-room floor lamp. The yellow shirt was just what I needed now while refinishing furniture. The walnut stains added character.


In 1975 my husband and I divorced. With my three children, I prepared to move back to Illinois. As I packed, a deep depression overtook me. I wondered if I could make it on my own. I wondered if I would find a job. I paged through the Bible, looking for comfort. In Ephesians, I read, 'So use every piece of God's armor to resist the enemy whenever he attacks, and when it is all over, you will be standing up.'

I tried to picture myself wearing God's armor, but all I saw was the stained yellow shirt. Slowly, it dawned on me. Wasn't my mother's love a piece of God's armor? My courage was renewed. Unpacking in our new home, I knew I had to get the shirt back to Mother. The next time I visited her, I tucked it in her bottom dresser drawer.

Meanwhile, I found a good job at a radio station. A year later I discovered the yellow shirt hidden in a rag bag in my cleaning closet. Something new had been added. Embroidered in bright green across the breast pocket were the words 'I BELONG TO PAT.'

Not to be outdone, I got out my own embroidery materials and added an apostrophe and seven more letters. Now the shirt proudly proclaimed, 'I BELONG TO PAT'S MOTHER.' But I didn't stop there. I zig-zagged all the frayed seams, then had a friend mail the shirt in a fancy box to Mom from Arlington, VA. We enclosed an official looking letter from 'The Institute for the Destitute,' announcing that she was the recipient of an award for good deeds. I would have given anything to see Mom's face when she opened the box. But, of course, she never mentioned it.

Two years later, in 1978, I remarried. The day of our wedding, Harold and I put our car in a friend's garage to avoid practical jokers. After the wedding, while my husband drove us to our honeymoon suite, I reached for a pillow in the car to rest my head. It felt lumpy. I unzipped the case and found, wrapped in wedding paper, the yellow shirt. Inside a pocket was a note: 'Read John 14:27-29. I love you both, Mother.'

That night I paged through the Bible in a hotel room and found the verses:
'I am leaving you with a gift: peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't fragile like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really love me, you will be very happy for me, for now I can go to the Father, who is greater than I am. I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do, you will believe in me.'


The shirt was Mother's final gift. She had known for three months that she had terminal Lou Gehrig's disease. Mother died the following year at age 57.

I was tempted to send the yellow shirt with her to her grave. But I'm glad I didn't, because it is a vivid reminder of the love-filled game she and I played for 16 years. Besides, my older daughter is in college now, majoring in art. And every art student needs a baggy yellow shirt with big pockets.

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Edited to say that this is NOT my story! I was born in 1967, so I couldn't have been home from college in 1963, lol! I did not have this awesome Mother either - I wish!!! It's a beautiful story that came to me by email a while ago and I saved it for a Sunday post. Sorry for any confusion!

20 comments:

Yaya said...

Beautiful story.

blueviolet said...

Jeannie, do you know how much I enjoyed that story? So, so , so much!

AliceKay said...

I've read this story before, and just like the last time I read it, the ending choked me up once again.

Have a wonderful Sunday and God Bless.

Mighty M said...

Jeannie, thank you for posting this story. So wonderful!!

Annie said...

Jeanne, thank you sooooooooooooo much! What a great story!!! I totally loved it and made me think of what I can do with my mom :)
Enjoy your sunday!

Deanna said...

Made me cry.

I know it is an entirely different thing, but the story made me think of a Christmas Card that another couple and us sent back and forth each year. We'd always just date it with a love note and never sign it. Then they divorced. When ended up with the card as part of the divorce settlement.

Vickie said...

This was a lovely story! Just a little weepy:)

Melissa B. said...

Just lovely. You have a way with words! And I'm so happy to hear that the baggy yellow shirt has a new home with a new generation...

Helene said...

Oh goodness, I'm all choked up and teary eyed. What a beautifully written post. I'm so sorry to hear you lost your mother but it sounds like she left you with a wonderful gift. And I love that you're continuing the tradition with your own daughter.

MarmiteToasty said...

This is beautiful and so filled with love.... you are blessed to of had a mum so very special....

Dam girl, did you have to make me cry on this Sunday evening..

x

Bill S. said...

Beautiful story none the less. I did have a wonderful mother and it could have been me, except I am a man and have seven sisters that it could have happened to. Thanks for sharing.

Cherie said...

Jeannie this is a perfect Sunday post. What a wonderful story of love and how it's the little things that make life so special!
Hope you are having a wonderful day :D

LadyStyx said...

What a beautiful share. Im going to snag this and send it along to my mom.....

LadyStyx said...

decided to share this over in the Inspirational section of my blog too....credited back of course.

Karen said...

It's a cool story, even if it's not yours!

Thank you so much for visiting on my SITS day! I'm glad I got to come by and say hello.

Karen said...

It's a cool story, even if it's not yours!

Thank you so much for visiting on my SITS day! I'm glad I got to come by and say hello.

Post-Modern Jen said...

Sweet story! I knew it couldn't be about you, when you said the part about being home from college in 1963. Just saying hello, from one Army wife to another, I might have to grab one of your army-centric buttons :)

Life with Kaishon said...

I loved this story. I cried and cried. Thank you for sharing it today!

Heatherlyn said...

It's really a beautiful story. I'm endlessly amazed at how much strength we can gather from another person's love and belief in us, and that how when people fail us that we can feel that love from God and gain strength and peace.

Intense Guy said...

Beautiful story.

I hope you can do something like this with Bella - 'cept the very end of course - no dying at the age of 57 please...