Gifts that Money Cannot Buy

David and I are preparing to go to a wedding this weekend. The bride is someone I have known since she was eleven. I lived with her family for a while as I was attending editing and publishing classes at the University of Virginia's NOVA Center back in 2000.

I decided to make a gift for Sarah. I am starting to make it a tradition to braid woolen rugs as wedding gifts. When I started this project, we were having warm weather, and I was doing the braiding on my front porch. It makes such a mess, with all the wool lint and dust.

As I braided in the afternoon sun several days in a row, I thought about my mother. She was the one who taught me the craft. Over the past few months, I've been writing a letter to my mother, who died nine years ago this month. Most of the 140 pages I've written so far is about the difficult part of our relationship. Now I was enjoying the craft she taught me, and recalling some of the fonder memories I have of her. I remembered how I learned to braid baling twine from the barn into jump ropes before Mem allowed me to braid rugs. I learned first how to do the braiding, and then later how to sew together the strands, and finally how to interlace the braids together into an oval rug. This is a gift from Mem that money could not buy.

Now that the weather has turned colder, I have moved my operation upstairs to our attic space, where we have our television set up for watching movies. I've been borrowing series films from the library. David and I started with "Downton Abbey," and now we're watching "Lark Rise." As I enter and view these different worlds through films, my hands stay busy, creating rugs.

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Wedding Gift

Now that I've finished the rug for the wedding gift, I've started on one for our front hallway. I'm planning on making two for that area. And I'm enjoying the films immensely. "Lark Rise" is a very engaging series. In some ways I like it even better than "Downton Abbey." I can relate to the country folk better than a royalty family.

This combination of practicing one of the homespun arts that my mother taught me while watching films is a wonderful example of how the life I have chosen is influenced by the Amish life I grew up with. I am grateful for that. When I give one of these rugs, I feel like I'm passing on a gift that money cannot buy.

There are ways the experiences of our childhood affects our lives as adults. Sometimes these things are conscious, and sometimes not.

What about you? What childhood experiences are you aware of that shaped what you do today?

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22 thoughts on “Gifts that Money Cannot Buy”

  1. Wow what gorgeous colors! Your post brought back memories I haven’t thought about in years – I’ll be 66 the end of this year. My grandmother crocheted many of her rugs and also taught me to crochet the summer I was going into 7th grade. I spent MANY hours on making a rug and sometimes didn’t put enough extra stitches on the ends and corners so that it would curl up like a bowl. I got to the end, and she went to inspect it and promptly said “No good!” and started to rip much of it out and made me keep doing it over until she was satisfied with it. When I went into 7th grade, the nun I had for a teacher that year, asked everyone in the class what they did over their summer vacation. When my turn came, I promptly said I crocheted a rug. She asked if I could bring it to show the class. I said yes and brought it in the next day. She called me to her desk at the end of the day and said her niece was getting married and she didn’t have anything to give her and wanted to know if I was willing to give her niece my rug. I said “OK”. How could I refuse a NUN?? God was watching and waiting for my answer!

    I’ve finished reading your two books and thoroughly enjoyed them (even though secretly I would have liked to “smack” certain family members “‘side the head”!) Feel free to delete that statement if you feel it’s inappropriate. Now I feel self-conscious about writing comments to an “Author”. I really do enjoy your blog.

    1. Kristine, thank you for sharing the story of your crocheted rug. I’ve not crocheted one in a while. I should probably do one soon, just for old time’s sake. Do you still crochet rugs?

      And I hope the nun paid you for your efforts!

      Thank you for the comments about my books. You did not offend me with what you wrote. There were times when I wanted to do the same. But they probably felt the same about me at times.

      Remember, authors are people too. Writing to an author is the same as writing to any other person.

      Thank you for stopping by and for your comments.

  2. Practically every holiday, Christmas or birthdays or whatever, I think about how we did/did not celebrate them growing up in an Amish home.

    Birthdays were honored by getting your own cake, and you got to choose the kind of cake. Everyone got a piece and you got to keep what was left over. I remember the year I asked for a bag of hard candy instead, and I got it. That was a special one!

    At Christmas we drew names and die Mem halped us choose the gift for the person whose name we drew. And she paid for it too. :) The funny thing is that I don’t remember a single Christmas gift I got.

    We didn’t decorate for Christmas but one year when I was about 9, the third sister cut a small tree and put it on a table. She taught us younger kids to color paper, cut strips then loops which we then strung the strings on each other. We then draped them all over the tree. Very colorful, it was and we kids liked a lot.

    My parents were slightly disapproving of the tree but they allowed it that year. We never had one again though. I don’t know if Sis got the word or what.

    It still affects me, I guess. I pay little attention to my birthday- and wouldn’t celebrate others’ if I didn’t know it was important to them. As for Christmas I don’t think I have put up a tree since my daughter went off to college, although I do sometimes set out a glass bowl of Christmas balls, just for the colors.

    1. Elva, this brings back memories of childhood holidays. You’re right, they didn’t always get celebrated. I remember one Thanksgiving when the whole family went out and picked field corn.

      Funny, Christmas is the opposite for me. I love decorating a real pine tree every year, and putting up all the deocrations. My sister also brought in a tree one year. She had real candles on it, and nearly burned the house down one night when she left the lighted candles on in her room when she wasn’t there.

      Thank you for sharing your memories and how they affect you today.

  3. I love the rug! It’s beautiful. My aunt braided rugs one year and Grossmommy gave them for Christmas. I still have mine.

    I think the main thing that’s influenced me from my childhood is my appreciation for nature. I’ll always be a country girl at heart.

    1. Aleta, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I’m so glad you have one of your aunt/grossmommy’s rugs. Braided rugs are fast becoming a lost art.

      I share your appreciation for nature. Even though we live in the middle of a small village, we have rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, and woodchucks running through our yard. And we love to feed the birds. We live below two small mountains. They are very colorful right now.

      Enjoy the rest of autumn!

  4. This rug is gorgeous! I’m sure the couple will treasure it for many years. Homemade gifts are always more meaningful. Hutterites crochet these rugs as well, so I know they are the best rugs around.

    1. Thank you, Linda, for your comments. This particular rug is braided, but I’ve also made crocheted rugs. Braided rugs are much heavier and I make them from wool, rather than cotton.

      Thank you for stopping by.

  5. Interesting post, Saloma. Your rug looks very much like the rug beside our bed that was a wedding gift from an older single friend and it’s special because she made it herself.
    I was surprised to read you had gone out picking corn on Thanksgiving, but then I remembered something I found out years ago. We once traveled to PA for a funeral on Good Friday and because Good Friday, like Thanksgiving, was a holiday and “fast & prayer day” for us, we left home after dinner to make the trip. We passed by a Geauga Co. daughter settlement (Clintonville?) and were very surprised to see Amish farmers out in the fields. In our group, Thanksgiving & Good Friday (along with Old Christmas, Ascension Day, etc.) are “fast days” where no work is to be done and though families spend the forenoon in reading, prayer, & fasting, family gatherings in the afternoon & evening are usual. So there is really quite a difference from group to group.
    We do decorate for Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc., but don’t do Christmas trees. Last year our daughter made a big centerpiece (we were hosting the family Christmas Dinner) of a big glass “bucket?” vase? with pine sprigs, cranberries, etc. frozen in ice & candles in the middle. It looked amazing! Add pine branches, ribbons, some twisty ribbons and scattered coffee beans on the tablecloth around it and it looked nicer than any Christmas tree I’ve seen. :)
    We do a family name exchange for Christmas now that our children are older and we provide the money for the children’s shopping. We give the children individual gifts each Christmas, but one year they will be smaller and then we get a gift for the whole family (a ping-pong table last year) then the next we give larger gifts but no family gift.
    A lot of our friends with bigger families also alternate. One year everyone will get a birthday gift but only a very small Christmas gift, then the next year very small birthday gift but big Christmas gift. It seems to work for them.
    It’s interesting to me how different people celebrate special occasions. I was really surprised to find out how some of our Swartzentruber neighbors observe Christmas — just like an in-between Sun. with very small gifts and no decorating or celebrating and their version of Christmas Dinner is pretty basic. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but it is very different.
    I hope your gift rugs are as appreciated and cherished by the ones receiving them as our rug is. :)

    1. Mark, it’s good to hear from you. All the holidays you mentioned were “fast and pray” days in our commmunity also… except for Thanksgiving. And I think Good Friday started changing when the men who worked away from home had to work on that day. The thoughts about Thanksgiving was that it wasn’t really a Christian holiday, and therefore it wasn’t considered sacred. There were many Thanksgivings, though, when we got together with my mother’s relatives.

      Your friends’ decorations sound really pretty. But there is something about bringing in a real pine tree and decorating it that feels lilke I’m bringing in a bit of nature. Sitting in my living room with nothing but the Christmas lights on, drinking a cup of tea with David, or just thinking about what Christmas is about, is one of my favorite things to do at that time of year. It is a celebration of light in the darkest time of year, just as the birth of Jesus brought light to the world in a dark time.

      Yes, you’re right, the Swartzentrubers barely celebrate Christmas. There is nothing wrong with spreading a little joy, so I would have a hard time with that.

      Your gift-giving sounds wonderful.

      So glad you enjoy your rug.

  6. Saloma,

    You do such beautiful work…

    Your working in front of the Television reminds me of My mother who would knit while watching her favorite shows or an old film from the 1930’s or 1940’s. Over the years she would knit ponchos (1960’s) for all my female cousins, scarfs, blankets and even a sweater for me. I still have a half dozen of the blankets she knitted. Great memories….

    Oh…..

    If your looking for a new show to watch while making the rugs, I hear the
    Flying Nun TV show is quite funny.

    1. John, great to see you here! Those are great memories you have of your mother, and I’m so glad you have some of her blankets.

      I’ll have to see if they have the Flying Nun show on DVD at the library. Our television is set up to watch movies only. We refuse to pay for cable, and we don’t get any channels because of the mountains around us. We prefer it this way, actually. We spend a lot less time in front of the screen that way.

  7. Mary Keim Maarsen

    You asked us to share some memory about a special childhood experience. My mother grew up in an amish home so lots of things were done in the same way in my growing up yrs even tho we weren’t amish. My mother could draw very well, something I didn’t know really when growing up because she didn’t talk about it. However my sister and I would draw pictures of different things and my mother would enjoy looking at our drawings. She didn”t throw away the drawings which was kind of unusual because she didn”t keep personal things for some reason. Later when 3 of the children were gone from home, she had heart problems and her dr. encouraged her to find a hobby. She took painting lessons and made the most beautiful oil paintings. My sister is also very gifted and has painted different things with different mediums. When I was first married, I also enjoyed drawing different things but I found myself in a very difficult situation. My husband”s mother would do anything she could to pester or aggravate and I was so afraid she would do something with my drawings or do something nasty so I put my pencils and paper away. For many yrs I did nothing except on vacations and I would have the children copy pictures and color them. Now I am 71. I have no reason anymore to not get my stuff out and get back into the business. I understand why my mother didn”t say much about her talent but I am so pleased that I inherited this gene from her.

    1. Mary, what a beautiful story. But also sad that you “put away” your talent for so much of your life. I really hope you will honor your talent. I was sent a quote from a friend recently, and I think it fits here:

      “There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it.

      It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you.

      No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” ~ Martha Graham, to Agnes deMille

      1. Mary Keim Maarsen

        Salome, Thanks so much for the quote. I will keep this and I will also pass it on to my 2 daughters who love to make things and some things are great and some not so great and they just keep going.
        I think I put away my drawing because I was afraid I would be losing something that was such a part of me. I was in another country, I had to learn a new language, I lived in a very tight family situation and I had 2 little children and a big dog that also lived in our house. I became a completely different person in the process. I put a lot of my creativity in taking pictures and specializing in certain subjects. I maybe didn’t draw with my hands but I looked with my eyes to express what I wanted to.

  8. Saloma,

    I wish I would be as talented as you are. I love that rug and blue is my favorite color. I am sure your friends will keep it a special treasure.

    As for childhood memories that shaped me of what I am today, every year my father and I would go to the woods togehter to look for the perfect christmas tree. He knew a farmer not far away form where we lived and every year he invited us to come and buy a christmas tree there. My father let me choose the christmas tree and I always took the biggest one. I am the oldest of 5 children in our family and Daddy time for me was always short bc I had to take on so many responsibilities for my siblings from a very young age. Before we drove home we always had coffee and cake with the farmer`s family and this was always special to me.

    Evey year in November, Marco and I take our daughter Hadassah to a trip to this farm and as we walk into the woods, we let her choose the “perfect” christmas tree. She likes the big one too and before returning home we visit this precious family and have coffee & cake together.

    1. Miriam, what great memories! And how nice that you are able to make memories for your daughter, so the next generation also has memories to cherish.

      We all have different talents. I don’t think of talent as quantative. It is merely a matter of what form our creativity takes, is all. I’m sure you are talented in ways I am not at all.

      Thank you for sharing your story.

  9. Hi Saloma, just catching up on your blog and the beautiful rug caught my attention. The color scheme is spectacular. I once took a rug braiding class but found it extremely difficult and so moved on to something else that better fit my skill set. Anyway, I think it is lovely that it brings back memories of your mother in a positive way. Make sure you tell her that in your letter. You probably already did.

    By the way, I am also a big fan of Downton and Lark Rise! Ha! Kindred spirits as usual.

  10. Hi Saloma,
    Love the colors in your rug! I know it will be cherished for all of the love you put in it as you worked.

    Have you ever watched the “Anne of Green Gables” series from PBS? It’s just lovely. My girls and I have watched it so many times that we’ve almost worn out the tapes!

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