Scribblings: Week 14

Jan 25, 2015

Basting_Stitch_by_handThe best gifts are perhaps the unexpected ones…and, this week, I received three.

Isn’t it interesting how three gifts arrived? No doubt you have heard the expression, “good things come in threes.” And, of course, bad things tend to take a cue from the musketeers as well. But here is something you may not have heard…While many of us have a habit of clumping our affairs in threes, Native Americans are more likely to group theirs in fours. The Chinese, meanwhile, favor fives.

Apparently one good thing or one rank disaster simply isn’t allowed to happen.

Nevertheless, if I thought about it long enough, I am sure I could produce a cornucopia of examples refuting this—starting with the one Big Bang that brought all of us here in the first place so I can even write about such stuff and you can read it. Yet I have digressed long enough. The point is that the universe and I were nicely in sync….

My first gift arrived via snail mail. There, amidst a handful of fliers addressed to New Resident, was a large yellow envelope; instantly I recognized the handwriting. It was from my daughter.

“Hmm – what’s this?” I thought. I ripped open the sleeve and shook out a fabric tote bag, then a letter:

Mom, I made this bag in my first sewing class. The stitches are uneven, but I’ll get better. Soon I’ll make good stuff! Anyway, you know how little kids give their mom their school projects like a handprint in clay or a weird drawing? I thought you’d appreciate this. The next one will be better. This tote is still strong. ª Emily

She had me by “Mom” and, by line one, I was in tears. However, the true gift was more than the tote, more even than the sweet letter. It was the message. The example my baby girl set.

Aren’t we all beginners in something, as Emily is in her sewing class and I am at divorcing? Did Emily allow her first, less than perfect attempt to discourage or stop her? Or did she, instead, celebrate her achievement for the grace that it was—a brave first step on a journey of thousands?

…but I’ll get better. Soon I’ll make good stuff.

Even more importantly, aren’t we all totes? Sure, our stitching may be crooked, our hem frayed in places, and we may yearn to appear far more fault-free than we are. But, as Emily recognized, we are strong. We are crafted to carry what we are meant to carry just fine. So quit whining and wondering about it and put yourself to the test.

Unfortunately, I am a slow learner. Nor am I very keen on following my own advice.

But lo and behold, literally on the night of Martin Luther King’s real birthday, I had a dream…

I was an attorney. And so was Elizabeth, a friend of mine who, in real life, toils for a much more philanthropic endeavor than the legal system—the Red Cross. Elizabeth and I were on opposing sides in some case or other; I’ve forgotten what, if I ever knew. We were supposed to get together with a mutual pal named Jerri. But, again for a reason I have forgotten, I was late.

“Oh, you missed it!” Jerri and Elizabeth cried. “The stars!”

Then, in that way dreams do, the three of us – three again! – were outside when, suddenly, this spray of stars shot into the sky. A giant fountain of stars.




“It’s happening again!” my friends called out, and I could hear the whosh of the stars flowing. Up, up, up, out, out, out the stars erupted like lava from a volcano until they had coated the sky. And still the fountain kept whoshing.

The next thing I knew it was misting, except the mist wasn’t water but star-mist. Indeed the air was so thick with infinitesimal stars that I could scarcely breathe. I was swallowing stars, choking on stars, inhaling stars not only through my nose but through every pore of me.

Then, in the dark, the sky split and where the star-fountain had been was now a rainbow. Not a rainbow like we usually see them—all transparent and elusive—but a solid, bright, crayola rainbow.  A rainbow. A symbol of hope.

End of dream. Abruptly I woke up. I actually woke up coughing, as if a star or two were stuck in my throat.

“Whoa,” I thought as I staggered to the kitchen to fetch a glass of water. “Some dream.”

But, even as the water streamed into the glass from the faucet, I knew that all those gushing stars were no mere dream. They were Gift No. 2.

I was on my last gulp of water when I saw myself the day before, sitting at my computer and excitedly saving a Serbian proverb I had stumbled across. Be humble for you are made of earth. Be noble for you are made of stars.

It is entirely due to astronomer Carl Sagan that, at once, passionately I resonated to the saying. “We are star stuff,” Carl had informed over half a billion of us in sixty countries via his program Cosmos. And, now, in my dream, hadn’t gazillions of stars poured over me and into me—so fast and teemingly that I wound up choking?

However, the point, I now saw, wasn’t to choke. It was to become the stuff of stars. To glow. To glow from within and without.

Let me rephrase that. To glow nobly from within and without.

Elizabeth and I were on opposing sides in my dream – just as, in the hard light of day, my husband and I are on opposing sides in our divorce. And yet…Elizabeth and I were together when we saw the fountain. Stars were raining on her as well as on me. Be noble – here was a message not only for me but for my husband.

I promptly shot my husband an email, relating my dream. Whether he got the message, who knows? “Sounds kind of mystical,” was his only reply. Yet judging by his responses to some legal issues since, I suspect he got the hint. Far more importantly, I got it. No matter how matters proceed, I will be noble.

For I drink stars. Yet, oh, how dim my inner light can sometimes be!

I have one dear friend in Dallas. And, this week, it was DF’s birthday, which led me to bake a cake. There was just one teensy tiny pesky problem. My inner homemaker is about as inclined to bake a cake as my inner acrophobic is to hop aboard a ski lift.

In other words, I avoid baking like I avoid heights. Nonetheless there I found myself, in the kitchen, mixer in hand, recipe in the other, as I attempted to whip up DF’s birthday cake of choice – Angel Food with “boiled strawberry frosting.” Which sounded disgusting, frankly, until I realized that I wasn’t required to boil the frosting but to beat a concoction of egg whites, sugar, and berries over a double boiler.




Of course first I had to bake the cake. And all went well until I pulled the cake out of the oven.  To cool it, I was supposed to invert the cake pan over a glass bottle.

I had a wine bottle on hand. (No person going through a divorce doesn’t.) A wine bottle would work splendidly…

Except it didn’t. Somehow, I carefully aimed the hole in the center of the cake pan over the bottle…and promptly ran a hole through the cake.

Yes, I missed.

I was still on a low boil as I began decorating the iced cake with strawberries. It didn’t look ‘pretty enough.’ It looked amateur. How could I present this to DF?

But then my eyes fell on my daughter’s tote, which I’d draped over a dining room chair to better admire it until I got around to framing it. Did I care if my daughter’s stitches weren’t perfect?

Would DF care if my strawberries weren’t perfectly aligned? I suspected not. After all, if DF were that anal and judgmental, DF wouldn’t be DF.

No, the one who was being anal and judgmental was the woman who gazes back at me in the mirror. Worse yet, I wasn’t even being a true reflection of myself. I was firmly entrenched in what the monk Thomas Merton called the false self. Rather than come from a place brimming over with the kind of love and humility that my daughter had displayed—who would be bored into a coma by Merton—I was spilling ego and pride like a diabetic spills sugar.

We receive so many gifts. Gifts shower us on a daily—no, on a minute by minute—basis. It is simply a matter of recognizing them for the magic star-elixir they are and quaffing them thirstily down.

Your gift list awaits you. It, too, can be as beautiful as a handmade tote, as multi-hued and miraculous as a rainbow, as from the angels as cake, and as innumerable and bedazzling as the stars on a clear, awakening night. You need only say two words of incantation—thank you.

And abracadabra, your list will compile itself…and multiply, multiply, multiply.





Copyright © 2015 “Scribblings Week 14,” Jenine Baines

Photo of double rainbow by LeonardoWeiss (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


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