Living in the woods as a self-employed writer, I don’t get many opportunities to dress up. When my memoir came out last spring, I patched together an outfit from Goodwill and LL Bean to wear to my book release party. In hindsight, maybe not the best fashion decision.
So this spring, when I learned that my book had been selected for a Christopher Award, I ordered a dress for the awards ceremony in New York City. But as the dress is sleeveless and May is often chilly, I needed a cardigan to go with it. The only problem? I’d maxed out my clothing budget.
I poked around several thrift stores and found nothing. Online shopping offered plenty of options, but none I could afford. Then, in the cobwebby, upper attic of my mind, appeared a shimmery silver sweater that my grandmother had knit roughly fifty years ago. She’d died when I was ten, but her knitting ability was so spectacular, my mom had tucked away this and several other family clothing pieces in an old blue suitcase.
Over the years, the suitcase traveled from my grandmother’s home in Cape Neddick to my childhood home in South Berwick. From South Berwick to my family’s home in Bath. From Bath to my mother’s home in Connecticut, and finally, after my mother passed away, from Connecticut to our current home in the country. Many times I’d thought of discarding the dresses and knits inside. But each time I unbuckled the suitcase and ran my hands over the intricately woven pieces, I was so impressed by their design and artistry that I couldn’t.
It seemed improbable that the sparkly sweater of my memory would be the right style or size to go with my dress. But this week, I hauled a ladder upstairs, hauled myself through the trapdoor into our attic and hauled down the suitcase. The silver sweater fit perfectly.
Standing in front of the hallway mirror, I couldn’t believe how beautifully the dress and sweater complimented each other. What a delight to wear something handmade by my grandmother. And how wise of my mother to hold onto it and pass it down.
Thinking about this, I realized we live in a culture that is so eager to throw out the old and replace it with the new: To cast off the morals, values, and spiritual practices of our ancestors – the very words and beliefs and practices that gave them hope and faith and strength – and replace them with something more popular. As in the days of Israel’s judges, “all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes,” Judges 17:6 (NLT).
One has to only turn on the evening news to see how well this is working. No, our ancestors did not have all the answers. But the answers they had were based on the foundation of Scripture. To love and honor God. To love ones neighbors. To care for the oppressed. To live generously and with an eye toward the future. Wisdom holds onto what is most valuable and passes it on. We would be wise to do the same.
For a fun video about Meadow and the Christopher Award on News Center Maine, click here.
Meadow Rue Merrill, the award-winning author of Redeeming Ruth: Everything Life Takes, Love Restores, writes for children and adults from a little house in the big woods of midcoast Maine.