I was surprised to find a package in my mailbox Monday from Virginia Harl, known to all YaYas as Aunt Toots. She's related genetically only to sisters Kimberly and Debbie, but we all call her--and feel her as--"aunt." Aunt Toots is in her eighties and lives in Tyler, Texas. Usually, she drives up for regular visits with Kimberly and Debbie. But she had knee-replacement surgery a while ago, so Kimberly drove down and picked her up for her last visit. All the Yas gathered, of course. There's always something lively going on when Aunt Toots is around. You never heard so much laughing and carrying on.
Aunt Toots has participated in YaYa swaps from the beginning, even though she's fairly new to papercrafts. She's the kind of woman who always has a project, and she wasn't intimidated at all by trying a new medium. Because she's not immersed in the current web-based paper-crafting fury, her ideas are always fresh and original--not just replays of current trendy styles, which mine sometimes tend to be. And this chick hears and remembers everything.
So, anyway, I opened my mailbox to find a smallish package from Aunt Toots. For a moment I thought, "I must be her April swap partner." Neh. This box wasn't real big, but it was a lot bigger than a greeting card. So I ripped it open and found...it was absolutely stuffed with little fabric scraps. Gorgeous pieces of all different kinds from about the size of a sheet of paper to baggies full of 1-inch bits. Aunt Toots had tucked in a note saying she'd heard that I enjoyed fabric scraps, so she was sharing her overflow with me. WooooHOOOOO! I love having her for an auntie!
The other nice surprise: Jonathan came to my office one morning. I was busy typing an e-mail, so I didn't turn--just acknowledged him over my shoulder and said I'd be through in a minute. And he said, "I'm here for surgery." I assumed that meant he had a splinter or something. I tapped out the last few words, pressed Send, and turned around to find him sitting in my guest chair holding a little beaded bendi doll.
I've made only a few of these dolls so far because, although they're really rewarding, they're time consuming. The current doll-in-progress is a frog prince who has been beaded fitfully in spurts over the past year and still isn't complete. One of my first efforts was a sweet little green girl, whom I sent home with Jonathan to his daughter, Kanada. A year or two later--December 2006--I had my first little show. (If I say my only show, which also is an accurate description, Annie and Jonathan start chiding me for being negative.) Two of my dolls were featured, and both sold. There was a big one called motherhood is not what I expected. And there was a small one called spring.
Kanada didn't come to the opening. It was a grown-up night, and she was only 8 years old at the time. Long story short, Kanada saw photos of the evening. When she saw spring, she said, "Daddy, can I have her?" And Jonathan said, "You can if you can pay for her." Meaning: no. Kanada said, "How much does she cost?" And Jonathan said, "Thirty-five dollars." Meaning: no way, kiddo. So Kanada disappeared into her bedroom and came back in a few minutes with a wad of bills. She handed them to Jonathan with the admonition that he was to go get the doll as soon as the Cox Center opened the next morning before somebody else could grab her. Wow.
That is how Kanada Weigt became one of my patrons. (I felt so guilty, I showered her with craft supplies the next time I saw her.) And now spring was back. The focal beads in her design are Swarovski crystals that I reaped from an old, broken bracelet I lucked into. One had come off and gotten lost. (Crystals are notorious for being sharp and cutting through thread.) I explained to Jonathan, and later to Kanada herself, that I couldn't match the crystal. But surely I could find something pretty in my stash to take its place. The substitute ended up being a big sparkly solitaire pendant. It worked pretty well.
None of that is the nice part. The nice surprise part came when I sat down with spring to make the repair. This doll is loved. She is also honored. Up close, it was easy to see that she has been touched a lot, and yet she has been treated gently. I am so freakin proud. It would be an honor to have one of my bendis in the hands of an adult art-doll collector. But it is pure joy to know that she is in the hands of a child, being seen through the eyes of a child, and being loved and appreciated in a way that no adult could match. I will happily sew beads back onto spring as needed for as long as Kanada wants to love her.