The skies that bind

We have doilies under everything! We even have doilies where we don't have anything! Our house is so dorky!" my daughter Mary, now 14, complained as she helped me with the dusting one Saturday morning.

I had to laugh when I heard this. It certainly was true. I do like doilies. They had been a staple of the well-decorated house of my generation, and flat surfaces seemed to cry out for them. I have pointy-edged tatted ones, round crocheted ones, scalloped embroidered ones, and cutwork lace ones.

I have some with patterns of pineapples radiating from a linen circle, and one with butterflies encircling a star, all of them more dear for being made by Mom Panerio and Aunt Helen on winter evenings.

But doilies are an anachronism in today's less-is-more decorating style. I had thought they added a touch of grace, but that view was obviously not shared by my daughter, and was a reminder of a fact uncomfortable to her - that we were raised in different times.

Born when I had already raised a family, Mary seems to belong to a world completely unfamiliar to me. I notice our differences. She hardly ever wears a dress, and she has never liked quiet things - checkers, paper dolls, making cookies, reading stories - any of the things that I enjoyed as a girl. She generally prefers the blurred view from the fast lane.

She notices our differences. My clothes aren't the latest style, my hair - even when I work with it - has that rumpled, lived-in look. I don't bother with makeup. Is there any hope that we'll be able to connect - to weave the threads of our lives together?

The things that link generations are certainly not dependent upon constantly changing material fads. Styles come and go, manners and conventions vary, but there are things that remain constant and binding in life.

"Come out and look at the sky, Mom. It's beautiful!" she said after I'd finished my stint at the supper dishes. I grabbed a jacket, went out, and sat next to her on the damp, metal lawn swing, glad to be invited to share a quiet moment.

"There's Orion. There's Cassiopeia. I know most of the constellations!" Mary proclaimed proudly. Minutes hung suspended as we sat, silent, drinking in something greater than the changing generations - stars and patterns of stars that though traveling separately, keep their relationship to each other and to some unknown center. The timelessness of the scene gave me hope.

My mother and I had shared a moonlight swing on a luminous night long ago. I remember it as yesterday. It was a spur-of-the-moment thing. I walked to the park a block away in my pajamas. Mom was moved to song, pushing the swing in time to the melody. "Shine on, shine on harvest moon," she sang right out, as we were the only ones in the park. I was too young to know the words, but my heart felt the song and the night's magic.

"I want to be an astronomer someday," Mary announced, breaking in on my reverie.

Surprised by this uncharacteristic turn and her willingness to share it with me, I needed a moment before I could respond. "Why, that's wonderful, Mary! I can understand your appreciation of the stars!"

There is irresistible beauty in this life, and we have both been moved by it. Nights of starry wonder, daffodils nodding in April breezes, rainbows floating on remains of thunderclouds. Something there is, inside each heart, that appreciates the message of these graces, seeing in them mystery, order, promise, pattern, and connectedness, the threads that tie all things together.

A thought occurs to me. I may put our doilies away until our home seems more beautiful to her in fond rememberings.... Except for the one under the clock. I wouldn't want the buffet to get scratched.

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