Silk Stitches by John Ciarmello
"Grandma, whose stuffed raccoon are you stitching?"
Grandma lifted Tommy onto her lap. “My grandmother gave him to me when I was just around your age. He needs a few more stitches, and he’s yours if you wouldn't mind having him.” Grandma guided Tommy's fingers across the silver threads.
"They're soft and slippery, Grandma, like soap in a bathtub."
"They're silk, Tommy. Your happy thoughts will become stronger whenever you rub them, and your unhappy thoughts will simply disappear.”
He rested his head against his grandmother’s shoulder and ran his fingers along the silk threads again.“It’s working. Is he magic, Grandma?”
“Oh, I have no doubt, Tommy. There's magic in everything that gives us a good feeling inside.”
Tommy raised the raccoon's gray, fuzzy snout closer to his face and held his finger to his lips. “Grandma, listen, he wants to tell us something.” Tommy shifted in Grandma’s lap, and their ears touched as he held the raccoon between them. “Did you hear him, Grandma? Did you hear him? He said his name is ‘Stitches–Silk Stitches!”’
"That's a perfect name, Tommy. You and Stitches are going to get along just fine.”
“Grandma? Will he always be magic?”
Grandma smiled and rocked a few times in her chair. “Well, that’ll be up to you.”
“What do you mean, Grandma?”
She moved Tommy’s blond bangs to one side and held him tight.“Someday, when you’re all grown-up, I want you to share the magic with someone special to you."
“Like the way you shared the magic with me?”
"But, who, Grandma? Who will I share it with?"
"You'll know who when that day comes, Tommy. I promise."
Grandma leaned back in her rocking chair; shadows from the headrest draped her shoulders like a hand-woven shawl, and the floor creaked soothingly beneath her as she rocked Tommy and Stitches to sleep.
Each birthday that passed, Grandma lovingly mended Stitch’s seams, but not before she pushed in a pinch or two of warm white feather stuffing and added a new shiny silk thread from her sewing box.
Tommy sat Stitches beside him every birthday year, and Stitches watched as Tommy scooped a taste of chocolate fudge frosting with the end of each candle. Then, when it came time for presents, he would open two, sometimes three at a time, and Stitches happily got lost under the deep piles of crumpled wrapping paper.
Although, before anyone realized it, Tommy’s ten-candle birthday year was less than a month away. Stitches knew this particular birthday was the year children’s thoughts about fun things to do meant making new friends and seeking out new adventures.
On the afternoon of Tommy's tenth birthday, Stitches sat squarely on Tommy's pillow. He listened to the children as they sang happy birthday and as they cheered when Tommy blew out the candles, but what Stitches missed the most was him sitting in that special place beside Tommy.
Later that day, Tommy and his friends came to play in his room. He quickly scooped Stitches off his pillow, held him behind his back, and rubbed his fingers along the silk threads. "Sorry about this old friend," he whispered and stuffed Stitches under his bed.
Stitches knew how much time had passed by the heat vent under Tommy's bed, which shut off at winter's end, and by the cold air that blew over his blackish gray fur at summer’s start.
He heard the family come and go many times from the other side of Tommy’s bedroom door, and Tommy still came to sleep and change his clothes for school or play.
However, there was a moment in particular that Stitches heard the family saying their goodbyes to Tommy."Being in college doesn't mean you can't call us now and then." Stitches heard Tommy's mother say.
The long, lonely quiet of Tommy's bedroom bothered Stitches along with the dust balls that occasionally rolled over his snout.
Then, one morning the kitchen door creaked open. "Hello?" Stitch's silk threads gathered and pulled against his seams as Tommy’s parents welcomed him home.
As Stitches listened, he realized there was an excitement in Tommy’s voice that he had never heard before.
"Hi, Mom and Dad, I brought Laney with me, and we have good news. We're getting married!" There was plenty of celebrating in the house for the next few months, and Stitches listened to everything he could about Tommy’s marriage to Laney.
Finally, however, things returned to normal, and again, Stitches felt the heat and cold from the vent come and go many times, along with the bothersome dust balls that tickled his snout.
Then, heavy footsteps and voices broke the silence in Tommy’s room.
"I can't believe we're moving after all these years," Stitches heard Tommy's mother say. Deep unfamiliar voices answered her politely as Tommy's bed was pulled away from the wall.
A strange man collected Stitches and carried him to the garage, where he placed him slumped atop a box packed with Tommy’s other belongings.
Stitches watched the hot summer days turn to moonlit nights over and over again. Each time the sparkled frost stretched across the window pane, Stitches felt the cold air touch his silk threads and cool his warm feather stuffing.
Finally, keys jingled in the lock, and the garage door swung open.
Stitches didn't recognize the man beneath the beard, but he couldn’t mistake the large blue eyes that used to stare at him every night before bed or the straight blond hair that tickled his snout when the two of them snuggled on Grandma's lap.
It was Tommy, but he was all grown up, and a small boy followed close behind him. He called him Cam. Tommy and Laney had had a child of their own.
It wasn't long before Cam noticed Stitches. He pulled on his father's jacket sleeve. “Can I have him, Daddy? Can I have him?”
Tommy picked up the stuffed raccoon and smiled."He was mine, Cam, when I was exactly your age. Cam, I'd like you to meet Stitches–Silk Stitches." Tommy rubbed Cam's fingers along the silk threads while explaining to Cam the magic he and his grandmother had shared so many years before.
Cam put a finger to his lips. “Daddy, listen, he wants to tell you something.”
Tommy held Stitches to his ear.
“What’s he saying, Daddy? What’s he saying?”
Tommy smiled and touched Stitches snout to Cam’s nose. “He said, ‘He’s happy I shared the magic with you.”’
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