Zack, the Zebra

Margaret - Dixon, Illinois
Entered on January 13, 2009
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: family

I believe in the special relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.

Some of my most vivid childhood memories are of my grandmothers. When I was eight years old, I cajoled frail Grandma Miller into letting me make fudge in her kitchen. The result was a lumpy mess, but I heard no sighs, no complaints, no reprimands. She just patiently beat that candy until it was smooth and edible. And I loved her for that.

Grandma Roberts was more robust, and a gardener. She let me pick her strawberries, even when my mother thought I was too young to help, and pretended not to see when I popped the ripest, sweetest berries into my mouth.

My first grandchild is three now. I’ve resisted most of the cute clothes and the incredible array of toys screaming “Buy me!” But my creative instincts kicked in before he was born. Maybe because my grandmother made quilts and sweaters and doll clothes for her grandchildren, I felt the need to make something lasting. Of course, the appliquéd crib quilt I stitched was more for me than little Nathan; his mother might preserve it as a keepsake and Nathan, or more likely his wife, might appreciate it someday—but the joy was mine in the making and giving.

Then I found an irresistible pattern for a quilted zebra. This would be unique and sure to please our little guy. But the pattern sat on a shelf for a year, then three. Finally, with a visit to Nathan and his parents planned, I shamed myself into buying the fabric and committing to the project. I carefully marked and cut the blue—yes, blue—batik, laid out the pieces, and spent days sewing. But when our traveling day came, the zebra was still unstuffed and lacking eyes. Frustrated, and a little angry at myself, I packed the zebra and its filling, with plans to find the required safety eyes and finish the toy after we arrived.

Neither the unfinished state of the blue striped zebra nor its color bothered Nathan. Together, we named him Zack, pretended he was a hand puppet, and laughed as we played with him for several days. Unable to find the appropriate eyes, I finally resorted to embroidering Zack’s eyes with black thread, and asked Nathan to help me stuff his zebra with white fluff until it was firm and plump. Then I stitched up the animal’s belly, and Nathan happily declared that Zack would sleep with him.

A month or so later, my daughter called to report that Zack had made two trips to pre-school that week—one visit for Show and Tell, the other for Pajama Day. Before the zebra’s school debut, his mother asked Nathan what he would tell his class about Zack. Without hesitation, Nathan replied, smiling, “I will tell them that Grandma and I made him.”

My grandson taught me a lesson. My gift would have been just another toy if I had been more efficient. Instead, my grandson and I had the joy of working together to create Zack the zebra—and a wonderful memory.

Our next project is a chartreuse giraffe.