Come February 14 a small parcel arrived in the mail addressed to me.
The year was 1960, and my husband had just taken a teaching position in a village north of Brandon. Perhaps the location struck a chord in my mother’s heart, for she and Dad had moved to that same vicinity back in the 1920s. She often told how homesick and lonely she felt as a young bride living in an isolated railway station, spending long, dreary days far away from family and friends, while my dad worked as section foreman. Whatever the reason, when my husband and I and our two toddlers went to visit her before moving, I noticed she wiped a tear away with the corner of her apron as she said goodbye.
Within a few weeks, I discovered her motherly intuition had been correct. The only house available to rent was on the very outside edge of town. We had no phone. My husband spent long days and many evenings at the school, preparing lessons or marking papers, while I was housebound with our two small sons. Community people were friendly, but none initiated any visits. When winter arrived, I felt all the more alone.
Come February 14 a small parcel arrived in the mail addressed to me. I recognized my mother’s handwriting, and when I snipped the cord and tore off the brown wrapping paper, out tumbled a velveteen pincushion in the shape of a heart, red on one side and blue on the other. I have no idea where my mother would have found such materials, for she had only a meagre stash of cotton remnants at the best of times. Nevertheless, she had sewn the pincushion together, stuffed it and then crocheted a lacy edge around the outside to make me a valentine that conveyed love and concern for a daughter far removed and lonely.
Years later when our own daughter, Gae, was many miles away in college, I took the cue from Mom’s pincushion and sewed Gae a pair of pink and white pyjamas with buttons in the shape of hearts. She claims to this day that that was the best valentine she ever received.
Gae now has a daughter of her own, and no doubt motherly intuition will one day motivate her to make, and send, a valentine that will be long remembered and cherished. If I’m still around, I plan to tuck in her great-grandmother’s pincushion.
– Alma Barkman writes from Winnipeg