Deane's Blog


Charlotte's Web

Good ReadsDeane WattersComment

My mom was an animal lover. That is an understatement. Rescue, nurture, feed: these were her go-to mantras. Back in the day when I was young, dogs ran freely. Sometimes if cruel people didn't want a dog anymore they just dropped it off on the side of a gravel road outside of town and drove away. Often those lost dogs would show up on our doorstep like they had followed a sign, unseen to humans, but neon bright and flashing to them: WELCOME! TURN IN HERE FOR FOOD AND A WARM BED. Sometimes these dogs just stayed the night, other times they lived out their lives under the gentle care of this lovely rescuer.

One day she discovered that a spider had spun a big web in her living room. It was under a window and attached to a buffet just within sight of the chair where she sat most often. Ninety-nine percent of us would have been appalled at such sanctuary, but not my creature loving mother! She let this little arachnid live, each day checking in to see how things were progressing. Often when her four-year-old grandson, Shaun, came to visit, she would lead him to the web where they could talk about all things spider.

(I was married and living far away when this was happening so I testify to the fact that I had no knowledge of this! My mother was not senile. She loved living things and wanted to use this innocent little spider as a teaching tool for her dear grandson.)

At least that is what she said.

In the fall of that year, probably thirty years ago, she was shopping one day when she spied a huge black Halloween spider. Immediately she made a plan as she took it to the counter, a twinkle in her eye and a little sly smile on her face.

The next time Shaun came over she carefully placed that huge hairy spider near the corner where the real spider hid. When he came in the house she exclaimed, "Shaun! Look! Our spider has grown!" His eyes got big and his face paled a bit but pretty quickly he smiled brightly at the trick his grandma tried to play on him.

I wonder if her real spider had a name. Could it have been Charlotte? If mom had looked closely could she perhaps have seen some secret words woven in the web? Words like SOME GRANDMA or TERRIFIC or HUMBLE? I like to think perhaps she would have. They would have all fit her perfectly,

This month our kid lit club read several selections by E.B. White. I chose to read Charlotte's Web, a darling story about one special spider, named Charlotte, who befriended Wilbur, a farm pig destined for the chopping block. It is a tender story about childhood, friendship, kindness, and love. I encourage you to pick it up if you haven't read it. You may have to wipe away a tear but it will have been worth it to travel back in time and re-experience a bit of your lost childhood.

As for my mother, I'm sure Shaun thought he had the best grandma in the world. And you know what? He would have been right.

I called her precious

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Precious: valued, cherished, treasured, dear, dearest, beloved,

darling, adored, loved and special

Look at you, sitting there in your favorite blue chair, my lap quilt folded, quietly waiting behind your head of gray curls. Did someone say something?  Your face is turned to listen, gentle smile showing your inner glow. Those little gnarled fingers hold on to each other, soothing the ache as you sit in joy with us around you. I think you were always happiest when we were near.

We  love you so much. We know your life was not easy but  you gave your all to us and to whoever needed you:  babies in grocery store carts, stray dogs, adoring needy grandchildren, distant cousins. Your listening ear made us all feel like we were your favorite and we did our best to please you. It wasn't hard. Just our very existence was enough to make you smile and thank us over and over.

When sitting with you, we experienced as Pat Schneider writes, "I see in her eyes that I am seen, in her listening that I am heard - and in that attention, I see and hear myself." You did that for us. It took years to understand what it all meant but your unconditional love gave us hope.

Rejection is a cruel teacher that either leads you to turn and reject others, or, by God's grace, you reject it, vowing to never do the same to another. You were of the second persuasion: accepting, non-rejecting, non-pushy, patient, consistent and faithful.

Precious, yes, you are my mother.


1 Peter 3:4 Her beauty came from inside, an unfading loveliness of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth (precious) in God's sight and in ours.

Eight years ago today she died, our treasured one. She was warm and full of understanding. Prayer was her strength; kindness surrounded her as a shield. Listening over a cup of tea elevated her to a position of wisdom while faith blossomed from her gentle heart. And we loved her. She let us be ourselves, trusted us, led us to Jesus and to prayer. Her example of loving acceptance led us to not be judgmental, but rather, grace filled folks, fully aware of our own inconsistencies, our own heartbreaks. She walked past bitterness while welcoming forgiveness and let grief do its healing work.

Mom gifted us with an uncompromising faith, a realistic but hope-filled look into what makes life worth living - worth giving - worth loving.

Thanks Mom. We miss you.




the story of a quilt

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Last week, during our first Writer's Circle, I picked a quilt square as a writing prompt. From that square I produced a rough draft. From that draft I wrote this little story about a memorable quilt I stitched for my dear mother. Moving my mom into the nursing home was a difficult experience.

Living in her own little home for many years, she resisted when my husband and I suggested she might think of moving into something more manageable. She resisted, telling us that when the time was right, she would know and then she would go. That time eventually came and she picked out a perfectly tiny apartment, just right for her. Located in a senior housing complex, it was just across the street from the nursing home she would eventually move into.

Of my siblings, I was the one most able to care for her needs at that time. Once a month I would jump in my car, pop in a book on tape and head north, finding the four hour drive rather brief when my mind was busy listening to the next great adventure.

We all want things to stay the same forever but as it became harder to get around and after a few hospital visits she decided it was time to move across the street. Thankful that she made it easy for her four children by making that decision, it was still not easy for any of us. There was an unexpected grieving process that accompanied this move that caught me off guard. On those days around her move, I would call my husband and cry. Then I'd call my brother and cry some more. Then my husband got another call and the tears flowed again. Seeing the reality of her situation made the truth of it crash up against my heart in stormy waves with surprising intensity.

One of my favorite quotes says, I have always known that at last I would take this road, but yesterday I did not know that it would be today. (Narihara) This day I faced the truth that my mother was getting older and would eventually die because one does not get healed from old age. She would not "get better" and go home. This was the last stop.

After getting her settled, I thought of a way to leave a part of myself with her; to warm her when I was so far away. I found a pattern, picked out the fabric and quickly put together a quilt to help her room feel more colorful and cozy.

Mom loved color so I picked yellow, pink, blue and green fabrics accented by a clean white that would highlight the soft colors. I cut and sewed at a feverish pace and hired a woman to machine quilt as quickly as possible so it would be ready for the next time we visited Estherville.

My mom was graciously thankful for every little thing I ever did for her. This day her receiving smile was soft and humble. She was surprised at the gift and delighted at its significance. When I left that day I knew that a part of me stayed behind to warm her little body like she had warmed my heart my whole life.

The next time I visited, one of the aides came into her room. Mom introduced me as her daughter, the one who made her pretty quilt. The aide said, "I've been thinking that one night I could sneak in here and take that quilt home with me!" Mom looked at her and with a small knowing smile replied, "I know where you live!" We all had a good laugh and I grinned, realizing that this eighty-six year-old had kept her sweet, dry sense of humor.



Mom only lived maybe five months after I presented her with this gift of my heart and hands, but I have within me the warmth of knowing that she laid her soft little body under that warm quilt for those five months. Mom's life was about loving and blessing others. My quilt was a return, a thank you, a goodbye, a mothering of-my-own, a protection for her and a giving back for so much love given for so many years.

I couldn't change the tide of time but in one small way I softened it and drew it in close to my heart in an accepting embrace. Perhaps the covering for mom helped comfort and enable me to endure the unwanted, unpredictable but inevitable storms coming just a few short months away.

Psalm 119:76 May your unfailing love be my comfort...


Do you have a memory of a gift you've given? I'd love to read about it in the comments section!