Linda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs
Excerpted Inspiration #55
[Continued from last week. Anna's teacher has brought materials to her "Sight-Saving Class" so they can make woven baskets on wooden bases for Christmas presents.]
"By the middle of the afternoon the reeds were pliable enough to weave. Anna put in the upright pegs first. They had to be even. She placed each one in slowly, coaxing it, guiding it through the correct hole, measuring first with her eyes and then with her ruler.
"'That's it, Isobel. Good, Veronica.' Miss Williams went from one to another. 'Not so fast, Jimmy. They're uneven at the top.'
"She paused by Anna's desk. The others were getting ahead of Anna but she was paying no attention to that. She wanted this basket to be just right, like something Gretchen would make, or Mama.
"'That's perfect, Anna,' the teacher said.
"Anna started to tuck in the ends, one behind the other, so that the underside of her basket would be trim and neat. It made an attractive pattern. She stopped to admire it.
"'Let me see that,' Isobel said, reaching for it. 'Oh, I get it. Thanks, Anna.'
"She handed the basket back and bent over her own, undoing her mistake and fixing it. Anna blinked in surprise.
"She took a deep breath, gathered her courage, and started to weave.
"In and out, in and out. Each time she had to pull the whole long whip-end of reed all the way through. What seemed like yards and yards of it curled and coiled around her. There! She had done it.
"Now pull it tight.
"Not too tight, Anna reminded herself.
"It must fit snugly around the straight sticks, but pulled too hard, it might break. She tugged at it until it felt exactly the way it should. She did not wonder why she was so certain. Her hands knew.
"Miss Williams came to her again. There was not a mistake in the child's work. She was concentrating so intently that she was not even aware of the woman who stood watching her.
"'How deft your fingers are, Anna!' Miss Williams said.
"Anna's head jerked up. She stared at the teacher. What did 'deft' mean?
"'Deft means quick and clever,' the teacher answered her unspoken question. 'Sure of themselves.'
"Anna knew that up till that very moment, she had had clumsy hands.
"'Let me do it, Anna,' Mama or Gretchen or even Frieda had often said impatiently. Rudi still called her Awkward Anna when he thought about it.
"Now she had deft fingers.
"Anna went on weaving the reeds around and around, over and under, over and under. As she worked deftly, neatly, nimbly, a new song was singing itself inside her heart.
"A Christmas present,
I am making a Christmas present.
I am making my very own.
It will be from me.
"A Christmas present,
A surprise for a Christmas present!
I am making it by myself
And Papa will see.
"She had never known such joy."
-Jean Little, From Anna (1972), pp. 160-165