Wooden Heart

Wooden Heart

He handed it to me without ceremony—a small leather bag, awl-punched and stitched together by hand. Its flap was held together by a clasp made from a two fishing line sinkers and a piece of woven wax linen. I unwound the wax linen and found inside a tiny wooden heart with his initials on one side, mine on the other. A small hole in the heart had a braided cord of wax linen strung through that was attached to the bag so that the heart could not be lost. He had woven more waxed linen into a neck cord. I was 39 years old when he gave me that incredible thing I never thought I would receive: his heart—as much of it as he could give.

It was the first handmade gift I’d ever received from a man. Inside, over the years, I have put a lock of his hair and a tiny tiny animal of indeterminate species hand-cut out of wood by his youngest son and presented to me. Twenty-eight years later, this bag is all that is left of what was once my union with the man and his eight children from three different women. When he died, we returned him to the inevitable earth and all of the children returned forever to their real mothers.

The bag lies in a box with other relics of our past together: a silver heart brooch, another carved of wood with wings attached and, strangely enough, a miniature computerized hand piano. Years after his death, it struck a chord on its own, just lying on the shelf beside my favorite picture of him. One last dying gasp from the tiny gadget I’d put in his Christmas stocking but then grown tired of hearing him play and so had hidden away, only to enter our bedroom one night to find him playing it under the covers like a guilty pleasure hidden from the adults, although he was already in his sixties.

For our first Christmas, he gave me a large sculpture that was also a musical instrument—three hand-raised copper gongs in the shape of breasts suspended over a wooden keyboard played by rawhide mallets, the gongs suspended from the long horizontal neck of a copper wind instrument with two necks and two mouthpieces, so two notes could be blown at once. When he died, it was the sculpture chosen by his youngest daughter, and I let her take it. Now, the remnants I have of him are only the leftovers that remained after eight children had chosen. I was moving to another country and could not hold onto everything he’d given.

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Sculpture by Bob Brown,1986.  4′ X 5.5′, wood, hand forged copper, marble and hemp.

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Miniature hand piano, 4″ X 2″

I moved away from most of those things we had collected over the years, but somewhere hidden away in the thousand objects in my studio is the small leather bag and the tiny hand piano, now forever mute, his father’s pocket watch, his biking medals and the other assorted pieces of his life that will one day wind up in a secondhand store in Mexico. All of our gifts finally melding with the parts of all those billions of other lives that strike their brief chord before blending, inevitably, back into the cacophony of the universe.

The Prompt: What’s the best present you’ve ever received that was handmade by the giver, not store-bought? Tell us what made it so special.



18 thoughts on “Wooden Heart

  1. kellyshaw2001

    Damn! I’m only coming back here when I’m ready to sob! How do these things happen? Yet they do, and somehow, some way, some ability of the heart makes it okay…makes it beautiful. Kelly


  2. Pingback: Daily Prompt: By Hand | tnkerr-Writing Prompts and Practice

  3. Pingback: Handmade Friendship | My Own Champion

  4. Pingback: Cacophony | lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown


    I just this morning happened on this, and it shows that deep love you two had, that is everlasting. Such a beautiful tribute, touching, and I do hope that you still look at that little bag and hold it, and feel the love that went into it. I have a special place with my memories as well, and they mean so much to me. So beautiful, it is time for you to re-post this with an update. I too treasure such items that would mean nothing to another person and I wonder if some day they will end up on a yard sale table for fifteen cents, a book, a painting, a piece of jewelry or fine wood box I made for her, something I picked up in another country when I had to be away from her on a trip, nothing really valuable except for the love that went into it. There was one valuable item that I gave her from China, and she gave to a person when she was dying. This person did not value it, and I asked if I could have it back, causing family problems, but I wanted it to be where it was appreciated, not for money, but for love.

    From your writings, I see Bob Brown as a person with a strong inner persona; one who had difficulty outwardly showing his love, maybe due to his past failures, and this has bothered you, but it was there and the greatest gift that he had for you is still attached at the end of your name. Maybe in a ghostly way he sent me and others to remind you this, but I feel that you really do not need that nudge, it will be with you for the rest of your life, and this is your life lesson for today.

    I wrote more, but just erased it because I told myself, “she already knows what I am writing, who am I, someone she never met, to remind her”~!


    1. lifelessons Post author

      Sam, thanks for reminding me of this piece written so many years ago. Just recently, I cleaned out my studio and found both the little piano and the little leather purse necklace. It was in a bag I had meant to make into a retablo. I had forgotten, however, that I had written this piece about it. I just hit my 6,666th post and like things tossed into a junk drawer, poems and essays can get lost. I’m glad to have this one back again! Yes, I’ll post it again at the appropriate time. Thanks to you.

      Liked by 1 person


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