Thursday, November 3, 2011


What do you give someone for their 90th birthday, when that someone is your dad, a philosopher, a lover of mankind?  Marash Girl had found the perfect gift, but the perfect gift for the perfect person only hung on his wall for 7.5 years, and then he left this world for the next, leaving the perfect gift behind, and so, Marash Girl, having already internalized the message, and wanting to 'pass it on', resorted to Craigs List with the following ad, hoping to find the perfect home for this beautiful antique cross stitch bearing the message that her dad had quoted all his life.  Here is the ad and a photo of the cross stitch. 
Approx. 16x13 inch antique cross stitch in frame picturing cross-stitched house and the following words cross-stitched: Let me live in the house by the side of the road and be a friend to man. Beautifully hand cross stitched with black thread on cream cloth. Circa 1930, probably framed later.   Great gift for your favorite philosopher friend! (What else could you give a real philosopher?)
And here is the answer that Marash Girl received by email.

Serendipity, Marash Girl!

When I was growing up, this same cross stitch was hanging in my house, by the front door.  My mother told me her mother made it.  Her mother, Teresa Hopkins Bovie, came to the US as a teen ager all by herself from her native County Galway, Ireland.  She gave birth to my mother in Princeton, NJ, in 1913.   I came along much later -- 1959 -- and was cared for by my grandmother often in my first three years,  after which  she passed away.  I'm named after my grandmother -- Teresa Kimberlie Cromwell.  I have always gone by my middle name.  And I have always wished I knew my grandmother.... I was so young when she died. 
Anyway, as I was learning to sound out words I remember reading the cross stitch on the wall, and didn't really get it.  What did it mean?

Only now do I understand!  As an adult, at 52, I understand more deeply each year the peaceful, profound simplicity of the message:  "Let me live in the house by the side of the road and be a friend to man."  I've always felt my grandmother's \presence in my life -- including through this wonderful experience with you and your Dad.

Just moved into a new house by the side of the road, too, here in Provincetown.  :)

When my Mom died in '86 we gave away her stuff, including that cross-stitch, and I've always regretted it....

So lately I've been thinking about those words, and decided to go on a search... and found you!  And your Dad.... One of my dear friends is Armenian and we talk a lot about her heritage, and so it means even more to me to know of your Dad.

Tell me something about him. 

I'll watch over this gift.... It's as if you were meant to pass it along to me.....

In its new home by the front door in Provincetown

1 comment:

  1. it is interesting that dad had those sentiments about his fellow man. one would have thought that the first 10 years of his life, during which he endured so much pain and suffering at the hands of other men, would have produced the opposite. Those first 10 years were followed by several years living in the worst part of Boston. as a pint sized newcomer with a funny last name, who had to learn a new language and thus was put in the first grade at the age of 10, quickly moving up through the elementary school grades until he caught up with everybody else in @2years, was the object of derision and fisticuffs. being in a new country, and not knowing what to do, he arrived home every day from school in the first few weeks, bruised and crying, until his father came home early one day from work, and discovered his son in this condition. His father, Moses, the erstwhile shepherd, while in his homeland had reclaimed a herd of sheep stolen from him during the night by hill country bandits. He had gone after the sheep and the marauders, and single-handedly recovered the sheep and the 3 horses of the 3 bandits, leaving the bodies of the bandits to rot and be eaten by ravens and wolves. Moses told dad to fight back. And fight back he did, with stones in his hands. one must understand that dad had no schooling in the first ten years of his life, unless you included the schoolyard of a cemetery, and the chorus of pain and loss and hunger and fear daily rising with the sun and informing his dreams at night. Why, i ask, should a man with such a history have turned out the way he did? there is more to this story. at age nineteen, my father, already feted in the boston newspapers for the perfect napoleonic coach he had built to scale, already accomplished enough to earn an offer from MIT for a full scholarship, was assaulted by a man three inches taller and fifty pounds heavier than himself. the man owed $20 to newtonville electrical company, the company dad and his brother had just formed in the year, 1932, the bottom of the Great Depression. Every dollar was dear. when dad knocked on the door and the man opened it, he knew why dad and uncle paul were there, so he kicked dad full bore in the nether region. with a battle cry that would have been heard in Alexander's army, dad picked the man up and threw him across the room and beat him senseless, only to be dragged off by his brother who was bigger than dad. uncle paul surely saved both of their lives that day.
    Dad told me that story many times, mostly because I would ask him to retell it. Uncle Paul was always present, and loved to hear it, as well. several weeks later, when they went to court, because of dad's assailant bringing charges against dad, (the court dismissed the charge because dad had acted out of self-defense) dad saw the damage he had wreaked on another. no feature on the man's face was discernible. his face was a bloated, ugly, mass.
    Dad said that he had given his life to Christ six months before and when he saw what he had done to another man, the Holy Spirit convicted him right there in the courtroom never again to raise his hand in anger against another. the many stories i was told by dad and uncle paul about how their parents cared for them made me realize that dad's parents loved dad and his siblings with a sacrificial love, as did God the Father. these three streams of love in the desert of dad’s childhood saved my father, and set him free from the nightmares of his childhood, so he could 'love his neighbor as himself'.