Imagine being given a gift so extravagant by your parents, that it took them decades to make. It’s a tapestry. Beautifully woven. A masterpiece. It’s almost impossible to take it all in. The colors are vibrant, hand dyed. The fiber spun from sheep they raised. It’s covered in plants, animals, fish, birds. You see they’ve woven in your family, your friends. Somehow, they’ve managed to weave in love.
They bring it to you, and they say, “We made this for you. It’s yours to take care of. It’s one of the greatest gifts we could give to you.” With teary eyes, and humble smiles, they hug you, and then they go back to Cleveland. (Your parents live in Cleveland in this story.)
For a while, you hang the tapestry on the wall. You get special lighting that will highlight the beauty of the weaving, without damaging it. You show it to everyone who comes over. You call your parents nightly, still in awe, to thank them again and again.
But then one day you’re cold, and your blankets are all dirty, and your parents did tell you that the tapestry was yours now, so you pull it down, and you curl under it. It’s warm, comforting, so much more useful this way. You leave it on the couch.
You stop telling Baxter it’s not his blanket. (In this story you have a dog named Baxter.) You wipe greasy, popcorn hands on it when you’re wholly engaged in a movie. It’s the best blanket you’ve ever owned. You haven’t told your parents how much you appreciate it in months.
Years later, Ann comes to visit. (Ann is your friend who has been working at a museum in Europe in tapestry restoration.) You haven’t seen Ann in so long! You’ve missed her. You pick her up from the airport, you chat, you laugh, she tells you about the time she tripped in front of the Prime Minister while showing him something she was working on, you tell her about Baxter.
When you get to your house, the first thing Ann says is, “Where’s the tapestry your parents made you?” You glance at the empty spot on the wall that you see her looking at. “Oh,” you say, “It’s really warm. It’s on the couch.” Ann doesn’t respond.
Later the two of you are watching a favorite talk show, and you notice her looking closely at the tapestry you’re both curled under. “You know,” she says, “If you took this in now, they could tighten up the weave, it’s getting loose. They could also help unmuddy the colors where the oils from your skin have worked their way in, and remove some of these stains.” You nod, and smile.
When she leaves, Ann hands you a card with the name of a friend who lives close by. They are an expert in tapestry restoration. She met them in college. As soon as she’s gone, you throw the card in your junk drawer.
You die. (I’m sorry. It happens to all of us eventually.) Your family comes to pack up your things, and they come across the tapestry. It holds none of the glory it used to. No vibrant colors. It’s hard to make out the images. “What do I do with this?” It’s your granddaughter asking. “Oh, that old thing?” Your son shrugs. “Just toss it out. There’s nothing we can do for it at this point.” Your granddaughter is sad, she’s seen pictures of it in its prime, unsullied, untorn. She decides to take it home.
She lovingly lays what is left of the precious gift her great-grandparents made out on the table. She remembers Ann. You took her to visit once when Ann was living in Venice. (You’ve went to Venice! I’m so jealous.) She wonders if Ann is still alive. After some research, she finds a phone number and gives her a call. The phone rings, and rings, and rings. An old, frail voice finally answers. “Ann? You probably don’t remember me, but you were friends with my grandmother, I have this old tapestry of hers, it’s in bad shape, but I was wondering if you could help me fix it…”