My mother, she told me I could cut the pin cushion open, to see what was inside. I was five, and the scissors were bigger, and exclusively mom's, but she let me take them and so I did, gouging open the red cloth tomato, and the sand within spilled out onto the spread-open piece of newsprint. And with it — so many needles! A family of lost needles, mom-needles and dad-needles and big-sister-needles and even some baby-needles, as fine as a single strand of baby hair, or so it seemed. Needles let-loose, escaped needles. Found needles.
For the rest of my childhood I persisted with my one request: may I cut open the pin cushion?
My own red tomato pin cushion is going on forty years old, as yet unthreatened by scissor blades. Every now and then, I compress it just enough to reveal the tips of embedded sharps. I've come to believe that the cushion-gutting of '61 was a singular event in the timeline of my life.
Never before, and not once since.
But thank-you, Mom, wherever it is that the dust of your essence exists, thank you for that one extraordinary moment in my fifth year, when you showed me the secret within the red tomato, showed me that treasures are to be found in the most ordinary of places.