Suzette comes over one evening flush with the excitement of a new endeavor. "I'm working with a new group of ten weavers in Namibia", this intrepid explorer of Africa confesses over a glass of wine, as though she couldn't help herself from this impulse. "I just had to. They are so amazing, these women, and they have just learned how to weave and they have no other means of support living way out in Southern Namibia where jobs don't exist and their work is just beautiful! I have to help them get it to a market". Then she just looks at me.
What can you do in the face of such love? What do you say when someone next to you catches fire?
"Well, what does their work look like, Suzette?" I venture cautiously. She whips off the earth-colored scarf around her neck and tosses it to me. Not a color I would choose, but it happens to look great on her olive skin. The texture is knubby and wildish, the thing I love best about wild silk, spun from cocoons left behind by silk worms who have moved on, unharmed.
I try it on and feel the silk warm and cozy around my neck. "They have other colors - lots of them," she goes on. "Like pink?" I couldn't help but think the knubby thing would look great in something surprising like pink. "Yes, pink!" she said, and began to scroll for images.
When she brings up a picture of the women holding their easter egg colored shawls, I am already sold. "They're mothers?" I ask, looking at the children gathered hopefully around the new loom. "Yes", she said "mothers and grandmothers."
I begin to think about my mother and how each year I found for her a beautiful scarf she would love for Mother's Day. She had quite a collection, but never tired of receiving one more I picked out for her. "So, let's do this, Suzette." I begin to think aloud. "Bring me the scarves. We'll make a Mother's Day gift of them like no other . . . . From one mother to another."
The next day Suzette shows up at the IBU shop with an armful of scarves. I know that we have designed a cuff being crafted by women in Colombia spelling out the word for mother in several languages: Mami, Madre, Ibu, Mere, Emo, and Ma.
"Let's put it all together. We'll add a cuff to the package, free for anyone who gifts a scarf to a mother. And we'll make a card to top it off with these mother words spoken throughout the world, uniting us all. It's a gift that connects, all wrapped up in our Ibu colors and ready to go."
Ibu means, as you know, a woman of respect in the Malay language. But it is also what one calls her Mother. It is the name my little niece and nephews call me - Ibu - so named before I began this endeavor. It is a gift to give - not just a scarf, but calling one by this name. Ibu. Meme. Ma. Simple vowels and soft consonants that spill out of the mouths of babes all around the world. That mean, first - nipple, warmth, heartbeat - but come to mean everything. Like love. And strength. And constancy. Like hope.
I want to turn around and give something back to mothers everywhere. I want to give them my constancy and our harnessed strength. If my mother were still on this earth, I would want to wrap her in this scarf and put this cuff on her wrist and connect her with the women in Namibia and Colombia and in Turkey where I am now and across the world, where, bound together, mothers are becoming the shape of hope. And with them are women like Suzette, who cannot stop herself from caring.
All the Best,
Susan Hull Walker