May 1, 2020

Pleat By Pleat

Mommy had other ideas. She wasn't going to spend money on new material.

Marvene Thorpe-Baptiste

“She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands” (Prov. 31:13).*

A few years ago, my mom handed me a package, declaring, “I thought you might want to keep this. I’m sorry that some of your badges/pins are missing.” It was my high school uniform.

Surprised, I placed it in my closet and wondered why, of all the things I’d left behind when I moved away, she would bring this particular item.

Then it dawned on me: this was more about her than it was about me. It represented a period in our lives when Mom was able to leave tangible evidence of her faithfulness as a mother.

At age 11, I took the island-wide high school entrance exam. Much to the delight of my family (especially my mother), I gained entrance to one of the few prestigious high schools in the country—St. Augustine Girls High School. The student body comprised those who had scored very high on the island-wide high school entrance exams, and those who were placed because of their family’s affluence. (The prime minister’s daughter attended, as did a friend whose father was a cabinet member, and another whose family owned the largest soft drink bottling company in the country.)

She layeth her hands to the spindle” (verse 19). “She maketh herself coverings” (verse 22).

Mommy had other ideas. She wasn’t going to spend money on new material.

After the first year, our uniform, which consisted of a blue skirt, white blouse, and necktie, was changed to overalls and a white blouse. This change added a huge expense to our already-fragile budget. Everyone was required to purchase the uniform material from the school.

Additionally, the uniform had to be made to code, the pleats had to be of a specific width flowing in a specific direction and falling a stipulated number of inches above the knee. Mom thought that paying a seamstress would be too expensive, so she purchased exact material. She decided to make the uniform herself.

And she did! I remember her tracing out the pattern, measuring, cutting, and arranging/pinning the fabric pleat by pleat. With each fold she implanted love, care, support, and strength. The final product was flawless, made to code, and, I felt, quite flattering to my physique.

Two years later, a general school inspection determined that all uniforms that appeared faded or short would have to be replaced. Well, Mom had other ideas. She wasn’t going to spend money on new material. Instead, she decided to deconstruct the uniform, take out the original stitching, and turn the material over.

She reversed the pleats, resetting them pleat by pleat so that they would once again flow in the appropriate direction. It worked! I returned to school with a uniform that looked like new.

Her children arise up, and call her blessed” (verse 28).

I may have caused Mom some anxious moments while in school, but as I observed her faithfulness and diligence I determined to make her proud. I believe to this day that my mom, Elvira, could do anything to which she set her hands.


*Bible texts are from the King James Version.


Marvene Thorpe-Baptiste is acquisitions coordinator for Adventist Review Ministries.

Marvene Thorpe-Baptiste
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