Thursday, January 5, 2017
I learned a lot of things from my father. But I need to tell you a few things about him first. Joseph Stavale was a young handsome immigrant man who traveled the sea at seventeen years of age from his home country of Italy into Ellis Island in 1915. He carried with him his trade. Dad was a tailor. While he didn't have much formal education, he was gifted nonetheless. His travels led him to different cities where he developed his skill into a clothing designer. He could design and create beautiful clothing for high level execs and the like. My image of him is in a white pressed shirt, sleeves rolled up, with a tape measure around his neck. I remember stopping in the tailor shop from time to time as it was close to my school. He would show me the latest bolts of fabrics that had been imported from England. I loved the feel of silk and cashmere and would gently run my fingers along the material. I'd watch him carefully measure clients so that the suit he was making would fit perfectly. I'd see patterns that he had made on the huge cutting table, the tailor chalk and lots of needles and spools of thread. He was a real craftsman. And my mother was an incredible seamstress, too. She would put the finishing touches on each jacket as she would hand sew in the lining and do the button holes by hand. And so began my love for clothes.
Dressing beautifully was very important to me. I was the daughter of a tailor so I made sure I was well-dressed. I had a job to pay for the pretty things I purchased as there wasn't any extra house money. Inherently, I learned to check the inside of a garment to see if the seams were straight and well sewn and that the patterns matched. And the fabric would have to be lovely. Not only did I love women's clothing but I loved to windowshop in the men's department. Just for fun, I'd pick up shirts and ties that would look great together and look through the suits to see if they were well made. I'd also sometimes sketch clothes that I would like to wear and show them to my father who gave a slight nod of approval. I had impractical visions of becoming a designer myself but I couldn't sew a stitch to save my life. It didn't matter, though. I had my father who could make a pattern from a picture of a coat I had seen on the cover of Seventeen Magazine. And he made my beautiful yellow linen dress for my senior tea. It still hangs in my closet. Yes, I wanted and needed to look good in everything I wore, and I spent many hours in front of the mirror to make sure things were just right.
My father taught me much more than appreciating all things beautiful. He taught me about treating others with respect, about being generous, and most of all, the importance of being a person of
integrity. Dad's been gone over 35 years now. I miss him but the lessons remain imbedded in my heart and soul. And those lessons about the kind of person that he expected me to become have drawn me to pursue a more deeply spiritual life. I've grown older and hopefully wiser and while my penchant for nice clothes remains, I've discovered that my interior life is more important than any exterior could portray. So I look to another Designer. An Interior Designer. Dad would have wanted that for me.
Recently I came across a scripture from Colossians 3 that spoke directly to my heart. "...Clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility and patience." It continues, "Over all these virtues, put on love which binds the rest together and makes them perfect." While outerwear covers
our appearance, is it not more important how we cover our souls? Our flesh is dying more and more each day and these earthly clothes are temporary. Yet we will carry our souls into eternity. Isn't it time to greatly care for this part of us that will last forever? I love the visual of dressing myself each day with mercy, kindness, humility and patience. And then covering it all with love. It might be a wonderful practice to do this each morning during a time of prayer. The Father is a brilliant designer and each virtue will fit us perfectly. The only problem is, the alterations last a lifetime. We must be
patient. In the end, though, He hopefully will give his nod of approval.