Prompt: Write a 250- to 500-word creative nonfiction story or scene using ONE of these prompts:
• An encounter with a bully
• A favorite/dreaded outfit from childhood
• The first time you had lobster (or _____________)
• A feared teacher
• The worst job you’ve ever had
• A love note that went wrong
The First Time I Made a Graduation Stole
The machine in front of me, though I’d used it countless times before, looked as fresh and new and intimidating as when I’d first gotten it, back when sticking myself with a needle would make my stomach flip and crooked stitches would make me cry.
Satin in royal blue and old-glory gold sat folded neatly beside me, a crest and the three Greek letters for Alpha, Phi, and Omega beside it—so innocent—brow-beating me with the importance of my task. My dog pressed her cold nose to my cheek, almost like an encouragement, and I forced a breath into my lungs to steady my trembling hands.
“I want you to make me a stole,” Annemarie had said to me a mere week prior.
I’d nearly choked on my tongue. “What?” I managed to croak.
“I want you to make me a stole,” she repeated.
“I’m not nearly skilled enough—”
“Weren’t you going to make one for Eileen?”
I hadn’t made the stole for Eileen, but there still wasn’t anything I could say in my own defense. I eventually agreed to the project.
As I pinned the pattern to the first piece of satin, the material slipped and slid through my fingers, rebellious in a way knit and fleece never were. It reminded me just how little I knew about sewing, and made me wish dearly for my mentor’s advice and company. I hand-stitched the crest patch on and tried not to stain the satin with my blood when I stuck myself.
Soon, I was ready to sew, and folded and ironed the gold satin into the proper shape. Running it through the sewing machine, the material bunched and slid, and I had to use nearly three times the usual number of pins to keep everything in place. To make matters worse, the moment the stole half was sewn, the material ripped apart with the ease of melted butter—I’d sewn too close to the edge!
With only enough material for one more shot, I took care not to make the same mistake twice. I left plenty of room for the stitching, and it proved successful. I also learned to stitch the crest onto the satin with the machine instead of my aching hands.
The blue half of the stole was far easier with my newly acquired experience, and I managed to neatly embroider the edging of the Greek letters without much trouble. It seemed as though my rebellious nervousness and stubborn machine had finally somewhat reached an accord.
When Annemarie graduated a few days later, hers was the only stole of its kind: bi-chromatic, twice as thick as average, and homemade. It wasn’t pressed perfect like those belonging to the brothers and sisters of bigger Greek organizations, but I’d poured my blood, sweat and tears into it—literally—for one of my best and dearest friends. No one else in her one-thousand-some-odd graduating class could say the same, and she wore it across that commencement stage with pride.