The Felt Picture
A Picture of Hopefulness

I have written about objects that talk to me late at night. However, this time, an object started to have a conversation with me in the middle of the afternoon. Not only was the pattern changed, the object was a picture on the wall five feet away from where I sit in front of my computer. If you look to the upper left of this photo, you will see a picture designed by three colors of felt. It is of a young boy walking along the ocean carrying a fishing rod and some schoolbooks.


I have had this picture with yellow felt forming the sky, blue felt representing the ocean, and a silhouette of a young boy for as long as I can remember. I cherish it. I have always enjoyed the simplicity of the design. However, like the other talking objects, this was the first time that it has ever said anything to me. You can tell that the felt picture is very old.

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The felt picture began the conversation, "I'm a couple years older than you are, which makes me seventy-three. Cory Alzarey, who lived in Mindanao, which is in the Philippines, created me. Her husband was fighting the Japanese during WWII, which meant that Cory was left to fend for herself and support her family."

I responded to the felt picture that I remember having it all my life. The felt picture added, "Yes, your father bought me from Cory. He was stationed in Mindanao for several months at the end of WWII. He spent most of WWII island hopping in the Pacific in places like Saipan, Iwo Jima, Guam, and Okinawa. However, prior to returning to the States, he ended up in Mindanao prior to returning home.

"After the Americans liberated my country, Filipino women sold felt pictures like me to American soldiers. They had made felt pictures for many years. However, when the Japanese invaded, the Japanese didn't like them, but the Americans loved them. They could take the gifts back home with them for their families. The particular scene depicted in the pictures was up to each woman artisan. Cory came up with my design and made most of her pictures based upon a theme or variation of young children enjoying life."

I told the felt picture that I knew my father had gotten this while in the South Pacific, but that was all that I knew. The felt picture replied, "I knew that and decided to talk with you today, because I noticed that I had written about the seventieth anniversary of the end of WWII on your webpage.

"At the end of the war, Cory was a widow with six children: four of her own and two orphans of her sister's. Cory's husband was killed in the battle on Mindanao. The Japanese had killed her sister and brother-in-law early in the war when the Japanese bombed their small village near Manila. Cory was the sole support for her family and that of her sister's children. She'd spent sunrise to sunset cutting out and pasting felt to create hundreds of felt pictures pretty much just like me. Back in those bleak days of shortages and hunger, there wasn't much else to do if you didn't want to starve to death. So, Cory worked long hours seven days a week. After making several dozen pictures, she would buy plain, black frames like mine, and the picture was complete. As I recall, the frames cost many times what the felt cost. However, only some rich Filipinos could afford the pictures during the war. As a result, I had been sitting around Cory's home workshop for many months without being sold.

"After Cory completed each picture, she'd double-check the finished product. Then she'd sit there silently with the picture on her lap while she offered a silent prayer. She asked God to protect both the soldier who would purchase her picture and his family in America for whom it had been purchased. The Americans had liberated the Filipinos, and she wanted them to be happy back home with their families.

"I recall the day when your father stopped by Cory's home. She had a little table near her front steps displaying about a dozen felt pictures including me. Your father, who was a major at the end of the war, saw me first. He picked me up and just stood there deep in thought. Cory didn't say anything. She just was quiet. I'm sure that your father saw you in the picture of the little boy. I was glad that he bought me, but I miss the Philippines and most of all, I miss Cory. Surely, by now, Cory has passed away, but I wonder about her children and how they are."

The sensitivity and concern of the felt picture moved me. The picture and I are both well-traveled and had seen much during our lifespans. However, I wondered about the picture and the design. So I asked first about its design of the little boy with a fishing rod and books. The felt picture gladly explained.

"Cory's design was her way to affirm her hope that the chaotic days during the war would soon end without any further loss of life. Look at me. I'm a picture of a little boy without cares, fears, or hurts. I enjoy life by fishing, but I also take my studies seriously - hence the books. Cory saw the need for a balance between play and work in life. What she got in life was hunger, war, and death. Yet, in spite of the reality of her world, she never gave up her dream and prayer for a better and safer life for all - especially the children of the world. Her design was her heartfelt dream, done in felt, of a better world. Cory believed in her dream even while reality demonstrated something entirely different. I hope her children realized Cory's dream.

"Interestingly, you have hung me in your office a dozen years ago. I have watched you write, teach, and plan trips all over the world. You have had a good life and experienced a great deal that others haven't been as fortunate as you have been."

Then the felt picture paused for what seemed like a long time. Then it asked, "Would you like me to tell you what I have seen change in you over the years?" I nodded that I would and the felt picture reflected upon several transformative events that have radically changed me.

"The first two changes in you occurred in early 2008. You refer to it as dancing with death. You were operated upon for prostate cancer, and, a couple months later, you fell off a ladder causing a traumatic brain injury. While you have completely recovered from both medical problems, your dancing with death awakened you to living life to the fullest.

"Additionally, your month in Myanmar had a profound effect upon you. Your attending a protest rally in Yangon was truly transformative. You returned from studying and traveling that month in Myanmar a different person. You saw your cardiologist, Dr. Marchand, for a routine checkup. He was correct that you had seen the light.

"Now take your dancing with death and combine it with Myanmar, you have changed. I see every day as you write essays or teach online. However, in the midst of these changes, Jack and Owen, your two grandchildren, entered your life. You have three of your own children who are adults and a twenty-year-old granddaughter. You love and care for them, but, after dancing with death and in your twilight years, those two children toddle into your life. You are entirely different...radically different.

"You can't write about those boys or talk on the phone about them without choking up most of the time. Their excitement about life, or as you say, walking down their yellow brick roads, has captivated you emotionally. You did the same type of thing with your family and granddaughter, but the intensity now is so much different. You perceive life differently than you did years ago. While that is understandable, your major concern and drive is to do what you can to express your love for them as they enter the vast world, which lies before them."

I agreed with the felt picture. My interest in watching Jack and Owen explore their new worlds is exhilarating. I cannot protect them from all problems, but I can provide support and care as they begin their journey.

Then the felt picture paused again, and I waited. Then the felt picture responded, "Cory cut felt and created me to serve as a messenger of her care for the young children of the world. She was successful with you...."

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