A spinning wheel and a basket of yarn

The house in Pennsylvania sits on the top of a knoll that permits views of all the surrounding meadows. Tall, elegant blue and white Spruce trees decorate the driveway, and sweet little maples supply the famous syrup for breakfast tables across the country.

Hemlocks crowd together and offer shade for all the bovine society and hiding places for the tall, rangy deer of that state.

In the fall nights, when the cattle sleep in the meadow, the deer ramble from one place to another, stripping the apple trees of their fruit. In the daytime, they are snuggled in the dark shade of those trees, safely hidden from the onslaught of marauding hunters.

It was there, in that magic place, that I discovered a spinning wheel and basket that holds handspun yarn that was carded and then dyed, all done by a lady far younger than me and a far better knitter than I ever hope to be. However, the knitting was the smallest of the tasks that Marilyn Lombardi went through to produce sweaters, hats and gloves for the frigid time in that faraway Northern state.

The living room, where these treasures sit, overlooks a pasture that has been in the O'Neill family for generations. It was there that Paul O'Neill built a well known dairy farm. It was there that the grand black-and-white Holsteins produced rich and plentiful milk for Pennsylvanians.

It was there, after the marriage of Darren Lombardi and Kerry O'Neill, that this spinning wheel was put in a position of importance, where it could be seen and the memory of the lady who spun, Darren's mother, honored and remembered every day of her short life along with her all-consuming and complicated hobby.

Her 2-year-old granddaughter, Lucy, clearly understands that this basket, which holds yarn carded, spun and dyed, is never to be touched. She knows that it is a part of her daddy's family history that she, too, at her young age, has learned to respect and treasure.

The wheel has special importance to this family, for this is the one that Darren put together from a kit, as his mother, too ill to help, watched from the living room couch. He fitted one small piece into another and waited for her approving smile. Every afternoon, after school, Darren anxiously worked to please his mother, whom he knew was terribly ill. She was rapidly losing balance, speech and recognition because of a fast-growing brain tumor.

He was in his senior year of high school, and while he knew his mother was ill and failing fast, he never really understood the trials, the complications and the over-powering sense of loss her fast-approaching demise would cause.

He admits, with great sadness, that he thought little of her advice and the goals that she tried so hard to explain to him. He was young, and the world seemed, to him, to be designed for personal enjoyment.

On the night of his high school graduation, she arrived sitting sedately in a wheel chair and, with her last bit of energy, Marilyn Lombardi talked to her son about the importance of education and the need for the higher variety.

She talked as best she could, for her speech was being compromised by this sickness that strips one of all the grace in their lives. No matter the disability, Marilyn struggled to explain that time is fleeting and is one of the greatest gifts we receive, and that youth must be taken advantage of.

Darren listened and with typical a teen-age attitude, he smiled, agreed and managed to forget, for a short time. But those words were spoken by a mother who prayed daily that he would follow her advice and do more than select an existence that would offer unimaginative dreams.

Life went by; Darren was married, and then a job offer changed his life. Soon he was attending college and forging a career that would place him in line with computer gurus and complicated thinkers.

My, how Marilyn Lombardi must have smiled, for if all is true that we believe, she sits somewhere in God's world knowing that her son, her daughter-in-law and her granddaughter will all profit from those garbled words of advice that she struggled to offer.

There is no doubt that a writer should be allowed to dream. Dream that this lady sits at the wheel and spins wonderful wool of cashmere and silk, that she looks down and sees this family -- Lucy, learning new things every day as her son once did, and Kerry, smiling and making a home of safety and sublime comfort.

Surely, a writer could imagine hearing the humming sound of an antique spinning wheel knowing that her subject's life's work is completed, knowing that all is well in the pastures of Pennsylvania, and that she certainly does "rest her feet on higher ground," as she spins and conjures up beautiful dreams.

Marilyn Lombardi, mother of Darren, grandmother of Lucy and mother-in-law to Kerry, finished her teaching and spinning, and now she rests in good health.