CASTLE HAYNE, NC (WWAY) — With a purple cane in one hand and a special box in the other, Patsy Miller makes the trip to Castle Hayne Elementary School once a year.
This spry, 74-year-old needs no escort to her grandson Trevor Todd’s classroom upstairs. He’s a fourth-grade teacher at the New Hanover County School.
Inside Miller’s box, she has dozens of tissue-wrapped bow ties and hair bows.
“I’m going to put one boy and one girl on first,” Miller told the students.
Each are hand sewn and stitched at Miller’s home where she uses a ping pong table as her work station.
“She’s been working on them for a month, maybe even longer,” Todd said.
This end-of-the-school year tradition began three years ago.
“The first year he said, ‘I really would like to get the boys ties,’ and I said, ‘Well, we got to do something for the girls, too,’ and I thought about the barrettes for the girls,” she said.
Todd, who’s known by colleagues and students for sporting a bow tie to work every day, selects the fabric for this annual project and his grandmother then goes to work.
“It’s a very special thing that she does and I hope all my students think it’s a special thing to remember her and me by as they go to the next grade level,” he said.
This year’s red, white and blue popsicle design is not only cute but kid approved.
“You’re a good bow tie maker,” one student told Miller as she places a bow tie around his collar.
Making dozens of bow ties and hair bows isn’t easy for Miller.
“It’s really sometimes hard for me to sew because of the hand stitching that I have to do, but I do it because I love to do it,” Miller said. “I put cream on my hands at night, Mineral Ice to help the pain, and I take Ibuprofen for the pain but its worth it because its such a joy and to see these little faces and for them to come up and hug me and thank me, it just thrills my heart.”
Once every student in Todd’s class received a bow tie or hair bow, he gathered the children on a carpet and read to them a book entitled “Mr. Bowtie.”
“It’s about a homeless man that meets a family that takes him under their wing and they find out where his true home is and they reunite each other and its just a great about hope for people that might be in a tough situation and of course it had a theme of bowties so I loved it,” Todd said while chuckling.
So, what’s so special about a handmade bow tie or hair bow?
“I hope this token being a little more formal than their regular everyday attire will give them that confidence that they can look their best all the time,” and he added, “if they look their best, they’re going to definitely feel their best.”
Each of the kids also get to munch on a sugar cookie resembling Todd’s face with green icing accents that highlight his signature look — glasses and bow tie.
As this school year comes to an end, each of these students will have a very special gift to take home but the whole experience may be more of a gift for Todd and Miller.
“I love my granny so much and I’m just so thankful that I’ve had this opportunity to have these moments with her because I know she’s not going to be with me forever,” he said.
When asked why she continues to make bow ties and hair bows, a broad smile comes across Miller’s face.
“It just made us feel so happy and I’m just thrilled to do this,” she said. “It just thrills my heart.”
When these kids walk out of Todd’s class for the last time, hopefully, they’ll remember what he taught them but the one memory they’ll most likely remember years to come is how he and his ‘granny’ made these fourth-grade students feel extra special.