Note: I’ve been working on this one for a while, I hope you enjoy the story.
Lets flashback to the year 1983…
My Mom had just found out that she was pregnant, and my world suddenly became a very exciting place. I was staying for a few days with my Grandmother, completely underfoot, and a little peeved that my parents were paying all this attention to my little sibling, and he wasn’t even born yet! My Gram was getting fed up with my fidgeting and incessant talking, and my uncle was a senior in high school, so he didn’t have the time or the inclination to play with me! I was totally annoyed by all of this, and was determined to blame it all on the impending intruder. All the adults had said that this was a glorious thing, but I was unconvinced.
One day, I came to my Gram with a pillow. There were a few of them on the couch in the front room, all with different patterns on a grid, all with different initials and years embroidered in them. I must have been playing in there with the piano or the light brite, because that room was usually reserved for holidays. I asked her about it, and she told me that my Uncle Colin had made it on his very own using a kind of sewing called needlepoint. I had fifty questions about this (and everything else), and she showed me how it was done, and the different patterns and textures that you could make with it. Next thing I knew, we were buying yarn. I started to make a pillow for my new sibling-to-be, but we didn’t know the sex yet, so color choices were difficult.
I remember digging through the bins of Red Hart yarn, picking mint green, and yellow and pink. I remember wanting cream instead of pink, but I don’t know why I didn’t use it. I remember her picking the stitch that I would be using out of a book, and showing me how to do it. I remember her showing me the wicker chest to put it in when I was done sewing, and how to pack it all together so that nothing would get lost. I remember that I was rubbish at threading my needles, as big as they were, so she patiently threaded each one for me. I remember her showing me how to roll my yarn so that there were no snags, and when – inevitably – I did get snags, she showed me how to undo them. I remember her teaching me how the back of the embroidery is just as important as the front, and how to care for the little scissors that she used.
I still use every one of these lessons weekly, if not daily. Later, I would learn cross stitch from my Aunt Sandy, and move on to a giant cat piece. My cousin Patricia spilled a coke on it while we were on vacation in New Braunfels, and I cut a small hole in it the very next day. I cried a good deal and took it to Gram, and she showed me how to patch it, and helped me to pick out a background color to cover all that weekend’s flubs…It’s STILL not finished; maybe I’ll do that next year….
My little brother is all grown up, and I finally stopped blaming him for everything right about the time that he turned 15. He had moved to San Francisco, and I live near Austin, but Gram still lived in the exact same house. She had gotten diagnosed with cancer the month before, and I started driving to Houston every other weekend to see her. I had told her that I was her cheerleader, and she told me that I had the sweetest heart of them all.
I remember sitting at her kitchen table at one of the rare moments that I got alone with her after she got sick, and we had split the newspaper. She asked me to go and get a bag out of the wicker chest behind the couch, because she had found some owls that she had made, and she wanted me to have them. As I was digging through the wicker chest, I found the canvas that I had made. I brought it back into the kitchen, and showed it to her.
“Look at that,” she said, “we were supposed to make this into a pillow. I completely forgot about this. This was your first project.” There was a small unidentifiable stain on it, and I joked that maybe Trish had gotten coke on it too. We remembered the tantrum I threw a decade ago, and had a good laugh.
We packed everything carefully into a Whole Foods bag, and I took it home. In the turmoil of the following months, I forgot all about it.
I was organizing all of my closets to get ready for winter, and to make some room. I pulled out a quilt that I’d washed to tatters, and packed it to take to my friend, Janie the SuperSeamstress, for repairs. I ran across a Whole Foods bag, tucked into a corner behind my luggage, and pull it out. There was the pillow, tucked among the needlepoint owls. It still smelled like Gram’s house. I didn’t want to let it go, but I packed it with the quilt.
Janie loved the pillow, and the story that went with it. She said that she would be happy to make it into a pillow, and even managed to get the unknown stain out (a bug, by the way – Trish’s reputation is saved )
I gave the pillow to my Mom – 23 years late – for a baby gift, and she loved it. I don’t even think that Matt has gotten to see it, so here it is: