m blessed to have a few family heirlooms in my possession; Blessed to have these tangible connections to my past, and blessed to want these connections. Of all the heirlooms I own, the most valuable, treasured, and protected is a needlepoint my mother designed and stitched in the early 1960s. I have hung it in every home I’ve lived in.
Inside the heavy mahogany frame, under glass and on an octagonal mat, lies a bouquet of roses: pink, blush, and magenta petals, olive and pear leaves with a touch of chartreuse. The background is white. Now it’s a grayish white. I can’t remember if it was ever anything else.
I’m not sure if these colors speak to me because they’re my taste, or because they’re so imprinted on my soul, but blush and olive might just be my favorite color combination.
Over the years, I noticed a change in the picture. My mother a”h poured so much of herself into this needlework, but she took one shortcut. The background stitches end where the canvas begins, and the canvas was beginning to show through. Was it time for the picture to be stretched back to its original shape? Whom could I possibly trust with it?
I called a yarn-and-crafts store in a posh zip code, figuring they’d know their stuff, and told them my concerns.
“Do you have any idea what kind of yarn was used?” the saleslady asked.
“Beats me. Yarn.”
“How old is the piece?”
“At least 30 years,” I answered.
The verdict was unsettling. “You really don’t want to take the glass off if you don’t have to. Yarn that old could disintegrate.”
“Thank you for your time,” I said and hung up.
So much for that.
This led to a nervousness of sorts. The needlepoint hangs in a small room with constant traffic. What if a wayward ball or shoe would break the glass? What if the children jumped too hard? I didn’t let myself mourn a loss that hadn’t yet occurred, and might never happen, but I braced myself for it. I imagined my raised blood pressure, my tears, and a baggie full of yarn shreds and wistful memories.
I didn’t share my fears with my siblings, who, while they each have heirlooms of their own, have a deeply held love for this one.
Then, about 15 years after the disturbing prediction was made, a third outcome occurred that I’d never considered.
The picture fell.
There was a cause. A ball, a shoe, someone jumping. I don’t even remember. The frame remained intact, but the glass cracked and… nothing happened to the yarn. Other than a few splinters in the glass, there was no damage.
There was an abashed child somewhere in the room who couldn’t figure out what was going on with Mommy. What happened to all my admonitions to be careful of the needlepoint? Not only did I not seem perturbed, but I and the broom were doing a joyful, grateful dance. Over the years I’d had ample occasion to tell children not to worry about a broken glass, plate, platter, it should be a kapparah, but never did they hear me say it with such sincerity as I did just then.
Of course, now I needed to figure out what to do next. I made a call to a store in a much less tony zip code (disclaimer: the one I live in), one I’d patronized years ago when I needed to have some prints matted and framed.
“Bring it, I can take care of it,” the proprietor told me. “I can stretch it and put on new glass.” He inspired such confidence in me, I decided not to look for a second opinion.
As he looked at the needlepoint, he asked, “Who told you the yarn would disintegrate?” And I took a deep breath and decided, yes, I can leave it here. And for the first time in my life, I spent ten days sleeping without the needlepoint in my home. I still managed to find what to worry about. (“Hashem, please let nothing happen to his store during this week and a half. And, of course, for the rest of the store’s existence.”) Yet my worry was leavened with a feeling of the most elegant Divine Providence — executed with the surgical precision of painstakingly woven stitches — I’d ever been privileged to experience.
Today, the needlepoint is back on the wall. From time to time, I look at it, and I see stitches imbued with not only my mother’s love, but my Father’s, too.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 637)
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