It started with the greatest intentions.
The cross-stitch Victorian Santa stocking. I figured I could have it ready by the baby’s first Christmas. Such a lovely commemorative heirloom…
I got to work, not realizing how tiny the stitches would be, how difficult linen is to work with, how maddening it was to undo and redo wrong steps. I hadn’t done much cross-stitch before. But I had to keep working. It was a labor of love for my baby.
After he was born, I embroidered his name on the banner over Santa’s head. Christmas was still months away; I had plenty of time.
I didn’t realize that my schedule was no longer my own, that when he slept, I should sleep.
I learned. Quickly.
Christmas came and went, with only half of Santa complete.
Well, my sweet boy’s stocking could be ready by next Christmas. He would not be so babyish then; I would have a little more time to work on this.
I’d never had a toddler before…
It wasn’t finished by the next Christmas. Or the next. We used substitute stockings instead.
Somewhere along the way I finished Santa. I got the the toys stitched. All that remained was Santa’s bag!
A striped bag, with lots of light and dark variations of the same colors for depth and shadows.
It was gorgeous.
It was also my cross-stitch Waterloo. Around that time, my second baby was born.
I folded the linen. I placed it in the craft box as tenderly as a loved one laid to rest in a coffin. With acknowledgment of my abject failure for a eulogy. It was over. There was no point in trying to go on. How could I in good conscience make such a keepsake for one child and not the other, anyway? It wasn’t going to happen. I thought of other people’s beautiful needlework with longing and awe. I mourned how this craft turned out to be so unsustainable for me.
That linen remained buried in that box for years and years… until I came across it one day while looking for something else. I unfolded the cloth bearing Santa and my firstborn’s name. Sadness flooded me. He wasn’t little anymore. He was in his teens. The guide for completing Santa’s bag was missing, somehow misplaced, if I even wanted to attempt it. Could I paint a bag on? Would that look terrible? What if I ruined the linen? Could I cut a little bag from felt or cloth and stitch it on? Why even think about this, now?
That’s when I decided.
He would have his stocking.
I took the linen and the backing to a seamstress (my expertise with real sewing being limited to the reattaching of buttons). “I know this looks weird,” I explained. “I started it for my son before he was born and never got around to finishing. It’s as done as it will ever be. Can you just put the back on, please?”
And so the linen became a stocking, at last.
It’s hung on the mantel every Christmas for a couple of decades now, with those disembodied toys poking out of their invisible bag. I never even finished outlining them, save the teddy bear.
Loose threads, if you will.
Except that every stitch that is there holds tight, for it was placed with utmost care, with the stuff of hopes and dreams. Each one is infused with great love, which never fails, despite imperfections and intentions. Efforts made in love are never wasted. That the picture is incomplete does not mean that the whole is ruined or meaningless. Or that there’s no beauty to be found in it. In fact, I’ve read how there’s something incomplete and fragmentary in all great art since Gothic times, left for the audience to complete (Arnold Hauser). Not so applicable to a cross-stitch Victorian Santa. But maybe an unfinished thing is finished in a way that is different from the picture imagined at the beginning. Maybe it’s a lesson in acceptance.
If nothing else…it certainly makes for interesting conversation.
Inspiration fires the soul
Candles will burn down so soon
On the windowsill of willpower.
Maybe I mourn intention
Leaving my imperfections
Exposed for all to see.
That is when inherent beauty comes to light
Even in loose threads, left untied.
The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 9, I am writing around a word beginning with letter i.