I am a stitcher. I have worked many pieces that I have gifted to people with mixed results. My latest completion was one of great success. It brought the recipients to tears and their reaction brought me to tears.
I inherited 5 step children when I got married. The youngest of the children, a boy, had 4 boys of his own. Tragedy struck the family when the father, my stepson, was killed in a car accident in 2008. Then his wife, the mother of the children, was killed in an accident in 2013. At that time the boys were 13, 17, 21 and 25. The oldest of the boys who was out on his own took in his two youngest brothers. The second son was in college.
I knew that I wanted to do something special for the boys as a remembrance of their parents and as a memorial. I envisioned a family tree type of design where I would enter the family names, dates of birth and death and other vital statistics. I started a hunt through all the charts and magazines and designs that I had accumulated over the years. Nothing really struck my fancy. My daughter and I searched on-line. When we found the pattern named “Dawn’s Breaking” we felt like it was speaking to us. I knew I had to do it. I immediately ordered the chart without looking at the finished size. Ordinarily I would never do that. I was stunned when it arrived to realize that the pattern was 24 pages long and the finished size was 25 inches by 19 inches, all solid stitching. Gulp. That is a lot of stitching! I boldly accumulated the necessary threads and fabric and started my project. I still intended to use the family tree concept by putting the parents’ names and dates of birth, marriage and death on or near the tree trunk and the boys names somewhere on the various branches.
I have always loved starting a new project. There is something about having the pristine, perfect fabric, unblemished, that motivates me to start the perfect work. I suspect that a painter feels the same way when beginning with a blank canvas. I always feel that way when I finish one journal and start writing in another one or when I was a student and opened a new notebook for the very first time. This project was no exception. I loved starting it and I loved picking it up each day after work when my household tasks were completed. Noticing the gradual but steady progress was satisfying. Typically when I do a project, I get to the point where it starts becoming boring and I need a break from it, but with this project, although it was the largest project I have ever done, the boredom did not happen. I always find cross stitch to be relaxing and therapeutic. I work through and reach resolution to many issues in my mind. With this project, each time I picked it up to work on, I would be flooded with memories of my stepson, my daughter-in-law and the children. I recollected many of the experiences we had shared–the joyful, the hilarious, the sad, the disappointing. My husband was already deceased when his son died and I also found myself reliving memories of him with the children. Ultimately, it took 14 months to complete this project which was actually 14 months of working through the grief process that perhaps I had never successfully completed. Along with the stitches, tears and laughter and fondness and love are worked into this piece.
Eventually I decided that because the picture was so impressive on its own, rather than putting the family names and vital statistics on the tree trunk and branches that I would instead create a memorial plaque in the lower left corner. I also thought I would put a brief quote somewhere on the front of the piece but I had a very difficult time coming up with the perfect tribute. Instead I found a poem on-line which I affixed to the back of the framed piece. To me the poem tied together the significance of the tree and the emerging dawn. Since I wanted to give it as a Christmas present, I ended up putting too much pressure on myself to get it finished, which turned out to be the only negative part of the project.
I did get it finished on time and got it framed and shipped for the boys to open it on Christmas day. And then I really was rewarded for my efforts. For me it is always a risk when you are creating something for others. It is always a risk as to whether it will be appreciated or even liked. You can put your heart and soul into a project but it seems to not be worth it if the recipient does not value it. In this case, my reward was extremely satisfying. The boys were all together when they opened it, and they called me, they said, as soon as they stopped crying. The absolutely loved it and could not believe that I had put all that effort into it for them. They made me so happy and proud. I would do it a million times over just for that kind of happy reaction. One of the boys said they would keep it in the family for 100 years. And one of the boys posted pictures on Facebook stating, “The most amazing Christmas present. Grandma Helen cross-stitched this piece for 14 months. Us boys cannot be more thankful. We love you Grandma.” Can you tell that this Grandma is beaming with pride?
I have asked how I managed to complete such a time consuming project. Hopefully this explains the motivation that I had to be able to complete it. 93,100 stitches of love, but just one thread of my life.
Project Specs: Dawn’s Break by Mystic Stitch Inc. Worked on 14 count cream aida with 2 strands of DMC floss; Finished size 25″ x 19″; Stitches 350 x 266