The Cross Stitch

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I love television.  Like eating candy, which was also limited while growing up, I feel like I lived the term "binge", because once I was in college, a priority was a television in my dorm room, and skipping afternoon class to watch back to back Oprah and Days of Our Lives with my roommates.  A remedy for losing points in college was the VCR my dad sent in the mail. My friends and I would gather in my room to watch favorite shows that we recorded each day. Attendance rate increased in all our classes - if the administration only knew why….

The luxury of sitting and watching, focused, relaxed, immersed in each story, was something new and indulgent, and something I still enjoy.

While TV was limited in our home, and we started the day with fruit topped with cottage cheese and chores, our friends woke up every day to a morning of cartoons and sugar cereal. Their beds were left unmade, and they played with Barbies, Legos and had a routine for changing the channel at the stroke of each hour to the next show.

We knew “Little House on the Prairie” and “The Waltons” were allowed in our family. Staying up past 7pm meant it was a Thursday and we could watch "Little House" because the new season started at 7:30. Staying home sick from school meant we'd be able to lay on the couch and watch the morning reruns along with a little added "Bewitched".

The rule resided in our household: If you watch television, you must NOT just sit there. You must be doing something.

Enter: coloring book, playing with dolls, sewing and eventually, the cross stitch.

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Last year I was organizing family photos, which included small projects I had saved from when I was young. Folded up next to my daughters' baby shoes, was a piece of cloth. I knew what it was. It was the cross stitch that I had worked on for HOW MANY YEARS...it was my free pass to watching television. If I sat and stitched, I could watch TV. I can’t tell you how great I got at pausing between stitches, until Mom noticed and told me to keep going or she’d turn the off the tube. It was painful. I am sure Mom told me I would be grateful when I was older that I knew how to sew, and I would really enjoying having this finished piece.

When I found it last year, I felt the disdain of stitching in order to be able to watch favorite programs. I am pretty sure it had stayed folded up since I finished it, and then it moved around the country with me when I left home in 1991.

It was time.

I took it to a framer the next day and laid it down on the counter along with a credit card for a frame job that would hopefully preserve my work for another 25 years at least! The woman looked at it and goes “you did this?” and I nodded and pointed to the dates, “Yes, and apparently it took me five painstakingly long years”…We laughed at the fact that in 1983 I was 10, when I started it, and probably almost 16 before it was finished. She looked at me and replied “So, you figured that you might as well get over it and bring it out into your life now, huh?”

I could not disagree.

A few weeks later, I got the call to pick it up. They had to make sure it was steamed and stretched and laid out properly in an archival matte and frame system. It now hangs in my entranceway, I am proud that I did it. I am proud that every stitch was done by me. It looks good on the wall too.