Beginning The Embroidery of Life

Wow, is it really  2014? I find that both amazing and amusing. Amazing because I spend so much time living in my head that I don’t notice how fast the seasons change. Amusing because I remember all too well the doomsday preparation that went on back in 1999, with a good portion of the nation honestly believing we would be living the first few decades of the millennium in a state of post-apocalyptic chaos.


I watched a lot of people go into debt (even bankruptcy) to finance their preparations. I watched them hoard toilet paper and magazines, SPAM and aspirin.
 I saw someone use their kids’ college savings to buy a shelter and generators. Seven years later they were still trying to find people who wanted outdated potato chips and expired SPAM. Others are entering 2014 still on edge, still worrying about the end of the world rather than the fresh beginnings of a new year.


I love a new year. It is loaded with possibilities. A new year is the ultimate goody bag. Sometimes it is filled with Reese’s cups and gift cards, sometimes all you get is an old toothbrush and some black licorice. Either way, nothing beats the feeling of absolute optimism that THIS year is gonna be the BIG year — the year when really great things happen.


And that is why I don’t intentionally jinx that optimism by making resolutions that I know I won’t keep. Typically, I like to make promises that are open-ended, that hinge on opportunity or “best case scenarios”. That way, no one is disappointed, and I don’t end the year feeling like a failure.


Except for one resolution. Every year for the last 11 years, I have made the same resolution. This year, I will finish embroidering my pansy tablecloth. I know that eventually it will get finished, because every year I put a few more stitches into it.


I started this project after my house burned when I was a teen. I had lost everything, including all the embroidery work I had saved in my hope chest. That year, I learned that new beginnings don’t always start at New Year’s. Little beginnings happen every morning when we wake up, and sometimes very big beginnings (and ends) can happen all-too-abruptly anytime throughout the year.


Homeless, we spent months living with different relatives while we tried to decide where we needed to start looking for a new house. During that time, my aunt pulled this tablecloth from her linen closet and gave it to me, along with some basic embroidery supplies. I bought an embroidery pattern. Originally, I was just going to use a simple outline stitch and put the pansy motif in each corner.


I chose pansies because if you look at them just right, they look both happy and sad. That is how I felt at the time — happy that none of my family was in the house when it burned, and sad because if we had been home, maybe we could have saved all of our heirlooms and memories.


As we slowly and painfully battled the shock, fended off depression and painfully got back on our feet, I pulled this tablecloth out and worked on it everyday. The more I worked on it, the bigger the project grew. I added fancy stitches to completely “paint” in the flowers. I used more colors, I designed an elaborate border pattern.


Yesterday, when I pulled out the tablecloth, I realized it was more than just an unfinished project. It has come to represent Life. Or rather, my journey through life. Sometimes I make progress, and sometimes my plans have to be put on hold. Sometimes there is a major obstacle, such as when a thread color is discontinued. (In reality, that would be the injury that led to my husband’s unemployment.) I have to stop and re-design my Pattern to work around this new development. Every time I do this though, my design gets bigger and more beautiful in my mind.


I no longer worry about finishing the tablecloth. Instead, I will say that every year I will add to it. I no longer want to finish it. Maybe I will keep embellishing it as the years go by, and save the last stitch for when I am very old. By that time, it will be a patchwork of different colors and stitches. Parts of it will be old and faded, and parts of it will be new and shiny. Hopefully, I will be able to say the same about myself in eighty or so years.


A project that started out as second-hand tablecloth and a cheap embroidery pattern has taught me an important lesson about my outlook on the future. By filling in the small goals a little at a time, everything will get done eventually.


Every time I pick up the tablecloth, I am not working on something that is incomplete. I am opening myself up for new beginnings. Nothing is an unfinished project, life and tablecloths are both opportunities for fresh starts and new plans every day.
Jayme Kinsey is a full time WAHM and freelance writer. She writes about parenting, Oklahoma, elder caregiving, crafting, motorcycles and writing. When she isn’t parenting, caring for her aging grandmother or writing, she can be found riding motorcycles and chasing tornadoes.She blogs at Here and There in Oklahoma.
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