In early December I wrote a post called I Think I’m Afraid. It was about how, in many ways, I was ignoring the ache of missing Mum by disregarding it and carrying on. I was detaching myself from my mum in fear that it would hurt too much to confront how I miss her – there is no consolation for missing someone who can’t come back.
In the last two years since she passed away I have never been angry towards my mum. Of course I have been furious that it had to happen, but always fiercely protective over her. But in the last couple of months I have developed a confused ambivalence.
It all comes down to my cross stitch. You see, me and my mum would cosy up in the living room during winter months, warm by the fire, and we would do our cross stitches for hours on end. It was one of our favourite things to do together while a good film played on the TV.
When I was about 19 I bought a really elaborate pattern of a tiger that I knew was a bit beyond my capabilities. She helped me to start it up and over the next few winters my tiger began to take shape and Mum was always on hand to find and unpick any mistakes. She really liked that we enjoyed a hobby like this together and always said that when I finished we’d get my tiger framed professionally.
Anyone who has done cross stitch before might know that mistakes can be really hard to find because a lot of counting is involved and you might not realise that you’ve made a mistake until quite late on when your beautifully elaborate tiger ends up looking more pathetic than majestic. But Mum was always there to find and unpick any mistakes or maybe just improvise a new pattern.
It dawned on me this autumn that I hadn’t touched my cross stitch since before Mum passed away. It’s not that I didn’t want to, I was just so afraid about making mistakes and not being able to unpick them myself. Fear brought ambivalence, the closest thing to anger that I have felt towards her since she passed away. I think I felt annoyed at her for not being here to help me with my needlework that I avoided it altogether, and I will leave you to find the wider metaphor here.
When I realised my fear, I told my sisters with lots of tears. I was too afraid to even take the linen and silks out of the wicker box they have sat in for the last couple of years. Evee was very kind to freshen it up with a hand wash and said that she would help me should I come across a problem. My sisters’ kindness made me cry a little more.
Thankfully, as Evee has embarked on her embroideries this winter, I have found my stride with cross stitch again (albeit a very slow one!) and after many years this little tiger finally has a pair of ears – and no need to unpick anything so far.
There is no consolation for missing someone who can’t come back, but there are things you can do to feel closer to your person, and I am thankful to be able to continue something that we both loved together. I still plan to get it professionally framed when I am finished in about a decade.
I realise that this might sound a bit dramatic all over a cross stitch, but hey ho, grief does funny things to us and I am here to tell you about it, one stitch at a time.
Is there anything that makes you feel closer to your person? I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below.
Thank you for taking the time to read.