It was my grandmother who gave me my first embroidery hoop and who showed me my beginning stitches. By 5th grade, I was using these stitching skills on school projects. If we were studying dogs- I’d embroider a poodle gaining the creative edge on my classmate’s posters and shoebox dioramas.
I was helping my parents pack their belongings for a move from their big house to a retirement condo. When we got to the linens, mom pointed out the items created by my grandmother Sadie and by my great grandmother Molly. Instead of putting them in storage, mom said for me to take them.
It’s been about 45years since Molly passed away and 40 since we lost Sadie on a sad and stormy January morning . My grandma and I were very close. I spent every vacation from school with my grandparents at their tiny apartment along Los Angeles’s Miracle Mile. Sunday afternoons were spent with extended family at my great grandparent’s home by Fairfax Avenue. There, I tried Molly’s famous borscht and when I spit it out in disgust (how can such a pretty color taste so yucky?).
Molly laughed and was never ever harsh with me. After all, I was the first great-grandchild. Aside from usually having ink stains on my hands and crazy hair, I was a quiet, polite girl and welcome to sit with the adult women as they stitched and gossiped at the kitchen table while my younger cousins played outside. The men hung around the television either watching sports r the news. I can almost smell the aroma of my great grandfather Ben’s cigar remembering this.
I’d entertain myself – a little girl loose in the big city while my grandparents were at work. Sometimes I’d go to the library to read or I’d explore the nearby farmer’s market. It was a short walk to see the tar pit exhibit on Wilshire by the museum. My grandparents did set a couple limits on where I could wander. One particular rule I recall was that I wasn’t allowed walk East beyond Van De Kamp restaurant on Wilshire. No boundary on walking west though.
Once a week, I would walk all the way from the Park La Brea apartment to Sak’s in Beverly Hills where Sadie sold gloves and costume jewelry to the glamorous ladies of LA.
We would have lunch together. Afterward, Sadie would return to work and I would wander around the fancy streets in search of movie stars.
After a simple dinner, my grandparents were in the habit of walking. If I had been a good girl (I was always a good girl), we would walk to Thrifty’s for an ice cream cone. Back at the apartment, we’d settle down in front of the tv. I’d be sprawled on the floor with my pads of paper and pens. Grandpa watching from his old red leather chair. Grandma owned the couch with a big bag of yarns and threads at her side and the latest project on her lap. She would peer at the tv over her glasses for a few seconds, then get back into her stitching. At the end of a long summer day, this was her happy place. I look through the box of linens my mother told me to take and remember with love, my grandmother as she worked on them. One table cloth with the silver thread I recall had caused her great frustration as she stitched it.
I had only seen these pieces of linen as works in progress- I’d always be back home by San Francisco before she’d have finished her current most project. Here now, they are in perfect condition -barely ever used.
I have decided that I should use at least one tablecloth or pillowcase set until it wears out from love and then, I will remove the embroidered pieces and create a canvas with them. Perhaps being able to hand that down to another generation.
As delicate as her stitches, I like to think she’d have wanted Her pieces to be seen and used by people who knew her rather than just stored. Maybe one day I will have a grandchild or a great niece or nephew who will sit with me at the table where I will introduce him or her to these same stitches that my grandma Sadie showed me