Back in my “Mommy” days, I was a member of The Embroiderer’s Guild of America. We met every other Thursday to stitch and talk. That was where I met Harriet.
At 34 years old, I was the baby of the group! Harriet was 31 years older than me. She was a retired New York City high school English teacher. She had never been married, was well read and educated and was also a world traveler. Harriet was also an incredible needlework artist. She was equally adept with cross stitch, needlepoint, hardanger, huck – you name it and if it could be done with a single needle, Harriet was a master of the craft. She was extremely proud of her stitching ability and well she should have been.
Harriet also had the personality of a spinster school teacher, was hard of hearing, a staunch Democrat and could be a royal pain in the ass but she was interesting, kept up with what was going on in the world, read voraciously and was always helpful with stitching, English, history, etc. questions. She also was tiny, about 4' 10” tall. Until I got to know Harriet, I used to wonder how in the hell she could keep control of NYC high school students. Afterward, I had no doubt that Miss. G_______ would have them all by the balls making sure their hearts and minds followed.
Harriet died a couple of weeks ago after suffering two strokes. She had just turned 88. She stitched and read right up until the first stoke she had in January. The following is something that occurred between Harriet and myself that gave her great pleasure.
Each October, our EGA chapter would hold a Tea Cup Auction to raise money for traveling teachers, group projects, etc. We would all donate unfinished items, kits or charts we no longer wanted, supplies, an assortment of things for the auction. Tickets were sold and we'd deposit our tickets in cups in front of the items. If your number was drawn, you won. In 1989, my second or third year in the group, someone had anonymously donated a cross stitched tablecloth. This was one of the old stamped type designs where you just followed the lines and X's with floss. No one put any tickets in the cup for the tablecloth.
The president of the group said if no on wanted it, she'd toss it. I took it because I'm a damn pat rat and figured I could do something with it. It also was obviously stitched with care, so someone had put time and love into it. You can't just throw away a piece stitched with love!
I washed the cloth, line dried it in the sun to bleach out some of the age discolorations and then made a teddy bear out of it. At the 1990 auction, I donated the bear. Harriet won the bear and was uncharacteristically overjoyed at winning something that I thought was not an item she would care for. As we were cleaning up, Harriet asked me to come outside with her. She told me in private, that she had made and donated the tablecloth but was embarrassed to say it was hers because it was such a juvenile stitching piece. She went on to say that she was so amazed how the cloth looked transformed into the bear that she wanted it desperately but had only placed one of her tickets in the bear's cup. She felt that it was destiny (again, something out of character for Harriet!) that the bear was to be hers and even more so because I had made it and since she stitched the tablecloth in 1953, the year I was born! You could of knocked me over with a feather! She knew when she stitched it because before she donated it to the auction, she had ripped out her initials and the year that she'd stitched into the hem. Harriet then told the story to the group. We all agreed that the Stitching Fairy Godmother had a hand in what transpired.
A few years later, one of the stitching supply companies was asking for stitching stories that would be funny, touching, sad – whatever, for a book they were publishing. Harriet submitted the story of T.C. Bear (she named him T.C. For tablecloth). The story was published in the book, Harriet was overjoyed.
T.C. Bear sat since 1990 in a chair in Harriet's living room right next to her stitching/reading chair. When some mutual friends were cleaning out her apartment after her death, T.C. Bear was given back to me along with a few of Harriet's stitched pieces. T.C. Bear now sits in my sewing/craft/facial room as a reminder that true, wonderful friends come in all shapes, sizes and ages.