I am up late, as usual. Lately my circadian rhythm has shifted; the big white and black clock that lives inside my chest has shook with the change. Its hands have flown forward, all blurry and black. So here I am. Unable to sleep, I finished an entire 250 page book while scratching at the mosquito bites on my legs. On the wall that faces my husband’s side of the bed is a framed, unfinished piece of embroidery. It was my great-grandmother’s, and the fabric is yellowing. It’s one of those template pieces that women used to work on while they waited for their children to fall asleep on summer nights. It was probably meant to be sewn onto a pillow, the picture template is of a beautiful woman with bobbed hair wearing a floppy sort of 1920’s hat. My great-grandmother obviously started in on the bits she thought were prettiest: the lips are finished with a bright red floss, the eyelashes stitched long and black, the eyes are a sort of deep indigo. The rest is blank, really. The pastel template pattern is pale, so the lips and eyes stand out. I think I like it so much because it’s not finished…maybe my great-grandmother was like me and had trouble finishing what she started. Maybe she got distracted often and floated from room to room in her little yellow bungalow like a fairy: an embroidery stitch here, a cup of coffee left to cool on the kitchen table there.
I don’t remember her as flighty like me, though. Of course, when I knew her she was quite old. She dyed her hair black into her eighties, and always wore lipstick and a little pantsuit with a scarf around her neck. She worked at a makeup counter in a department store downtown, and was always just so. I remember how her house smelled, and the taste of the oatmeal cookies she always had in her bright white kitchen. Her couch was a deep maroon and made the back of my knees pool with sweat.
One of my grandmothers, my mother’s mother, embroidered too. She finished her pieces, though. The pillow that I’m trying to fall asleep on tonight is encased in one of her completed creations. White, of course, with little pink, yellow, and blue flowers. As a girl I used to love looking at her little plastic case of embroidery floss, the colors all uniform and in order underneath the clear lid. My mother used to take me to the craft store a lot so I could pick out soft little rainbows of color at the craft store to make friendship bracelets with. Once home with my plastic bag of colors, I would race to my room to make at least three to give to friends the next day at school. Maybe I should take up embroidery. Maybe I should go back to sleep.