This past week I had a big birthday. It wasn’t a decade birthday, I turned 57. My mother died a month after her 57th birthday. I’m not expecting that to happen, the way some friends have feared a heart attack at 45 because their father had one. My mother had been ill for several years before she died. This birthday just feels significant, and not just to me. One of my brothers sent me an email that said “Now you will be older than Mommy ever was.” Yet when he turned 57, it wasn’t the same. Is it because I am a daughter? Or the oldest daughter? This type of family perception is always interesting to me.
One of my mother’s favorite pictures of us was taken at Cape May, I was about 2, and she was pregnant with my younger brother. (There were seven of us, she was pregnant in many photos!)
My mother died when I was 21. Over the course of about a year, she painstakingly embroidered this for my 21st birthday. She and I once saw the quote someplace and I told her I liked it. She bought transfers and put it all together, letter by letter. When I think of her doing it, I still get teary. She knew she was dying, and this was her final gift to me. (Right before I opened it, my sister hissed at me not to mention the mistakes. As if.)
This precious textile has traveled around with me, and is much the worse for wear. I have been thinking about cleaning it and having it professionally framed. I know that on Antiques Roadshow the value of the original frame is much discussed, and that the value of the frame can rival the value of the art. This has value only to me:
My mother taped the embroidery over a painting she got at the grocery store. (Free framed ‘old masters’ with purchase!) Some nice bit of cardboard box was patched in on the back with packing tape. She was Depression-era all the way.
So, any recommendations on this? Should I try to wash it? Is that a job for a professional textile restorer? I want to do this right so it won’t keep yellowing. I have no idea where that water mark came from, at least I hope it’s water.
When I get the courage to take it apart, I’ll do the big reveal. What’s underneath? Winslow Homer? Renoir? I don’t think they gave Hieronymus Bosch away at the Acme. One birthday gift I haven’t had a chance to use yet is a hot air balloon ride from my sister. I’ve always dreamed of going up in a balloon, and if the weather ever cooperates, I will soon. Knitting in a balloon photo? Oh yes.