The counted cross stitch pattern was entitled simply, “Sweet Dessert”. I chose it because the image was more than sweet, more than dessert. The colors were Ofir’s when she resisted influences beyond her age. Macaroons were the cookie she hid for uncounted time in the refrigerator, though the treat’s consumption was definitely counted by her parents.
I had waited until after I bought my plane ticket for January to purchase the project. That meant that when my needle hit the blank, white canvas, days, like the stitches, were counted. Despite some of her recent choices, the exquisite image said, “Ofir” to me, and I hoped it said we would connect in ways that were unique to me and not my deficit attempts to be the other adults more consistently in her life. My time with her was always counted.
To start, I folded the canvas in half each way. The barely seen intersection was the center. Several colors were made of several colors. One thread plus two. Two plus one. Extra time, cutting and still the colors hardly varied. Why the extra effort? I didn’t know, but I complied. I started at the center, even if it was not the easiest place to start. I checked the colors. First, once. Then, again. Still as I stitched my mind wandered. This was why I miscounted and why I was able to pay more attention to what really counted. Maybe, just maybe, the image itself was as much an imagined construction of plans, relationships, as anything.
Everything, except for the colors, seemed straightforward at first. I was confident I could keep track of where I was. I didn’t even mark the ‘x’s I had completed, until the first error. The count was off. How? I didn’t know. I could count. I was careful. And yet, the distance didn’t add up. What to do? Could I start over? My time was counted. My threads were counted.
The first mistakes were only one square or two in all too similar colors. The second and the third, interrupted images. How? I didn’t know. I could count. I was careful. And, yet the image would clearly be disrupted if I only worked around the miscount. I could cover it, or at least I would try. New colors over the top of the others. Deeper mistakes, yes. They could be felt by the fingers, not simply noticed from the eye. Still, my time was counted.
It would be fine. Under glass. Across a room distance. No one would notice the imperfection. Under cell phone plastic. Across an ocean distance. No one would notice the imperfection. Those were excuse enough, except the answer was I was not capable of starting all the way over.
And there is another count, not down but up, steps counted forward.
I began to mark the completed squares, to keep track of the path I was instructed to trace. I advanced more confidently. The image was coming together. I would rest the canvas on a chair and then walk past. The colors swirled shapes into what we were meant to see. And then, an entire line of a color was missing. How? I didn’t know. I could count. I was careful.
“I’m excited to see you. For you to come.”
She carried the phone to the cupboard. The drawer pulled open revealed a bag of purple chocolate pieces, remnants of project we tried together, an attempt at connection I thought had failed.
So often the notches in the connection column were the wrong color at next glance. Yet, the imperfection was still a color choice, to accept, to build on, to create something unique. This time, I didn’t adjust the colors. I didn’t stitch over. The final colors rose upward and wrapped the white.
I ran my fingers across the canvas to make sure no square was missed. I removed the cloth from the embroidery hoop. I released it from my own gaze and celebrated its life in her newly purchased, pastel frame.
Movement wasn’t counted new, unearthed fresh from beneath plastic. It was sometimes repeated to give the appearance of never, but still marked over the top of something else. Last night, the world counted down. I flew between the numbers. Numbers unanchored. Across oceans and time zones. I could not count correctly, but I always counted. Forward.