Originally written in TACKED THOUGHTS for The Freeman last December 9, 2012
by Nancy Unchuan Toledo

I have rediscovered my love for cross-stitching. I used to love it as a child when I first learned it. I marveled at how something as insignificant as a piece of thread and a needle could bring out such beautiful works of art. Except that my artwork wasn’t always so beautiful. I had difficulty keeping count of the boxes allotted for a particular design. And so my designs were always skewed in some way or another. At least until I realized that as long as I stuck to small designs, I could do it. So whenever I had to submit a project for school, I’d choose many small designs instead of an ambitious big one which my friends always managed to perfect. But then there were no HomeEc classes in college. And I forgot about how I used to love cross-stitching designs, big or small.

At least until a few months ago. In a burst of inspiration, I realized that I was longing to do something with my hands-something other than typing or checking papers or even writing. So I bought some thread, a needle and a piece of cloth and began stitching again. And it felt a little bit like coming home.

I thought I’d pick one color of thread and just stitch. What did it matter what the pattern was? I just wanted to stitch-just straight lines, back and forth, back and forth. I just wanted to still my mind and calm my hands with something repetitive and familiar. And I did manage to still my mind (especially after a grueling day at work) and I did calm my hands. But my heart was unsatisfied with using just one color.

And so I bought more thread, enough to rival a crayon set. And before I knew it I had several shades of the colors of the rainbow. And my little one-colored project is shaping up to be a multicolored piece that I still don’t know what to do with. It’s still just a piece of cloth with rows and rows of stitched x’s. But my mother thinks I should have it framed. And my four-year-old nephew is fascinated enough to ask me if he could watch me sew. And I’m quite pleased with it myself, I must admit. How on earth did I get from one inauspicious blue embroidery thread to (my latest purchase) gold?

I had underestimated my heart, you see. I thought I could trick it into settling for the plain and the basic. But my heart did not have such low standards. It wanted something more. It craved to create something beautiful. It is, I suppose, the same longing a designer would have to create something functional but also fashionable. It is the same discontent a musician would have with the repetition of the same note. It is the same drive that pushes a poet to come up with new metaphors. I can no longer remember which philosopher or writer it was who suggested that the human heart was created to long for what is beautiful so that it would always find its way back to the source of all beauty. (St. Augustine)

Some people’s hearts skip a beat at a beautiful song, others find joy at a painting. A stunning gown, a touching book, a handsome face, a lovely flower. Our hearts recognize them for what they are-even if our minds cannot-calling cards from heaven.

I’ve never cross-stitched anything before that I did not know what to do with. It was always a project to submit and be graded. And a few times, a gift to be given away. But this one is just mine. Just for the pleasure of making something that makes me happy. If I can finish it before Christmas, maybe I’ll put a ribbon on it and stick it at the back of our belen. The little drummer boy has his drum. And I’ve got my, well, needle and thread. I’m sure the Boy in the manger would know what to do with it. He’d understand.

About Nancy Unchuan Toledo

When Nancy started teaching high school at age 21, she didn’t really think she’d make a career out of it. She was right. Ten years later and she realized teaching isn’t her career, it’s her passion. Writing is her passion, too, and she writes a bi-monthly column for the Freeman. Mostly she writes about her family, her friends, her students, her experiences in teaching, her love of books and her faith. Because those are the things that she cares about the most–although not necessarily in that order.

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