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What We Lost in Hurricane Harvey

Needlepoints

When my mom returned to her Houston home after Hurricane Harvey, she found her needlepoint and needlepoint pillows damaged beyond repair.

This is significant, because my mom is the queen of needlepointing. She tried to teach me when I was young, but I was way too cool to stitch. Besides, it was a bore. Nevertheless, I have treasured each piece she has made for me like this hamsa that has warded off evil in every place I have lived since I left home.

She has honored each significant stage of my life with needlepoint–the first I can remember being a tooth fairy pillow that is hopefully safe in a box somewhere in my basement. Then there is this piece that was part of my 7th grade Texas history project. (After this past week, I was eager to find and hang it again).

And when I left home to attend The University of Arizona, she made me this pillow:

This was followed shortly by this Sigma Kappa pillow that she made when I pledged my sorority.

When I returned from Israel just after graduate school with all my worldly knowledge, an obnoxious habit of arguing with everyone around me and a cocky attitude to match, she preserved my words in yarn….I am not opinionated…just right.  

I have many more pieces scattered on my furniture and walls, serving as reminders of where I have been and what I have accomplished. My siblings and many of my mom’s friends have all been recipients of these personalized gifts as well. Needlepoint is not my mom’s hobby, but rather it is a tangible expression of her love for those in her life.

This past week, I have watched my family struggle through Hurricane Harvey, following them closely on Facebook, and speaking to them daily on the phone until we were forced to limit our communication to just brief texts once their electricity was lost and conserving their phone batteries became paramount.

Throughout their ordeal, I have felt very guilty and helpless. I am the sole member of my immediate family who was not affected.

But out of all our family members, my mom was hit the worst. Flooding ruined almost everything in her first-floor apartment. She will be starting over with little.

What has not been lost is her sense of optimism and humor. She wanted to move into a new place anyway, she says, and the flood has made it much easier to downsize.

I keep repeating this mantra: “Everything can be replaced and thank God my family is safe.” We are grateful. But the loss of some treasures, like the tallit bags she was making for my boys’ bnai mitzvot, leaves a deep wound. My mom lost her entire collection of needlepoint. And all those precious creations, in various stages of development, were intended gifts to loved ones.

I snapped a picture of this wall hanging a week before the hurricane hit Texas while on our annual trip to visit family. She had made it for my boys; new bedroom. I wanted to bring it home with us to New Jersey, but it was too big for my suitcase. She said she would mail it soon.

This week marked a turning point for my family. My sister’s electricity came back and my brother’s family returned to their home. My stepbrother’s dog Duke even became a YouTube sensation after being located by a news crew making animal rescues. The water is finally receding and there appears to be a new sense of calm among my loved ones, despite the heartache and unbelievable cleanup ahead.

My mom already made the perfect needlepoint for this day. I am looking at it now in my room where I write.

Shalom. Peace to all of those who are hurting right now.

My friends have started a collection of yarn and canvasses to help my mom keep stitching. The world needs more of her needlepoint right now.

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