I don't remember if my mother taught me, or if it was her mother - my grandmother, Doretha. Everyone called her Dot. Not me of course; I was a child. I just called her grandma. I was a little frightened of her, and I thought she was amazing. She never cut her hair short like the other grandmas that I saw; she left hers long and wound it into a great bun at the crown of her head. And it wasn't white or grey: it was silver, shining as if each strand had been carefully formed by a metalsmith. She sat all day long in the rocking chair in the living room, a brace around her neck (which as a child I associated with her bun, not with chronic pain) and with some bit of needlework or crochet in her lap.
At least, that's how I remember it.
She died when I was seven, of ovarian cancer. My mother said I was too young to go to the funeral; in hindsight she was maybe right, at least from the perspective that she would have had to handle two young children, my sister and I, while trying to grieve. I didn't see much of her really; twice a year at best, as with the rest of the family, since they always lived in New Orleans and we always lived somewhere else. But my memories of her have always been strong.
So whether she taught me, or she taught my mother and then my mother taught me, either way the craft of cross stitch came from Grandma Doretha. The images she could fashion were beyond compare; she had a patience and delicacy unmatched by other family members or even most storebought items. We are thrilled to still have many items that she carefully fabricated, like the Christmas stockings she made for my sister and I when we were very, very small. They are lined with flannel of a candy cane pattern and backed in the most lush velvet, and the front of each is a terribly intricate design of a girl with long curling hair holding a present. My mother still fills them with presents every year, and they are still the most beautiful stockings I have ever seen.
I was an impatient child, and more prone to climbing trees barefoot than to sit still making pretty needlework. The product never happened quickly enough for me, and after a few stitches I'd want to move on to something else. My sister was more dedicated, and completed a few pieces which my mother still proudly displays. She was, after all, a little older. Now, though, I think I have the followthrough necessary to do the work. I may never get near the beauty and intricacy of my grandmother's designs - and I might try some designs that she'd never consider, like tattoo flash - but I like to believe that she'd be pleased at my efforts. I know my mother will be.