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Needlepoint and Namesakes: Memories of My Great-Grandmother

Updated on June 9, 2019
Suzie ONeill profile image

I gained my appreciation for history from my family. This article is a reflection of my appreciation for both family and history.

My great-grandmother's needlepoint.
My great-grandmother's needlepoint. | Source
"My" little house
"My" little house | Source
The river boat
The river boat | Source

Day #14 of my "30 Hubs in 30 Days" Challenge.


There's a framed needlepoint that hung on the wall of my mother's house for most of my childhood. It featured a town scene with a river running through the middle of it. As a child I would spend hours staring at that needlepoint, taking in all of the many details. I remember admiring the houses and struggling to choose a favorite.

"That one right there. That's the house I'd want to live in!"

I remember that there were two little boats traveling down the river. How I long to hop on board like the kids in the third Chronicles of Narnia book ("The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" if I remember right).

Many years later, my mother gave me that needlepoint when she was downsizing in preparation for another one of her moves. The framed needlepoint has hung on the wall of my living room ever since.

Another of my great-grandmother's needlepoints.
Another of my great-grandmother's needlepoints. | Source
This is one of my favorites but I couldn't get it to photograph well. I think it's because of the shadow from the thick frame. The pictures all turned out really dark or the flash reflected off of the glass.
This is one of my favorites but I couldn't get it to photograph well. I think it's because of the shadow from the thick frame. The pictures all turned out really dark or the flash reflected off of the glass. | Source


The needlepoints have even more sentimental value to me because I was basically named after my great-grandmother. The story goes like this: once upon a time my mother became pregnant with me. All throughout her pregnancy my great-grandmother kept dropping hints about how much she would enjoy having a grand-daughter share her name. The thing is my great-grandmother had a very old fashioned and formal sounding name. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate history; I really do! However, I am very grateful that my mother realized that my great-grandmother's name wouldn't have suited me.

At this point in the story, my mother decided to get creative. Instead of naming me "Helen Sybil" after my great-grandmother, she decided to honor her by using her initials "H. S." As an added bonus, this gave her the opportunity to name me after her high school BFF and my future god-mother: Susan.

Personally, I like my name much better; but, my great-grandmother wasn't impressed. Somewhere buried in my hope chest I still have a hand written card that is addressed "to baby Helen."

Another of my great-grandmother's needlepoints.
Another of my great-grandmother's needlepoints. | Source
Another of my great-grandmother's needlepoints.
Another of my great-grandmother's needlepoints. | Source

I've been thinking about my ancestors a lot lately. It's been a little over a year since we lost my grandparents. They had been married for more than 50 years, so it wasn't very surprising when we lost them within a few weeks of each other. I guess that sometimes when you've been with someone for that long they sort-of become a part of you, and it isn't worth living without your other half.

My mother flew back east to sort through my grandparents estate after they passed away. I would've liked to go, but unfortunately I couldn't get the time off work (let alone afford the airfare). The following spring, my mother and one of her closest friends flew back east to retrieve my grandparents' possessions from storage and transport them back across the country in a U-Haul. The two of them had a blast on their road trip. I found out later that they'd been talking about going on a road trip together for years.

Once they arrived safely on the west coast, we arranged a time for my siblings and I to meet at my mother's place to help unload the truck and distribute the contents. Most of the items were rich with sentimental value but had little monetary value-- which was fine by me! I received several small items that had belonged to each of my grandparents including some old photographs and knickknacks.

As we were sorting through the boxes of photographs, I came across several framed needlepoints. When I flipped them over, the hand written notes informed me that they had been sewn by my great grandmother, the same woman that created the needlepoint of the little town.


Unfortunately, my great-grandmother passed away when I was little and I have very few personal memories of her. However, I love the story of how I got my name. Almost as much as I love the selection of needlepoints that now hang on my walls. When I look at them, I like to think about her spending all those hours sitting and patiently sewing them. I'd like to think that she'd feel honored to know that they continue to hang on the walls of one of her descendants all these years later.


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