Sunday, May 19, 2013

Quilts -- A Writer's Love

When I was a little girl my family would make an annual trek to Minnesota to visit family. The change in altitude and humidity usually laid me low for a couple of days, but when I was about four I did actually get sick enough to be put to bed in my grandmother's house.

I lay all alone under the sloping room of the spare room with nothing to do and did not feel at all like sleeping. My eyes strayed across the patchwork quilt. All of the different patterns and colors caught my eye. I started out picking and choosing my favorites.

From there I began making up stories for the different patterns -- which ones came from dresses, which ones from house coats or aprons, a blouse, a shirt -- whatever. Chances are that my mother set me off on this path or I wouldn't have known that quilt fabrics had a previous incarnation. Still, I liked to think that the purple floral print had once been Grandma's favorite summer frock.

It helped me pass the time when I would rather have been outside looking at the hollyhocks in the garden or taking a walk down to the lake with Grandpa -- or my favorite past-time -- "bumping" down the stairs. This was sitting on the top step and proceeding to descend by bouncing down on my butt.

Perhaps this was the start of my fascination for writing and storytelling, but I kind of think I was born hard-wired with the gene for that kind of self-punishment.

After many years that quilt is now mine. It is very old and the fabric is rotting in a few places, but it is still beautiful. I know that it was carefully hand-stitched by my great-grandmother. The pattern is Grandmother's Flower Garden. To me ir represents a history of the women in our family -- a long line of very strong people.

I also know now that much of the material was purchased rather than saved from clothing, though some is.

When my mother passed away and I was going through the many things that my mother had saved from the family I knew that I could not keep much. So I chose to keep those few things that meant the most to me. I kept the quilt and the china-faced doll, and a ceramic collie that my mother had been given as a teen for dog-sitting. Most of what I kept from my mother is the love of writing -- and a disc she left behind with the manuscript of the book she had been writing. Something left for me to finish.

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