Piecing a quilt is like living life

The Christmas after I got married, Grandma took me into one of the back rooms at her house and said, “This is the last of Great-Grandma’s quilts, and I was saving it for the first grandchild who got married, so it’s yours now.” (My brother says that, as I am the oldest girl, I had an unfair advantage, but I say that the younger kids don’t remember her anyway, so it’s only fitting that I should get the quilt. And my older cousin David . . . well, he had his shot at it. Too bad for him! haha!) When I got it, Mom and my aunt Nancy kept pointing out bits that they remembered. “This was a dress of mine, and I remember that fabric . . .” It was fun to watch them tell those stories.

Mike and I have enjoyed having a quilt, but its age has meant that some of the pieces have torn, so Mom and I went to Wal-Mart on Monday to buy fabric to repair it. That was an adventure in itself – I measured the quilt before we went, but we kept having trouble with the math since we didn’t have anything to write on. Actual conversation:

Mom: Right, so that’s 63 inches, and we’ll need to get that twice to cover the width.
Kari: *whacks mom with fabric* No, it’s SIX feet THREE inches!

Our whole time at Wal-Mart was like that. “Wait, no, so we could do it lengthwise and . . . wait, no, we could double it this way . . . wait, no.” I just stopped talking and let her figure it out, because my brain could no longer do the math. The lady in the fabric department was actually kind of rude to us, because she talked to us like we were stupid (which, you know, the above exchange may have warranted, but still) and kept accusing us of arguing. Yesterday when we were working on the quilt, we kept coming up with “clever responses” we should have said back. Unfortunately, though, our idea of a clever response is something like, “Be quiet, or we will argue with YOU!” Oh, well. I guess I should have hit HER with the fabric.

When we were working on the quilt last night, my mom kept bemoaning how crooked it was. I asked her if this meant that Great-Grandma was not really a detail person, and she said she thought that was true. What I remember about her are images of what she looked like, her hair, her glasses, her smile . . . and little things like the peppermints she always had for us, the chair she always sat in, and where her cane hung on the wall when she wasn’t using it. I was too small to remember whether she was into details, but I remember that she loved me, and I remember scraping my knees on a tombstone at her funeral.

Last night I kept trying to wax philosophical while working on the quilt. I said, “Do you think Grandma worked on this quilt, too? Because that would mean four generations of us have worked on it!” Mom said no, Grandma was too busy raising her six children to make quilts. It became a game with us. I’d say, “Do you think Grandma cut any of the pieces?” No. “Do you think Grandma helped decide where any of them would go?” No. Finally she said, “Hey, I bet Grandma bought some of this fabric originally, so let’s just say that she did so we CAN MOVE ON.” hehehe. I also tried to inspire Mike and Joseph with things like, “You know, this quilt is crooked, but it’s still very special to me. I would like to make a quilt, but I am afraid to start that kind of thing because I know that I wouldn’t be very good at it, and mine would probably be crooked. But I bet if I made a quilt, it would be special to my great-grandchildren one day. Let this be a lesson to us all. The things we make are special to those we love.” Joseph gave me the look. You know the look. The Kari-has-lost-her-mind-but-let’s-just-ignore-her look. (I get it a lot from him.) My family just doesn’t appreciate me.

The best thing that happened was that my mom said, “Since this stuff is so important to you, I should find that picture of the four generations that Great-Grandma insisted that we take.” I had no idea such a picture existed, and I am happy that I am like Great-Grandma in that small way. I would have insisted on a picture, too. I hope she can find it so I can get it framed.

I am the only “daughter of a daughter” in our family, so maybe I do take those things too seriously. Maybe I feel too much pressure to learn how things were so I can teach my daughters. Maybe I have read too many “YaYa” books, or maybe that’s just one of the things I have picked up from living in the South, but I do feel the importance of being connected to the women in my family, and knowing the history there. I have mentioned before that that kind of connectedness helps me keep a little perspective, and I felt that way a bit last night as well.

We didn’t quite finish fixing the quilt last night. I am not as good at using the sewing machine as my mom is, so we’ll have to finish it another afternoon. We borrowed a blanket from my mom to use until we have finished the quilt, and snuggled down under it last night as we watched the snow falling.

It was a good evening – we talked about family names and names we like for our future children, and we ate Mom’s “special brownies” (she put 1 1/3 cups of water instead of 1/3 like the recipe called for, but they were very good. However, my dad came home and said, “The only kind of ‘special’ brownies I know of have . . . illegal substances in them. I have been married to your mom for 30 years, and it takes you all one afternoon to corrupt her?”) and ate ribs for my brother’s going away meal. He’ll be leaving next weekend for Connecticut for the semester, so that was the last time we’ll all be together for a while. (“Thanks for going away,” I said, “the ribs were really good.” And he gave me the look again. hehe.)

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