As of today I have 30 days until my lease is up. This must be the beginning of my gypsy years. Partially because I don’t know what the owner of my house is planning to do and partially because I have realized I don’t even need this much house, I have decided to move again. Have I mentioned that I hate moving? Anyway, I’m sure I will give more detail on that soon. In the midst of cleaning out old files (preparing to move less this time) I found some of my old writings. One seemed appropriate for today as I get ready for another move.
Photo by C. Williams
Written November 2, 2010
I wonder if I’m the only forty-something who, when she has a really bad day needs a blankie. I never carried one when I was little but somewhere in my twenties the world got a little harsher place to be. Simultaneously, I became the owner of one of my Grandma’s handmade quilts. That quilt just seemed to be meant for bad day recovery.
Now, before you get visions of Nine Patch, Log Cabin or Fan quilt patterns, this quilt probably wouldn’t even qualify as a crazy quilt or folk art. I never knew my Grandma Effie to be a crafty or artsy woman. She had an extraordinary green thumb but not necessarily what we would consider artistic creativity. She was practical in every sense of the word except that in her later years she amassed as small doll collection. That was her version of luxury having never had much in the way of toys growing up.
Grandma lived through the Depression and raised seven children. One daughter died at the age of 14 of Leukemia and Grandma outlived her husband and several of her grown children. She lived the majority of her life on a small farm in rural North Carolina. Grandma never learned to drive and dropped out of school in the sixth grade to work on the farm. Nothing got wasted on her farm or any other farms when survival was the norm. Recycling is not a new idea. Maybe that was where the creativity came in. She had to find a new use for virtually everything when it could no longer perform its original purpose.
I remember one of her quilts was made of a fabric on one side that was a mixture of oranges, greens and brown that pained my sense of color. I always kind of hoped there was a really good deal on that particular fabric when it was bought, not that it was purchased because someone loved the colors. Still, for years, that was the quilt I preferred to curl up with every time I got sick. The other side of the quilt was made from pieces of my Mom’s and her sisters’ dresses. Mom used to tell me which piece came from whose dress. There wasn’t a single piece of fabric that was the same size or coordinated with the pieces of fabric next to it. It was a purely practical use of material that no longer could serve as a dress, but was too good to throw away. Grandma did not have the means to go buy coordinating fabric to make a pretty quilt.
The quilt I have now is made up of long strips of two different color versions of the same fabric. One is a pink rose print with green leaves and the other is a turquoisey blue rose print with green leaves. The whole quilt is made of these strips. Never in a million years would I have picked out either color of these fabrics. Yet, when I am sick, really tired or really, really worried about what’s happening in life I pull Grandma’s quilt out of the closet, wrap up in it and try very hard to sleep off life’s challenges. I don’t know what she used for batting in her quilts, but it isn’t the fluffy synthetic stuff we have now. There is a weight to it, but it’s not so heavy you get hot under it. I can wrap up in it during the summer just as well as the winter.
I don’t know if I find comfort under this quilt because it’s Grandma’s or if it is just the right combination of worn softness and warmth. Probably it’s both reasons. There is the element of imagining her piecing the fabric together at night after a long day of work in the kitchen, fields and barns and trying to deal with too many people in a very small house. It must have given her some time to rest and think. Maybe her time spent quilting was a mental escape from a life of non-stop work. The stitches are even and after years of wear and washings not a single stitch has come loose. What she put in that quilt was meant to last.
Grandma was an intelligent, no nonsense woman who spoke exactly what she thought. She also had a quick wit right up to her final days. Her son-in-law, my Dad, used to say that if Grandma had finished school and learned to drive she would have owned most of the county. Grandma was often the only one who seemed to accept me for who I was. I was the creative, odd child that didn’t fit the mold most people wanted me to. When I wrap up in her quilt I gain a certain strength knowing that if she could do all that she did and survive all that she survived then surely her granddaughter can regroup, get up off her duff and deal with whatever is going on in her easy, convenience filled life.