Families are stitched together with memories.
We gathered and hugged and talked about quilting. How making a quilt takes a lot of time and patience and skill to do well, and how stitching one completely by hand takes even more of all three. We are women in the middle of our fifth decade who grew up in a time when learning to thread a sewing machine, sew straight seams, and make darts still mattered. When I close my eyes, I can still picture prim, bird-like Mrs. Johnson standing over me in Home-Ec, all judge-y about the zipper I’d already put in and torn out three times. If nothing else, that humiliation cemented for me the realization that my time was better spent down in Wood Shop with Mr. Moede, a giant of a man who let me use power tools and pound nails and even cuss under my breath occasionally. It’s important to add here that in 55 years of living, I’ve never had to put a zipper in anything but I’ve pounded a lot of nails.
Some of my friends were obviously paying more attention in Home-Ec. I know this for a fact because they are Women Who Quilt Really Well and they love to sew while I, on the other hand, just love the stories that quilts tell. The way that small pieces of fabric sewn together become more than the squares or triangles used to make a pattern. They tell me to not over think quilting…to start small. But I am impatient with small things and time and am a rush-to-the-finish-line sort who is often more interested in the end result than the process it takes to get there. I’m working on this.
Last weekend, in a lovely church, quilts told the story of a woman’s life as they rested, draped over railings at the front of the sanctuary. Pictures and granddaughters told other stories about who she’d been and the life she’d lived. Her daughter and son-in-law, people I’ve known most of my life, told stories, too. There was music and laughter and some tears. And after the service, I walked back into the church to admire her handiwork one last time and noticed the unfinished quilt at the end of the railing, long basting stitches holding the quilt together.
We are, all of us, basted together in the most sacred ways. By blood and love and friendships that span decades. Sometimes, by stories people tell about us long after we can remember the stories ourselves. The legacy we leave is not a career or a clean house, a garden or a quilt. It’s our people. The ones who, with fine, perfect stitches and vibrant scraps of memory, tell the patchwork story of our life.
Love wins. It just does.