Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The Quilt in the Corner Closet

It all started with me looking for blanket in the linen closet downstairs.  It was cool sitting down while working on my server in mid-January and I finally had to admit to myself that even tough old dad’s legs get cold at times.

Not immediately spotting a manly colored blanket, I began looking through the shelves for something with a hunting scene or even one of our now long-married sons old blankets with trucks on it from their youth. 

Lifting a foot or two of the stack of blankets exposed a decidedly old faded blue material to the light.  Ugh.  Old.  Ugly color.  Why did we have something like that in the closet? 

Curious, I uncovered more of the quilt thinking I’d ask my wife if it could be used for camping or covering the tomatoes during a frost.

And then from somewhere, way back in the dusty vaults of my memory, I remembered holding this slick material in one hand and a stuffed bear in the other.  

It was the blanket from my early life.  I’d forgotten that my mother had given it to my wife decades ago. 

Why did that knowledge change my opinion of the attractiveness and value of this old collection of vintage cloth? 

Memories.  Reference points.  Love.  All embodied in a child-sized blanket that probably qualifies for landmark status under historical laws in many communities.

My wife makes memories out of cloth today.  Her blankets aren’t plain.  They are beautiful.  When she makes them for our grandchildren, they are designed with each specific grandchild in mind.  They wouldn’t be ‘right’ for someone else.

Our daughters and daughters-in-law make quilts too.  Their skills are approaching those of my wife.  As time and age slow her down and make it more difficult to sit at a sewing machine or bent over quilting frames, the younger generation will overtake the productivity of grandma. 

She’ll be there keeping her hand in the mix.  You couldn’t keep her out.  Much of her time will be spent teaching her granddaughters the quilting and knitting skills she learned from her mother and grandmother, just like she did with her daughters.

Our granddaughters have already picked up the quilting bug.  The wall above her sewing machine is covered with mini-wall hanging quilts that they have made for grandma.  The wee lasses started early.  Some of the creations were completed when they were two.  Looking at the wall, one can see the progression of time representing the ages of the girls in the neatness of their stitch.

The offer of a Picasso to replace the scene on the wall would be summarily shunned.  The little wall hangings are treasure to grandma.  They have both real and intrinsic value in her world.

Grandma’s quilts will eventually be stored away in the homes of the mature women who once were young sewing crafters.  They’ll be taken out from time to time and shown to their daughters.  “See – grandma’s label is on the back.” “She made this for me when I turned eight or when I moved into my new bedroom or when I graduated from high school or when we got married.”

They’ll have value both real and intrinsic in the worlds of these ladies too.  The fabric of the day may look different but the gold offered still wouldn’t buy them. 

You can’t put a price on memories and reference points and love.

Seeds of Never-Seen Dreams from Kayann Short on Vimeo.

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DearMYRTLE said...

Awesome post, Lee. Thanks for sharing. I've posted a link pointing to your article in the Genea-Quilters Facebook page.

There is a whole lot of love that goes into these quilts.

FranE said...

This awesome. Your post and the video are really moving.