Wednesday, August 31, 2011

my life in quilts


my grandmother used to quilt. she didn't really become serious about the art until my brother and i left for college. at that point, the time she used to spend with us she turned into time spent creating things for us as well as writing to us. my college years are punctuated by letters from my grandmother which came religiously, one every week for four years and by quilts, one for each of the stages of my life.

i traveled in a group in college and my grandmother made quilts for each one of us. we called them quillows as they were quilts that could be folded into pillows. she made ten of them in the course of three months so we would have something to sleep on during our long road trips.

she made me a picnic blanket quilt out of my grandpas old shirts. i think she was planning on many a romantic date for me and my potential suitors. she prayed for me everyday and knew i was going to meet my mr. right. word of her fervent prayers spread and my closest girlfriends started putting in prayer requests for my grandmother to pray for them to meet husbands of their own. (my friends are all happily married, by the way.)

when i finished college and was working and living on my own, she made me a lap quilt to keep me warm on nights alone in my apartment. i think she figured that if i was alone, at least i could be surrounded by something lovely.

her wedding gift to me was a quilt for me and my husband to share. she embroidered our names in one quilt square and then sewed, "love, grandma." it is still on our bed today.

when my first son was born, her baby shower gift was a little baby quilt for my first little boy. i had no idea how much my son would love that quilt but to this day, he sleeps with two blankets, one that was crocheted by my a girlfriend and the quilt that was sewn by my grandmother. he's now eight and still sleeps with it every night.

when my baby girl was born, i got another quilt. she was thrilled to have a great-granddaughter. after four great-grandsons, a great-granddaughter was something precious. it was the only time my grandmother got to use pink fabric. she has 8 great-grandsons...only one great-granddaughter.

when my third baby was born, i got the last quilt from my grandmother. he was born on the day my uncle, my grandma's only son, was found dead in his bed. it was also right around this time that my grandpa, who was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis and had been given between three and five years to live, started to have his health decline. they had been married since 1943 and somehow, the two tragedies took all of the living out of her.

now she has been diagnosed with dementia. she doesn't remember me well and my kids are all strangers to her. she calls me, "the one with all the kids" because she can't remember my name. the last time i spoke with her, she said, "well, my husband sure liked you." i told her, "well, grandma, i sure loved grandpa too." she remembered that we knew each other but our relationship escaped her...except the part that we loved each other.


so now as i wash and fold each of my quilts, i feel surrounded by the love in them...the love that went into making them and the love that goes into the use of them. my kids will never remember my grandmother as i do but they'll have pieces of her in the patchwork of those quilts, her words of wisdom passed on through me, her recipes for fried chicken and texas chili and the prayers she prayed for my kids before they were even a possibility.

as i look at those quilts i am left wondering, what can i pass on to those who will never know me? what kind of tangible legacy can i pass on? if my legacy is only half as sweet as the one left by my grandmother, i will be happy. what love legacies are you creating?