I softly ran my fingers over the colorful stitches. They were embroidered with precision and perfection. And I couldn't help but know there was time and love in each pattern. Each block was absolutely beautiful.
While going through my folks' things after their passing, I came across a quilt that had been started by my mother a long time ago. I only vaguely remembered it as I pulled it out of the bag in which she had so carefully wrapped and folded it.
Oh wow! I thought to myself. Mama had started a quilt. A quick look told me a square was embroidered for each state of the union. Each one was the state flower - the Blue Bonnet of Texas; the Magnolia of Louisiana; the Syringa of Idaho; the Lady Slipper of Minnesota...
Minnesota was the one I had spotted and was caressing in loving memory of mama now. I wondered how she picked the colors of each pattern. I wondered what she had been thinking as she had worked. Minnesota would have been the state where her dad was born. This one had to have special meaning.
She had sewn the squares together, but I wondered if all 50 states were there. It obviously wasn't finished. There was no backing, nor had the blocks been tied or quilted. I was so excited, even before knowing for sure if it was complete, I texted my neighbor who loves to quilt.
"Are you still quilting this winter?" I asked. "Do you need a project?" "Would you like to finish a quilt my mom started?" Or it was something to that effect anyway, I know the text sounded confusing and awkward, because I didn't know for sure what was needed. I had visions of my neighbor, L, having to add squares or states. I wasn't yet sure how big it was, because I had not yet completely pulled it out of the bag.
My neighbor responded immediately with the obvious question; but said yes, she would love a project.
I needed to know if it was finished. I pulled it out of the bag and saw that all the squares were already sewn together in their entirety. I cannot even begin to tell you of my joy when I counted and all 50 states were there. I quickly texted her back.
"YES! It is finished. It just needs backing, batting and quilted together!" I excitedly texted back.
"Bring it over," she responded, "we will make a plan."
When we met, and she laid the unfinished quilt out on her quilting table, she seemed as excited as I was. "Oh my goodness, it is beautiful. I can see why you are so excited. This is an heirloom," she gushed with praise. "Look at her stitching, it is as good on the back as it is on the front."
And with that, I wanted to cry. Those were words my mom would love to hear. She always said ones work should be as good where it can't be seen as where it could. She meant it for her, sewing, knitting, and especially her embroidery; but there is an obvious lesson there for life. And an important one at that.
What are you going to do with it?" my neighbor asked.
"Well I don't know. It really isn't mine. I just found it among her things, as I was going through things to divide for my family. I really don't remember at what time in her life she made it. And I don't know why she picked the green as the alternating squares, but that color goes PERFECTLY in my house!! And with that we both laughed.
"Well you are the one that found it," she stated matter-of-factly. And I quickly remembered our family joke - "Possession is 9/10 of the law." My youngest sis would especially be fond of reminding us of that common rule.
Anyway, we made our plan and at the time I was still uncertain as to what to do with it. I knew when it was finished, I would be worried about it being used on my bed. Really no one in the family had room for it as a wall hanging. It was too big.
"I could give it as a Christmas present," I told my neighbor, L. Then I quickly added, "But not this Christmas," so she wouldn't feel like she had to rush to finish it. "There is no hurry," I told her. "It has probably been in this bag for at least 20 years." And I found myself really wishing I remembered. Someone in the family would most likely know but I didn't want to ask anyone just yet and expose that I had it, before I decided what I would do with it.
"We could all take turns, I guess," I told L. It would be fun to draw names out of a hat for who would be the one to keep it for the year." I continued to contemplate what should be done with it and left L's not knowing for sure.
L has a friend in our little town that has a quilt shop. I have been there before with L, when I had the quilt of Matt's T-shirts made. It is an absolutely beautiful home and she has as many materials as any shop in the larger city, south. But one gets more attention and help. So L had made an appointment with her and now we were going to choose the backing, get the batting, and pick out the right thread. Once there, I took my time deciding, I wanted it to be perfect. L also had some questions for the more experienced quilter. I knew L was a beginning quilter - her husband had given her quilting lessons a couple years ago, but she had jumped into it whole-heartedly and had made a number of quilts already. But even that aside, I trusted L implicitly. I knew everything she did was done with perfection and that she would be as careful with it, as anyone. I had not one worry. And I told her that as we left the quilt shop.
"If something happens, I don't want you to worry about it. It doesn't have to be perfect. For me, this is only about preservation. Because even if something goes wrong, it will still be better off finished than tucked away in a bag - forgotten." I just didn't want her to worry about the fragility of it, because I absolutely was not concerned at all. I just wanted my mama's work completed.
I really didn't expect her to have the project done before Christmas, but there was a part of me that really wished it would be. Driving home from work yesterday, as I pulled up to the mailbox, I found myself thinking about L and the quilt. I guess it won't be done now before Christmas, I found myself thinking. That's ok, I encouraged myself. Christmas is a busy time of year, it would be ridiculous to expect that. I was really ok with that outcome. There was absolutely no urgency.
When I got into the house, I scolded my husband for not having the Christmas lights on. "Christmas isn't over yet, just because we had it early with the kids," I lectured. I was having a hard time keeping the Christmas spirit, myself, but really wanted the importance of the season celebrated.
But I am not sure he even heard me. He pulled out a big package from behind the table. "Look what came while we were gone." He said. "Santa must have been early."
"Whose it from? I asked excitedly." It was on the porch?" I queried disbelievingly.
"Yeah, there is nothing on the tag." He answered.
I had no clue what it could be, there were two large packages in an even larger Christmas bag to hold them both. I was stumped.
"Why didn't you open it? I continued in my lecture mode. He had gotten home from town a bit earlier than I had from work and I was genuinely surprised he had waited for me. lol
He rolled his eyes at that. "Just open it."
"Do you think we should wait 'til Christmas?"
So I got busy unwrapping. "It's the quilt!!" And the other package must be the pillow, I had L finish.
With that, he told me the story. L had called him to say the project was ready and he had arranged with her to pay for it and pick it up, in order for it to be a surprise Christmas present for me! He had wrapped it nicely before I got home from work. It was indeed a surprise. L had thoughts of him having me open it on Christmas day, in front of family for all to see; but my husband didn't want to wait, especially since we had already done our Christmas gift opening.
The moment I saw it, I knew where it would be going. On the bed! The little pillow, L had made with Mama's embroidery told the story and cinched my decision. "Now I lay me down to sleep..." The pillow and quilt were perfect together and L had coordinated colors so they matched. They also matched perfectly the comforter already on our bed...oh, and the curtains and carpet. lol
I immediately put it on the bed. I couldn't be more pleased. Family will have to fight me for this one....you know...that "Possession is 9/10ths of the law." thing. I pondered how I would tell them. I guess this might be how. ;-)