an unfinished quilt

28 Aug
August 28, 2015

a few months ago, i turned 40. it was like most birthdays, no revelation. i felt good about it. as i do on most birthdays (yay, another year alive!). a little nostalgic, a little hopeful. i consider birthdays my personal new year, and 40 feels really good to me.

so. i don’t even know how to get into this. or honestly where to take it. it was going to be a post about finishing a quilt. but i feel like you deserve some back story. i guess the start of it is, i don’t speak with my father. it’s a long drawn out thing, that mostly has to do with my questioning his humanity (too dramatic?). i didn’t grow up with him. he has another family. he treated my mother questionably (when they were mere children) and when i moved up to the northwest to get to know him, there wasn’t much of that happening, and then he said some not nice things. it’s never how you imagine it- people are who they are. it was no happy reunion, gushing about life, and catching up. we didn’t all click, and i’ve put it aside. it’s… as it is, and how it will be for the foreseeable future.

10 years ago, my grandmother died. she had alzheimer’s. i don’t remember how i felt at the time. a little relieved for her, upset, of course. but i was going through a lot personally, and the idea of traveling to her funeral felt overwhelming. i felt numb about a lot of things at that time. i was working a job i hated, i had migraines 24/7, and a doctor had just told me i potentially had an aneurism in my brain that was in a mostly inoperable place. it wasn’t my best year.

my grandmother holds a vast amount of my childhood memories. my parents were divorced a year after my birth- my mother, the ripe age of 18 (dude.). she worked, and was probably trying to finish her ged? having kids now, and having some perspective, she probably just needed a break now and then, and my father’s parents lived in our town. i spent a lot of time with them. i adored them. i have amazing memories of the two of them indulging a 3-4 year old little girl with her (mostly modest) heart’s desires. my grandpa took me on his errands, and i was always allowed some indulgence. i had the run of my grandma’s closet, clothes, jewelry- i’m sure it’s why i’m the clothes hoarder i am present day. and fabric! my grandma had had her own sewing store as a business, in our very small town, and she had a room dedicated to sewing and fabric, and making. another direct influence, surely.

she was a quilter. i have several blankets she made me. one a baby quilt, that although much worn, is a treasure. i remember being small and seeing her quilts, and being amazed. they were big. voluminous. warm. and above all… colorful. i don’t know if it was the time, or her taste, but she didn’t shy away from color. i don’t remember her house being that way. but her quilts were…on the verge of bold, even.

anyway- all of this to get to this snippet of the tale. on my 40th birthday, my stepmother texted. she said she was going to send me something. which seemed…unexpected.

it came and i opened this… box. it’s an unfinished quilt. and as i opened the ziplock bag, that holds the entire thing, this smell, my grandma, came at me. i sat in my car with my face buried in this bag, and cried. 10 years. i miss her like she died last week. i miss her from 20 years ago, when her sharp mind started failing. her letters from that time that i’ve read, and reread, that i wish i would have been older to write back to. to cherish them for what they were… lovely words from this woman who loved me beyond reason. i sat there, staring into this bag of fabric. and i slowly started putting together that this quilt… is of poppies. it’s a poppy quilt.

a woman (named pansy) probably over 40 years ago, started making a poppy quilt- cut, pieced, basted, ready to start assembly. her grand daughter was born (me). she made zillions of other quilts. baby quilts for her grand children. wedding quilts for people getting married. she sewed until she couldn’t any longer. she became sick when i was a teenager, into my 20’s. to die when i was 29. she left a deep mark on my heart and mind. the only consideration when naming my daughter was that she would have a flower name, for my grandma. and we chose poppy. two years later, ten years after her death, i receive a quilt that she started but didn’t finish all those years ago… a poppy quilt.

it’s an odd thing. i don’t have many of her belongings, not being that close with the rest of that family. i have a couple trinkets that i took, mostly without asking. i have a few of her sewing things that my grandpa offered- they are treasured, and used almost daily. i have some clothes that a cousin bestowed, and i have a necklace that means very little to me. my aunt, another broken person, in ways i didn’t understand, had treasure that i would have sold my arm for. quilts, i’m sure. photos. jewelry. my grandmother’s engagement ring maybe. all of those things lost, due to her sickness. gone. my grandmother’s quilts. and when i found out everything was gone, i was bereft. inconsolable. mostly about blankets. that one would never come to me. made by her hands.

and suddenly, unexpectedly, one shows up to my door. it’s funny how what you ask you for, you get in ways you never expected. i wanted more than anything one of her quilts. to have in my home, to use. to think of her, and think of her making it. and now we’ll have one that we worked on together. i love that. and i love her for bringing it to me all these years later. xoxo- k.

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3 replies
  1. Kim aston says:

    What an awesome story. I love unfinished projects. I can’t help but buy them at estate sales, I think the ladies would be happy for me to finish them. One of my faves was 100 yo-yos I made into a blanket for a baby and also a table runner for my Grandma, they look like flowers : )

  2. admin says:

    i’m absolutely SURE they’re happy you’re picking up where they left off. i LOVE that. i don’t know… how IS it that we never sewed in our dorm? i don’t even think i knew you could sew… but you can do anything (mountaineering, skiing, pottery, amazing hair!), so i’m not surprised. 😉

  3. Kelly in Chicago says:

    I absolutely love this story – thanks for sharing. It blows my mind the coincidences like this, and how the unfinished quilt came to just the right person so many years later. I love that it came to be with you. Could your grandmother ever imagine you would be the one finishing this particular quilt? I cannot wait to see it done.:)

    I have a similar story about a quilt started by my great aunt’s sister-in-law’s grandmother that was drifting through the universe waiting to get to me to finish it some 60 years after it was started. It blows my mind how this could come to be so perfectly! (quilt label) (Dresden Duet quilt)

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