just a mom figuring it out one day at a time

Most Cherished Possession

It was my Grandmother who gave me my first lesson in sewing, and perhaps it will be my Mother in-law who will finish it.

Although she was college educated and spoke many languages, my Grandmother seemed to find her greatest joy in being a Mother to her seven children and a homemaker. Everything was always tidy, laundry religiously done and pressed, and dinner was served promptly at 6PM.

From an early age my Grandmother sought to instill in me those traditional skills, which she perceived were lost on my hippie era Mother. So I learned to sew, crochet and cross stitch. My creations were not noteworthy, but I learned the basics. Someday, she assured me, she would teach me how to quilt.

Quilting was a tradition in our family. Quilts were made to commemorate births and weddings, each created with the collective effort of multiple family members so that the end result was a blending of the family coming together to celebrate the occasion. As I grew up I participated in these quilting events, with my very limited skill set, and somewhere along the way realized that I had never had a birth or child quilt. When I first questioned my Grandmother on it, she smiled and said that I did have a quilt, a very special quilt but that it was not done yet. As she opened her cedar chest she pulled out bags and bags of what looked like colorful honeycomb. Each piece had six sides and some were assembled, with bright yellow centers so that they looked like flowers. As I made my observation, my Grandmother simply smiled and told me that the pattern was called “Grandmother’s Flower Garden.”

Years went by, I moved to another state with my Mother and the quilt sat untouched in my Grandmother’s sewing room. When I would visit, I watched a slow transformation in my Grandmother’s hands and she began to move slower. I would sometimes go back to her sewing room and notice the dust gathering on her old McCall dress patterns; the cover on her sewing machine obviously untouched.

Later, after my Grandmother had died suddenly in her sleep, my Aunts made sure that I received the cedar chest with my quilt as well as a Christmas quilt that my Grandmother had started years prior. My quilt sat in that chest for nearly 12 years until a chance conversation with my Mother in-law who was at the time teaching quilting a local fabric store.

As I discussed my Mother in-law’s quilting project for her class, I mentioned my desire to some day to finish my Grandmother’s quilt. We walked over to the chest, I opened it and I showed her the Grandmother’s Flower Garden pieces. She spread them out, looked at me and explained how this was really an advanced quilt and although she would be happy to teach me to quilt, this was not a project that I should attempt until I was much more experienced. My Mother in-law suggested that perhaps later, when the children were a bit older, she could teach me to quilt and we could finish my Grandmother’s less complicated Christmas quilt. Looking at my two children, ages 1 & 5, I knew it would be many years before I could even think about learning. As if reading my thoughts, my Mother in-law offered to take the quilt and work on it. And I, on a rare occasion of recognizing my own limitations, happily agreed.

Several months later my in-laws came for dinner and she brought the finished quilt. She spread it out on the floor and my daughter toddled out into the middle of it, sat down and said “Pretty,” and I simply cried. On the back of the quilt my Mother in-law noted my Grandmother’s name, the year she began the quilt and then her own name and the year it was finished. What was begun for one granddaughter was finished for another, what would have been my Grandmother’s great granddaughter.

Today the quilt hangs in my daughter’s room and every time I look at it I can almost feel the collective Grandmothers’ love for their granddaughters coming through it.

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