Sunday, December 25, 2016

Quilt Post #1

When I was 17 years old, I had a boyfriend I liked very much, named Troy. We had been dating for about 9 months when I headed off to college 900 miles away. I took what could fit in the roof carrier we put on top of the family minivan that drove me away from Texas forever. Well, sort of forever. I would be coming back, but not to stay.

I didn't know that in August, though, and one of the items I squeezed into that roof carrier was my graduation present from my grandmother, an antique sewing machine, an off-brand Singer with gold filigree and a single running stitch, forward and backward. Its motor would overheat if I used it for too long at a stretch and it always smelled a little bit like burning, but we got along just fine.

I brought fabric with me, too. A red cotton with tiny white stars, thinking of the nights when Troy and I would sit on the back of my car down at the Brazoria County Airport and stare up at them. A green floral print. A white that had a bit of a sheen to it. What I knew about fabric back then could fit in a thimble. But I got what I liked and brought it with me to college.

I remember sitting in my dorm room at my built-in desk making these blocks. They were called "Homeward Bound" and that was my hope. I was homesick often that first semester away. I spent many weekends at my aunt's house. And I made these blocks. Red, white, green, thinking of Christmas, the long break I would spend back in Texas with my family and friends.

That's not the way it worked.

I did go home, and I gave Troy this quilt. I had a nice time but it was wrong. It was different. In 4 1/2 months everything seemed to have changed. This is not a rare experience, but I was surprised that it happened to me. I went back to college discombobulated and spent the spring semester wrestling with what to do.

I broke up with him. Obviously. Again, not a rare experience, but I was surprised it had happened to me.

I went home at Christmas that year, and there in a cardboard box in my room was this quilt. He'd given it back to me. We never spoke again. I took the quilt to St. Louis with me, and treated it badly. It faded in the sun on the porch of my first apartment. Our old dog Dara liked it a lot. It slowly but surely fell apart, especially along the seams of the white sateen.

I should have thrown it away. It was an amateur effort, compared to quilts I made later. It was ratty and tacky.

But it reminded me of something that wasn't there anymore. My first really serious relationship, and this was the only remnant.

So last Advent, I spread it out on the guest bed and thought it over. I patched it in places with the same color scheme. Patches left over from quilts I'd made for neighbors and friends and children. I backed it in a red toile and put it into circulation again.

My middle daughter fell in love with it. She used it on her bed, she dragged it around the house and curled up on the couch with it. And here, a year later, it is a rag again. Shabby and torn, every single original white square with threadbare rips and holes.

"I think I'm going to throw that away," I announce one evening as I stuff it back in the blanket drawer in the living room. But we both know I won't.

I will patch it up again, covering the bits of old with bits of new. Take something broken and try to make it whole again.

That might just be my grandmother coming out in me--I still have that old overheating sewing machine--but I think it's something more. I think it's something the Benedictines understand about God and I try to emulate. Fall and get back up. Keep trying.

Practice on more quilts and get better at it.

Learn from failed relationships and do better next time.

Learn more about fabric and don't use cotton sateen in quilts you're going to take on picnics.

Learn more about yourself and don't try to be what you aren't.
Do your best, and when you know better, do that.

Patch it up and let someone love it. Patch yourself up and let someone love you.

We are all homeward bound. By the time we get there, may our souls be like this quilt, made new over and over as we let God work in us and through us. I'm not the person I was at 17 when I made this. I'm patched and redesigned and worked over. Not necessarily beautiful in the end, but interesting and full of stories and texture.

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