My grandmother was an excellent seamstress. She excelled at almost every craft she touched, but her quilts were legendary. I always remember them hanging in her sewing room/guest room when we would visit. My sister and I would spend hours staring at her glass top cabinet filled with sewing odds and ends, searching for our favorite golden thread scissors that looked like a crane. We’d watch her sit at her sewing table, creating fabric chains that would fall to the floor in a pile. As the youngest grandchildren, we watched almost all of our cousins get married and be given her most precious gift: a custom wedding quilt.
My mom started quilting when I was in junior high. I immediately was hooked. I would sit and help her lay out quilt squares on a board covered with flannel, so they wouldn’t shift in transit. We picked out the fabric together that eventually became the first quilt I helped sew: the gorgeous watercolor Irish chain. We picked out the fabric at a store in Long Beach, right off Bushard St. — the pronunciation of the street name was a mystery to us which created endless laughter between my mom and I. Quilting has always been a family affair. They are made as a family and given to family. Being a part of this sewing legacy has always meant the world to me.
Not long after my grandmother saw the finished Irish chain quilt, she decided to make a similar one. It was a watercolor pattern but in a diamond shape. My mom returned to that same fabric store and they picked out the fabric together. It was a striking, rose-colored, King size quilt to cover the bed in the guest house. It remained there for many years. I remember countless weekends of playing in the pool, being barked at by their corgie Mamie, and running into that guest house, soaking wet to use the bathroom. That quilt was always there. It meant my grandmother, a weekend with my family, listening to old classics being crooned on the radio, the desert heat, and salami sandwiches with pickles and dijon. It meant klondike bars while watching golf with my grandfather and sneaking off to play heart and soul on the organ with my sister.
By the time my sister got married my grandmother was fading a bit in her abilities. Her slow mental decline became more apparent when working with the intricacies of quilt making. My mom and I re-sewed nearly the entire quilt she had made for my sister’s wedding. A beautiful blue and white wedding ring quilt, not a quilt to be trifled with. Two years later it was my turn to get married and we knew grandmother wouldn’t be able to make me a quilt. She was starting to downsize her sizable quilt collection and asked if I’d like any of the ones she’d already made. I knew without a doubt which one I wanted. The rose-colored, watercolor diamond quilt. I was so happy when she presented it to me on my wedding day.
My grandmother died three years ago, the day before my 30th birthday. Anything that she touched has become incredibly valuable to me, not the least of which is that quilt. When Brian left I said a lot of weird things. Once in a heated moment, trying to convey how awful the whole situation was I told him, “I’m so glad my grandmother isn’t alive to see this.” She would’ve been heartbroken. Well, now I’m remarried and it often hits me how sad I am that she does not get to know my new husband. That he will never know her laugh, her Lucille Ball type qualities, her home that holds some of the most precious memories I have, or her quilts. We eloped, so I didn’t really miss the tradition of being presented a quilt at my wedding. But it still makes me sad sometimes.
This last weekend we used our normal blanket on our camping trip so while it was being washed, I pulled out that old rose-colored diamond quilt and laid it on the bed. It felt strange. It was a gift to Brian and me, but more than that it was a gift from my grandmother to me. I have lost a lot of things these past two years, but I was not about to lose this quilt. Not with all it has meant to me. I have grown to be thankful that it wasn’t made specifically for us. It was made with my mom to welcome family and cover the many people who stayed at my grandparent’s house. That’s just what she did, make people feel welcome and her quilts wrapped people in tangible love.
And now that quilt covers Johnathan and I as we sleep. It brought me to tears, feeling her love and presence in the seams of that quilt. Knowing she chose each fabric, touched each square, and sewed every stitch. Needles. Thread. Fabric. Scissors. A simple equation that adds up to something so much bigger than its parts. My broken heart and life are being sewn together by my Savior, in a crazy pattern I never would’ve chosen for myself. And yet I’d like to think that if my grandmother was here she would smile and say, “Isn’t He good?”