Friday, May 24, 2013

A Cedar Chest

When my brother Randy was in high school, he built at least three cedar chests:  one for his mother, one for his grandmother, and one for me. My entire adult life, I have hauled mine around full of items too treasured for normal storage. Surely I have sifted through the contents many times but I do not recall any specific time. I could not even give an accounting of what I treasured so much except for one or two things: a box of photos and mementos from my early childhood, and the quilt my mother made for me.

The box of items from my childhood remains untouched, yellowing, documented in childish penciled handwriting. These are the tiny bits left of the years when my father was still alive, though there is nothing of him - not a photo, not a mention of him, nothing he ever gave me - in that box. It is merely that he was alive then.

The quilt has been carefully stored away until the special day came when I was "permanently settled down", as if the fourteen years spent in "tornado fodder cabin" were not considered permanent! Waking up tonight after midnight, I decided to tackle the cedar chest, prepare it for the next fourteen or twenty-eight years. I did not go through the box of my childhood, but sorted through everything else. There is a small bag of things going to Goodwill, but almost everything was returned to the chest.

All of it is worthless to anyone else but priceless to me. There are the two baby books and some baby clothes that my children wore. The little bands placed on their newborn wrists immediately after birth are stored in a plastic box. There are cards from all the baby showers even though so much time has passed that I no longer recognize some of the names. My high school diploma, a silhouette of my daughter made during preschool,and several handmade Mother's Day cards affirming that I was the best, most beloved mother of all time. A beautiful red silk skirt and jacket tailor made for me in Vietnam still looks brand new. My stepbrother, in Saigon during the war,had it made specially for me. There is a box of letters and cards but I did not go through it. Almost every person whose letters I would have saved is dead now, and sometimes the weight of ghosts is just too heavy in the middle of the night.

It was, I decided, at long last time to take the quilt out of storage. I washed and dried it and then carefully made up the bed. My mother cross-stitched each block and pieced it together. She sent it to a church group of quilting ladies who finished it. It is not a great work of art or skill, but it is a great labor of love. In her patient, determined way, my mother carefully cross-stitched each block with embroidery thread, evenly and well, creating something she knew would become more valuable as each year without her ticked past. At the tender age of 60, I reckon I must be permanently settled down. I reckon I have earned the right to enjoy my mother's quilt.

1 comment:

Kathy said...

This is so wonderful. I can just see your mother, smiling down at her quilt, on your bed, at last. As the sister of a quilter, and as the owner of a couple of ancestral quilts, I appreciate with awe and gratitude, the endless hours and thousands upon thousands of stitches, all lovingly contained in these objects. I suspect I inherited my paternal grandmother's lack of skill with anything approaching a needle and thread. Best for me to admire the industry and dedication of others, than to attempt such beauty myself.