As a child, I watched my Grandmother stich and sew, employing her hands to good effect creating beautiful and useful hand work. The fruits of her labors … the quilts and pillows and aprons and tablecloths and tea towels and dresses … were woven into the fabric of my life. Some, like the tablecloths, were brought out only for company. But the others, the quilts and the tea towels, became a part of my everyday life … like a whisper of caring from the past. These days, when I handle the remains of her old quilts, time becomes meaningless. Right there is the figured blue that was my mother’s dress when we lived in Iowa. And that bit is from the curtains in the kitchen. I know that plaid, but I don’t recognize the yellow with cowboy hats and lassos … I would venture to say that somewhere they were once curtains made for somebody’s favorite little man. Meanwhile, an anonymous bit of pink with little white critters makes me smile as I imagine the little-girl hands that once learned to button buttons and tie laces. I wonder if my Grandmother knew them all … those young cowboys and little Bo-peeps. Did she stich her memories into the squares and geometric shapes? Did she feather-stitch her seams to keep them safe? I like to think so. 

However, I have reason to doubt that she was anything but pragmatic in her choice of fabric and thread. She might have known the little cowboy’s mother, or Bo-Peep’s great aunt Ida, but my sense is that she sourced all her fabrics from various friends and relatives, who in turn were happy to have someone use them so they could clear out their closets. So, she took whatever came to hand, and stitched away of an evening while waiting her turn to set up grandfather for a fall in their eternal game of dominoes. 

Anyway, here am I with those gifts from her busy hands. Their legacy hums to me from the storage chest under the bed. And while I use the tea towels every day, and enjoy their company, I am constantly aware of all those other stored memories fading away as I age. Where will they … where do they … where can they … all go? 

Now as I clear out my closets and dresser drawers, I am faced with the reality of how much of what I keep is tied to sentiment. But let’s be real … there is a hierarchy of sentiment involved here. Grandmother’s quilts may not be as useful as they once were, but neither is the stack of tee-shirts that I keep for sentimental reasons, despite the fact that I no longer wear tee shirts. Obviously, some decisions are not too difficult to make. The tee-shirts might carry a whiff of personal memory, but they also make great paint rags. So, not what you would call a difficult decision to make … plus I can now revisit some of my clothes as I clean up from a session in the studio. Sort of a purgatory for clothes. 

But, beyond sentiment lies the siren call of the beautifully made, the exquisitely crafted, and the elegantly fashioned. And while I don’t wish to live immersed in the past, I find it hard to ignore the lure of beautiful things. So, wish me luck I’m diving in … 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *