Saving the Story

Before I gave the crazy quilt to a friend, I needed to check it for stories. Mama’s stepmother pieced quilts. We called her “Grandma” because she was the only grandmother we ever knew. Mama saved all her scraps from sewing for four girls for the quilts. We enjoyed finding remnants of favorite dresses and recalling the stories of places where they had been in Grandma's finished quilt tops. Usually, she and her friends finished them at a gossipy quilting bee.

Cleaning out my closets this week, I found the last quilt top she had done. Mama had inherited it from her and put it on a shelf – unquilted. I had done the same when it was passed down to me. Knowing I was never going to do anything with it and certain that my children wouldn’t either, I offered it to my quilter friend. I was pleased that she wanted it though her own quilts are creative works of art instead of crazy combinations of patchwork.

I spread the quilt on the bed to see if there was a story worth saving before I let it go. Indeed, there was.

My sisters and I felt well-dressed while we were growing up. Mama made up for what we lacked in money with an eye for design and skill with a generic sewing machine. My finest outfit one year was a white pique gathered skirt with a yellow pique sleeveless jacket blouse sporting fine imitation pearl buttons. Naturally, there were matching yellow ribbons for the ends of my pigtails.

Returning from some dress up occasion with special friends, my sisters and I didn’t take the time to do our usual change into “old clothes.” Instead, the group of us headed straight to the barbed wire fence to cross into the pasture to play. Granddaughters of a dairy farmer, we knew not to stretch the barbed wire by going through or under. We climbed the fence post and jumped over.

As I made my leap, I found myself suspended in space listening to the ominous ripping sound of my skirt. It had hung on the barbed wire as I came down leaving me dangling in midair. By the time I collected myself, the waistband was destroyed with the skirt hanging here and there to its bits and pieces. I sensed trouble with Mama ahead.

Mama let me off the hook with a few – okay, more than a few – words about remembering to change into “old clothes” next time and then set about fixing the problem. She found a new remnant on sale at the fabric store of white pique with bright red and blue teardrop shapes. After she did a bit of repair to rips in the skirt, she made a new waistband and jacket blouse from the print. Naturally, there were double ribbons of red and blue for the pigtails. Truthfully, the second version was prettier than the first.

Story saved. Story shared. I hope Martha enjoys finishing the quilt.