Crazy Quilt

by TheBloomingIdiot

During a phone call many months before when she ran out of questions to ask about her mother’s life—which now seemed to consist solely of walking to nearby lighthouses with Judy Meadowcroft—Audrey struck upon the idea of asking her to make a quilt, something she and her boyfriend could hang on the empty patch of wall in the center of their living room. Her mother had already given each of Audrey’s three older sisters a quilt and while she knew that a queen-sized comforter was out of the question (her mother would only do that much work for a wedding gift) a wall-hanging seemed a reasonable request. Besides, it was her turn and, more importantly, it was something to talk about.

Her mother was thrilled and spent nearly half an hour asking questions. What sort of quilt would she like? What color? Could she get a picture or, better yet, a sample of fabric from their couch—something she could match? It was the smoothest conversation they’d had in years and Audrey wondered why she had never thought to broach the topic before.

Audrey asked for a crazy quilt. This wouldn’t be the usual linear arrangements of geometric patches of fabric, she had explained to her boyfriend. “In the old days people used to make quilts by sewing together whatever leftover fabric happened to be around. Eventually, it became its own style: a patchwork of odd bits of fabric in all kinds of shapes and colors. A lot of crazy quilts look like stained glass windows.”

Three months went by before Audrey spoke with her mother again but every two weeks she still received a short letter, written on both sides of a tablet-sized sheet of paper in her mother’s spindly, nearly illegible hand. Audrey was always amazed at how tedious the letters were but she never had the heart to throw them away unread.

*     *     *

Dear Audrey,

A quick note while I’m catching up with some paper work.

I’m in the middle of my house hold face lift mess and will probably be so for several weeks to come. Dale and Tim were supposed to come today but got bogged down in another job. That’s fine. I expect it to take til Spring anyway.

Damon came last night to stay over. I always enjoy his company. He’s growing so fast. His last game (basketball) is today. It’s away so I won’t be going. He’s doing very well and having a great time.

We’ve had incredible weather for the last couple weeks, 40°–hate to go back to the single numbers.

Hope all is going well for you. I have started designing your quilt!

Mom

*     *     *

Dear Audrey,

A quick note to say “Hi!” Dale is here working on the ceilings. By the end of the week they should have the replacement ones completedmaybe even the rest done. Then off to the bath room.

Skip & Barb have rented a condo outside of Orlando for the month (Skip likes to go to the Red Sox Spring training games) so they were kind enough to invite me for a visit. I’m going from the 9th to the 16th. I’m looking forward to the warm sunshine and lack of snow storms. Another Northeaster is coming our way Tuesday!

How have you made out with all the rain on the West Coast?

Mom

*     *     *

Dear Audrey,

I’m writing at the dentist office – I’m running a little early. The tax preparation appointment didn’t take as long as I thought. Getting all my appointments completed before I head out to Florida for a week. Fortunately the snow is cooperating. It’s supposed to start this evening and into Tuesday. I fly out of Portland Wednesday evening. Perfect timing. I am more than ready to go to some where warm and sunny.

I’m spending this week cleaning up after the first phase of my home repair. The ceilings are back in place (the messiest part of all that I’m having done) and the electrical where needed. So far it looks great! They are taking a breather this week and will return while I’m in Florida to do the bath room. Dale and I went to home depot yesterday to pick out a new toilet and sink to match the tub.

Hope everything is going well for you.

Mom

*     *     *

Dear Audrey,

I’m trying to get used to the chill after a wonderful warm sunny week in Fl. It was nice soaking up the sunshine (75/80) and visiting with Carol. Coming back was easier thanks to “warmer” weather (40s) and sunshine. This is supposed to last well into next week! It should start to melt the enormous snow banks. I do hope this is the last of the winter weather, especially the snow.

Judy & Ray were here for corn beef and cabbage last night to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Did you celebrate the day?

Hope you have a nice Easter Sunday.

Mom

*     *     *

Dear Audrey,

My wrist is bothering me this morning so this note will be short. This week is school vacation. I think Damon is coming for over night tomorrow.

Judy’s supposed to come to quilt this noon but we are having a major snow storm today so she probably won’t make it.

It has been really busy here. Dale & Tom are working on the bathroom. Damon has been over at least once each week since Jan. I’ve had loads of drop-in company–Skip & Barb stopped by before driving to New Hampshire.

Of course I’ve been constantly quilting.

Mom

*     *     *

Dear Audrey,

I’m feeling a little light-headed today so I’m taking it easy. I even had to turn back from my morning walk to Bug Light with Judy. There are lots of nasty bugs going around so I may be have caught some kind of affection or another. Well, I can always quilt!

Dale spent all last week here finishing the bathroomthat looks greatand completing all but some of the woodwork in the living room. Still loads to do. They are finishing another job this week & plan to be back next week full force.

I have just a couple more squares (small ones) plus a corner section to complete your quilt so I should have that finished by the end of the month.

At this point I plan to take a break after I finish your quilt and do some reading. I have about 5 books I’ve had on hand for some time encluding the new Sneaky Pie book by Rita Mae Brown! I’ll enjoy the change.

Of course once they finish all the work I’ll have the house to put back together. It’s been nice not having all the cleaning that goes with having so much stuff around. Seems I get lazier all the time.

Mom

*     *     *

The quilt arrived in the mail carefully folded and packed into a small rectangular box covered with brown butcher paper and sealed along each corner with packing tape. Audrey was alone when she unpacked the quilt. She held it at arm’s length and cocked her head to one side, looking it over. Then she draped it over the sofa and stepped back a few feet. Finally, she took it to the bedroom and laid it flat across the bed. It was even lovelier than she had hoped. Beautiful. Yet as she gazed at its intersecting patches and squares she felt a swelling sadness somewhere deep within her. All those letters.

Knowing Audrey didn’t like anything flowery, her mother had chosen a backing fabric with a print of twining vines and leaves. Within the two-inch Fern green border more than one-hundred pieces of fabric had been sewn together and embellished using at least a dozen varieties of stitching. Audrey first noticed the diamond of green rayon near the center of the quilt because it was the same unique shade as her old Girl Scout sash and because her pins for Reading and Adventure were still attached. As she looked more closely she realized that many of the other pieces of fabric were also familiar. A circle of bright green satin was from the dress she had worn as a flower girl for her eldest sister’s wedding; the fuzzy, sepia-colored trapezoid outlined by golden feather-stitching was from the Pooh Bear doll she had carried with her everywhere when she was four; an indigo triangle covered with gold stars and a full moon with a silver, smiling face was cut from the blanket under which she had slept as a little girl; and a faded burlap square that still smelled faintly of sawdust was from the shop apron her father had worn; even the buttons that punctuated several pieces of fabric were from the peacoat she had worn throughout grade school. These remnants of her childhood—adorned with crocheted rosettes and swirls of lace; joined by zig-zag or chain or scalloped stitching—had become dashes of white and brown, pink and blue, green and gold, overlapping and jutting into one another as part of a new, vibrant, whole. In the bottom left-hand corner of the quilt, on a small ivory patch of fabric, was her mother’s signature: the image of a rose stitched in thick, blush-pink thread, a green stem arcing over the year—stitched in blue—and her mother’s initials resting just below a solitary leaf.

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