edited: Monday, December 31, 2007
By Christine E Blake
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Monday, December 31, 2007
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An American Tradition: The Quilt
When I was a child my aunt gave me a quilt made of my cousins’ outgrown clothes. I loved feeling the fabrics softened from playing outdoors or pretty pieces of church dresses, and imagining how my older cousins must have been at my age. When I married, my husband brought with him a quilt made by his grandmother. Its squares are all denim; worn jeans and jackets from cowboy days on the ranch in West Texas.
Family Quilts. They can be physical blankets of old tired material or abstract quilts of pictures and stories. It is an American tradition: the quilt. Many of them remind us of how our families sacrificed to get us here to this country. All of them recall the triumphs and trials of the family who helps to shape who we are today.
When I consider my family’s figurative quilt, I realize it forms my character. There is a bright red square that is my maternal grandfather: a Frenchman who worked for Coca-Cola from his first independence at fourteen throughout his working life. He was too short to get the job stacking cases of bottles for the Minnesota factory, but that did not stop him. He stayed and created a series of stairs with crates to do the job the older and taller men did. By the time he retired, he had done every job in the plant. This is where I get my tenacity.
And there is his wife, a soft velvety blue. She is a strong mid-western Swedish farm girl and our symbol of consistency. Her love and acceptance never wanes; she is our steady home as we bounce over life’s potholes, or even dig a few ourselves, and gram’s soft hands are there to brush away the gravel. From her I receive empathy for others and acceptance of life’s turns.
From my father’s side I have the striking black and white silk of his Irish mother. A college graduate, rare in her generation, she set the standards of style, grace, and high expectations for the family. A strong woman, grandmother was always active in her community socially, politically, and religiously, teaching me to walk tall and make my mark with each step.
My Norwegian paternal grandfather was gone before I arrived, but he is ever present in our quilt, passed down as memories and photographs. I imagine him as a square of grey wool, stylish and worn. In the picture I have of him he holds an ivory pipe in a warm grin while studying his medical books. My dad carries grandpa’s work ethic and gave me his value in education, while my mom tells me stories of grandpa’s humor and good nature.
Together they are pieces of my quilt, the blanket of love that keeps my warm and secure. Today, I pass down the quilt pieces to my boys as examples for them to create their own squares, and I am proud.