Monday, May 24, 2010

The Apple Quilt

It was the seventies.

We lived near Savannah, Tennessee, a small town full of factories. They made uniforms, women's clothing, and shoes. All of the factories are long gone now, moved with NAFTA to places far removed from that sleepy little river town. But in the seventies, the factories hummed with women (and a few men) who didn't need a career, but money to buy groceries.

Scraps of fabric left after cutting out the garments were thrown away, or given to employees if they wanted them. Friends and relatives collected them, sometimes filling the trunks of their cars when they finished the day, bone-weary but glad they had made another day, another punch of the time clock that meant more money on Friday. Some didn't sew at all, but having been raised by depression-era parents who threw nothing away, they collected the scraps to share. Sometimes, they gave them to me!

It was thought that I wouldn't ever amount to much, because I 'kept my nose in a book' most of the time. One of the books showed a picture of a glorious quilt, with squares and apples. With my factory scraps and the book, I decided to make that apple quilt.

There was always quilting going on around me, with my mother, aunts, and grandmother working on them with every spare minute. The apple quilt was my first attempt to make it completely 'all by myself', and I did it. It was my first attempt at applique, and I was so proud of it. My quilting has improved somewhat over the years, and now I cringe when I see some of the work I did before the hair-color era.

We have used it over thirty years now. After we were blessed with grandchildren, it became the picnic quilt. Some of my better quilts are not allowed to be used at all, much less at the park or in the woods on the ground. The apple quilt has been shared by ants and sweat bees as we lay on our backs, naming the clouds. We have eaten fried chicken and funnel cake on it, then wrapped it around us after the sun went down and the night air cooled.

I must have made it really well, because it is still in wonderful shape and regularly taken on outings.

Ten-year old granddaughter and I were housecleaning, and straightened up the stack of quilts with the apple quilt on top.

"Oh, the picnic quilt! You know, we are always going to use that for the picnic quilt, even after you are gone."



A plus-thirty year old quilt was going to last longer than me? Something made with scraps and strings of cotton would exist after I did not?


Everything decays, everything dies. Over time, the tallest mountain winds up in the sea, one grain at a time.

This gift, this act of living, is dynamic, doesn't sit still for anything or anybody.

Carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, and some trace minerals make up our bodies, the houses of clay that we live in now. None of these elements will last forever. All will decay, some faster than others.

It is the real me, the God-breath, that is eternal, that will live in my real home long after every material entity on this earth is gone.

It's all part of the plan; it is all good, even when it doesn't seem so good to me.

Let the children laugh when their grandmothers tell them about the picnic quilt, and about the woman who made it.

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1