A quilt my grandmothers made for me, held together with a million perfect stitches, the last of which they carefully sewed more than 30 years ago.
I was lucky enough to know both of them very well. Grandmama FriedOkra died when I was about 11, and Grandmama Clover just died less than two months ago. Both true Southern ladies who wore Southern easily and without pretense - they were Southern in a pervasive, encompassing way that blood-dyed me Southern before I could consider there was anything else to be.
I have memories from childhood of each of my parents' mothers dressed in pastel suits with flowered hats and white gloves, hoisting me to their laps in a sigh of Rive Gauche and Wrigley's Spearmint or Halston and baby powder, as we waited out hushed hours on the pews of their churches; of them driving my sister and my cousins and me in their own cars, which they drove in precisely their own ways, to pink-embroidery and linen and peony'd luncheons with their lady friends, where we would behave princess-perfectly and eat chocolate-dipped graham crackers and sip iced ginger-ale out of tiny cut-glass goblets; of these softening, big-smiled, lip-sticked women who doted on me from their lounge chairs, wearing sandals, in the quiet, humming afternoon shade of their back yards, as faint aromas of roses and frying cube steak filled the air around us all.
Of them tucking me tightly with forehead kisses into soft beds under cool, worn-smooth and line-dried cotton sheets and satin-trimmed blankets.
And of how I never slept better than within reach of the sound of their voices, and under their solid, trusted roofs.
I can hold this quilt in my hands now and trace the work they did, for love of me, with their aging fingers - folding muslin, waxing thread, clipping tiny squares of fabric from dresses (theirs and mine) and aprons and curtains, Grandfathers' ties, each pattern, each snip, tuck, fold a moment in their lives that overlapped and enveloped mine as the sturdy muslin overlaps and enfolds the pretty-colored blocks. Often I would play near them or stand mesmerized and watch as they worked, silently examining the golden rounds of wax, the tiny scissors and shiny thimbles, the piles of squares on chair-arms as they sat sewing, and listen to them talk.
In these panes of fabric my grandmothers linger, near enough to touch, and their careful stitch-after-stitches hold me tightly to their cherished memory.