Saturday, March 12, 2011



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.

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  1. Oh Megan how this touched my heart! I too was very close to my who passed when I was 10 and the other when I was 20. I have many many memories but nothing like this to remind me. It sounds as though as gradmas were cut from the same cloth although mine were about as southern as the New York Yankees! Thanks for the smile and sweet walk down a bit of your memory lane!

  2. What a treasure! One of my grandma's died when I was 6 months, the other when I was 4. I'm jealous of the time you spent with yours, and I think it's wonderful that you have that quilt.

  3. Megan, you are a true artist with words, honestly. I love this! It's outside of my cultural experience but you just brought it home to me. I didn't just read about it, I feel like for a few minutes there, I caught a real glimpse of you childhood experience. And it was so well told and warm and inviting that I was sorry the post ended so soon! If you were to ever write your memories in a book I would love to spend cosy evenings reading it!

    I am blessed to still have one grandmother (who does happen to be passionate about quilting, but is as English as they come!) :)

  4. Oh how I loved my grandmas! I am so blessed that I had them both for so long.

    My mouth waters thinking about Sunday dinners at Grams...the BEST fried chicken, fresh green beans and super red tomatoes straight from the garden...yum! Can't forget mashed taters with milk gravy...comfort on a plate.

    I just loved my other Grams house, very small and cozy. Loved cuddling up in one of the twin beds at night, felt so very safe and secure. She always bought all my favorite (junk) foods. When I got older she listened to the Beatles with me and we would talk about the meaning of the words...Wow!

    Both such very special ladies. I miss them.

    Your quilt is just beautiful, what a treasure!

  5. Beautiful. Truly beautiful. Both the words and the quilt.
    For those who may not know, the quilt design is called "Cathedral Windows", and is regaining popularity quite quickly among the modern quilters that are taking the world-wide web by storm. I have it on my must-do-one-day list. :)
    When my dad's mom passed away 10 years ago, I was the only one of 25+ descendants who sewed, so my aunt gave me one unfinished (and really, impossible to finish because it wasn't cut right) Texas Star quilt top made with dresses and work shirts, same as yours, and also a bag full of hexagons sewn into "Grandma's flower garden" designs. Oh, and an embroidered top to a baby quilt, which I fully intended to make into a quilt for my girls, but I realized that it was too precious for that. :o) These are a treasure to me because they are a link to my past, and will be a link to the future for my two girls.
    I'm sad that quilting was lost on SO many generations, but I'm happy to be a part of its resurgence.
    Thanks for the story, Megan, and thanks for the walk down memory lane for me, too. :o)

  6. Gorgeous. You have a gift, friend.

    And that quilt? It's pure legacy.

  7. The "never slept better than within reach of the sound of their voices" part touched me. This is sooo true.

  8. This is absolutely beautiful. My grandmother died four years ago, and I miss her dearly every day. I have a quilt that she made from my grandfather's pajamas after he died. It's like covering up with their love.

    You have a gift, my friend.

  9. Love the quilt! What a treasure!

  10. I don't have good memories of my grandmothers--my maternal grandmother was from Austria, and lived out her life in Detroit, many miles away from my rural Georgia home. I only visited her one time in my life. She spoke very little English, and did not understand my little girl southern drawl. My paternal grandmother was a cruel lady, who disliked me because of my "yankee" mother. I strive to be that wonderful grandmother you describe here. I have made a quilt for each of my grandhchildren, because I want them to have something I have made especially for them. I hope they hold them as dear as you hold yours.