12 March 2011



A quilt my grandmothers made for me, held together with stitches, the last of which they carefully sewed well over 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 dresses and hats and white gloves, hoisting me to their laps in their churches, driving my sister and my cousins and me in their own cars, which they drove in their own ways, to pink and linen and peonied lunches with their lady friends, where we would eat chocolate dipped graham crackers and drink iced ginger-ale out of tiny cut-glass goblets, of these softening, big-smiled 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.

Of them tucking me into soft beds under cool, well-worn 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 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 and watch as they worked, mesmerized, or silently examine the wax, the scissors, the piles of squares 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 memory.

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