Monday, April 11, 2011

Hugs from the past

My grandma was one of those women who seemed to know how to do just about anything, she sewed clothes for herself and her family members. She knit for them. She crocheted. She could do embroidery and heedlepoint. She cooked and she made mouth watering baked goods, especially cookies. But her most beloved activity was probably quilting.

When we were small we slept under quilts that she made for us. My sisters and I shared a room and we each had a Flower Garden quilt that she made for us. Each with it's individual colorway in the recipient's favorite colors, mine happened to be blues and reds. And I actually remember that there was a different set of quilts, in a different pattern, in reds and pinks before that.

She was an award winning quilter, winning ribbons for her work when my aunts would enter her quilts in shows far from home. For the entire time that I knew her there was always a quilt in a quilting frame some where in her house, and in the summer that quilt would go back and forth to their weekend cottage up on Lake Erie.

At some point, she decided that she would make a quilt as a wedding present for each of her 13 grandchildren. And we knew that somewhere in the house she had a hidden stash of these quilts. (Personally I always suspected they were hidden upstairs in the attic. But I knew better than to go looking.) It was a huge deal and one of the highlights of each wedding reception to open the box from Grandma to see which quilt she had chosen for you. I understand that couples today consider opening gifts at the wedding to be tacky, but we always opened at least the quilt at the reception. And she wouldn't give it to you early either, something about not breaking it in before the wedding was her reasoning.

As time passed more and more of my cousins, both older and younger got married and received their quilts. Being an independent young woman with a college degree and three years out in the working world, I had the goal of owning my own home. However, I veered from the traditional path of marriage and went out and bought it on my own. I sort of hinted around that I wasn't waiting a Mr. Right to show up and provide for me, and what would happen to my quilt if I didn't get married. At that point there were three of us still single. She told me that if she passed away before we got married that she had made provisions for each of us to receive our quilt.

Grandma passed away in March 1995. Later that year my aunts found the quilts and decided which ones would go to each of the three of us who were still single, my cousin Eddie, my brother David and myself. I don't know what the other two did, but my quilt went into my cedar chest where it has spent the last almost sixteen years.

I sleep in a queen size bed and the quilt is for a full, and until this winter I always slept under a very warm, very weighty, down comforter. But last year's surgery left my internal thermostat set slightly warmer, and the heavy down that had kept me comfortable in a cold house for more than a decade is now warm enough to make me sweat. So after a winter of experimenting to find a combination of bed coverings to keep me comfortable, yet be heavy enough to lull me to sleep, I dug the quilt out of the cedar chest.

The pattern is a pieced pattern known as Brides Bouquet, which I'm finding rather ironic as it belongs to the one granddaughter who was never a bride. It just fits across the top of my queen size mattress. Yet it provides just the right amount of warmth and weight to allow me to get a good night's sleep again. It still smells of the cedar and reminds me of Grandma. So now, sixteen years after her passing, it's like getting a loving hug from my grandma again.