The weather has warmed enough where I live that it was time this weekend to put away the winter bed quilts for something lighter.
As there are a number of color and style choices on my shelves, I can pick and choose depending on – oh, who knows or cares. It's not a decision that matters much.
Except for that quilt.
Usually I ignore it. In fact, I've been shoving it aside each spring for (quick head calculation) 32 years. Wow. I had no idea it's been that long.
My grandmother made that quilt. My father's mother. Dad was 10 years old when he saw her for the last time. I met her once, in 1968, at her home in St. Paul, Minnesota. She died in 1984, which is how the quilt came to be in my possession.
It is not an exaggeration to say that part of my family and/or their behavior, can be described as gothic. But I didn't truly understand that until quite recently.
The dawning of that realization came about when a New York City police officer knocked on my door one day in December 1984, to give me the news that my grandmother had died. As I explained in a 2009 story in these pages,
”A St. Paul attorney, whose telephone number the police officer had given me, told me my name and address had been noted among my grandmother's papers marked, 'in case of emergency.' She had been found in her home, he said, frozen to death.
“It got worse from there.”
If you are curious, that 2009 story in four parts titled, The Terrible, Lonely Death of an Old, Old, Woman, can be found here. Until this past weekend, I had not read it in nearly seven years and it's an amazing yarn, if I do say so myself. And by “yarn,” I do not mean to say it is untrue. It is not.
Nor was it my intention on Saturday to dredge up that event along with the the rest of the family history it recalls. I will deal with that in my way but today's post is about a teeny, tiny part of that yarn, Grandma Hazel's quilt.
While closing up her St. Paul home in 1984,
”In another drawer, I found a never-used, hand-made, patchwork quilt, probably sewn by Grandma Hazel in her teens, as girls born a hundred years ago did for their trousseaux.
“It is a remarkably modern design for its time (Hazel was born in 1892), and I've kept it. Early on, I thought I'd use it on my bed, but cats and antique quilts are not a good mix. So, as in Hazel's home, it sits folded in a drawer.”
Not “probably sewn.” Definitely sewn by Hazel and if we arbitrarily choose to have “teen” in her case mean 15, that quilt is now about 110 years old.
Two days ago, while rummaging around through the bedding, I decided to take a look at Grandma Hazel's quilt. I hadn't done so since at least 2010 when I moved here and that's all it took for the terrible story of the death of an old, old woman to come flooding back.
It's a tough story. Harrowing. Sad. Disagreeable. Embarrassing. Enraging. Wretched. The odd thing is that it seems even worse as I recall it now than it did when it happened and when I last wrote about it.
But it has also brought me one small piece of clarity that I am quite pleased with.
The quilt is lovely and as much like new as if it were finished yesterday. As I spread it out on the bed, here is what else I thought in addition to the memories:
So what if it's 110 years old. Who cares if the cat's claws get caught in it. What difference does it make if you spill ice cream on it while watching old movies in bed. What are you saving it for. You're 75 years old and you don't even like that woman. Use the damned quilt.
And here it is. Sorry fat, old Ollie the cat is in shadow but I'm glad he thinks it's a nifty place to sleep.