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Wednesday
Sep302009

The Quilt

Recently I completed a quilt that has 1975 pieces. When I started out the project, the fabrics I picked were lush batiks in browns, greens and beige. I loved it before I even started cutting. I had a book, called "Pineapple Quilt- A Piece of Cake" that clearly described the steps with words and pictures. The author had made this quilt many times before and was willing to describe the process so that I would succeed. I began with enthusiasm, chopping ribbons of color all over my dining room table.

 The first few rounds of strips went on cheerfully enough but then I began to doubt. I laid out the barely begun blocks and wondered about my fabric choices. The contrast between the greens and browns seemed muddy up close. Had I made a mistake? Should I even keep going?

My husband encouraged me, and I had invested a chunk of change in the batiks, so I kept plodding. I ran out of beiges, so I went back to the store. Was this smart to be spending yet more money when I was unsure of the outcome?

I ran out of greens, but rather than go to the store again I scrounged for scraps in my fabric library. They were not as pretty as the batiks, but I hoped they would blend in. More doubt seeped into my thoughts, as I held up the growing blocks, and wondered. The joy I began with slid into muted repetition, and I kept rereading the book, just in case there were messages I had missed.

Then I was on the last round of light strips. My excitement resurfaced and I finished 6, then 12 blocks. I laid them on the floor and they were beautiful. I finished more rows and it all fit into place. The greens and browns made a lovely pattern that held the vibrant batiks along with the less interesting prints to create a rich blend of color. It is hanging on my wall and will probably grace the room for many years. The feeling of accomplishment is powerful.

This week we entertained seven groups of people. One was an engaged couple, whose sense of hope and joy was undiminished by the fact that many people they love are divorced. They believe their marriage will last forever. They reminded me of the way I started out on my pineapple quilt, investing generously in a dream. It was delicious to be with them in their innocence.

One couple was still glassy eyed from their first baby. A long birth, more crying than they had anticipated, and less time to spend together was an adjustment, and they were plodding more than dancing. Their commitment was still strong, but the sense of delight was waning.

Another couple was ten years into their marriage, and seriously doubting their future. Should they keep going? Was it fun anymore? Their small children, like unfinished blocks ran around the yard with my own children, bright and colorful little people. We talked about the investment they had already made, in finishing graduate school, building a home, and raising their precious sons and daughters. I could see that part of them had forgotten why they were doing this anyway. The process felt muddy.

Still another couple came for breakfast, whose marriage is beautiful to behold. The pattern of two decades is easier to see. They have integrated the lovely and the less than lovely pieces of their lives into something that holds them and their children together and keeps them warm. We have listened over time to their stories, their pain over mistakes and hurts, worries over money and work that don't make much sense when you are inches from the surface. Yet the perspective that comes even a few years out from the recalcitrant teenagers and trips to the emergency room adds to the overall wonder. Seeing where you have come from adds to the sense of power.

Being in love is like the excitement of going to Joanne's, picking gorgeous fabrics and imagining the possibilities. You are giddy with the unproved belief that you can make a sensational quilt. A young marriage is like those messy weeks of following the pattern, unsure of the outcome and doubting the plan. But a seasoned marriage is like finishing a quilt with almost two thousand pieces. It is a feeling impossible to borrow or steal without doing the work yourself, wading through the mundane. It depends on believing the book and the one who wrote it.

I think I will make another quilt. Remind me if I forget that it is worth it.