There is something about this time of year that keeps me traveling down memory lane. Maybe it's the season as the earth winds down and pulls into itself to prepare for winter (well, if you're in the northern hemisphere that is -- hello to anyone who is just launching into spring!). Maybe it's the days shortening. Maybe it's just me. One of the things I've been thinking about lately is how I ever became a quilter in the first place.
I know one thing that happened that even made the whole thing possible was getting my first sewing machine. It was seven years ago. I had sewn before then, a home ec class in eighth grade. A few Halloween costumes. And, a few blankies. But -- nothing major, nothing that would make me think that I would become fabric and thread obsessed. I didn't even own a sewing machine -- I just used my Dad's. Yep -- you read it right, my Dad owned the sewing machine in the house. As much as my Mom taught me about crafts and a joy in handcrafts -- she's not much for sewing machines. She knows how to use one (I'm pretty sure) but, well, she'd rather do just about anything else rather than use one (sorry Mom -- the blue fairy costume isn't an example --your sister ratted you out on that one). And no, Dad wasn't a quilter either. He used the machine to mend his jeans and pants. He used it to make repairs to his "costume" (and forgive me if anyone from this group reads the word costume here) for his hobby. And there was no mistaking that though I was allowed to use it (even after I broke the older one -- hey -- it was a 1960's Singer and when those plastic cogs go, a new machine is a much cheaper option than repair!), it was his machine.
Anyway -- seven years ago Mom and Dad were packing up the house and getting ready to move. Mom had gotten a new job half way across the country. Only one problem. Remember those blankies I talked about? Well -- I had some fabric Mom and I had purchased to make a Halloween one for myself (ok -- confession here, the "blankies" are technically quilts -- I guess -- one patch quilts that are birthed with some lofty polyester batting and tied, but quilts -- and no, I don't have any photos). But -- well, no machine meant no Halloween throw. Hmmnn...and with the distance to Mom and Dad's new place, it wasn't like I was going to be able to just run over and work on it the way I had been planning. So Dad made me a deal -- if I would make the blanket for Mom (hunh?!? umm...that was supposed to be for ME!?!?) he would leave the machine with me. Given the price of shipping, the chance for damage in transit, and the likelihood of me lugging it on a plane -- in essence it was an exchange. And a pretty darned fair one. All I had to do was promise to finish it for Halloween. Since this conversation took place in June -- not a problem.
Only, you see, I didn't keep up my end of the deal. I didn't get the blanket done for Halloween that year. Shortly after they moved, Dad had some serious pain in his back. He joked about not being as young as he once was and doing too much when they moved. Eventually he went to the doctor and started physical therapy. Again, more jokes -- but the pain kept on getting worse. Then he became jaundiced. It was cancer -- but what kind? A few days after Labor Day we found out. He had pancreatic cancer. This was not the best case scenario we had hoped for. The next month was a blur of plane trips, doctors visits, hospice workers, calls to family, arrangements you never want to make, DNRs, gallows humor, and goodbyes. How my mother remained so strong, I will never know but she taught me a whole new definition of strength and grace that month. And finally, when the last "I love you" had been said -- and after giving Mom and I a last thumbs up and ok sign to let us know it would be ok, Dad died. Seven years ago today.
I did eventually finish the blanket for Mom. I even eventually made myself a Halloween throw as well as dozens of other projects and quilts over the years. I wonder if Dad knew what he was starting by leaving me that machine. I think he would approve. And even though I have a newer machine and I don't use the one Dad gave me anymore -- I have it. It's in a box, waiting. It's my back-up machine, and maybe, someday, it will be a good first machine for the granddaughter Dad never got a chance to meet. And maybe it will work the same magic it worked for me -- giving me a hobby that I love, a chance to meet others who share the same passion, and a way to be creative that feeds my soul. Dad would love that his gift has meant so much to me.
Illegitimi Non Carborundum, Dad. I try -- it's not always easy.
I miss you.
I love you.