Though it's been almost five years since Mama passed away, a recent phone call from my oldest brother has me thinking about her even more than usual. "Do you think Mom enjoyed making this quilt?", he asked, referring to the quilt he took home with him after her funeral. The quilt had covered Mama's bed in her little apartment at the assisted living facility where she lived her last months. It had covered our Mama, as we all gathered around her when she took her last breath.
I pondered his question, thoughts running through my mind rapidly, knowing my answer was important to him, important enough for him to make a long distance call to me for the sole purpose of him asking it. My response was based on reason. "Well, she made that particular quilt for herself in her latter years, there was no need for her to make it, so I suppose since she made it simply because she wanted to that she did enjoy making it." That answer seemed to satisfy him, but it didn't really satisfy me.
I pictured asking Mama that question. I knew the exact face she would make at me in return. She had a way of twisting up her face when she looked in the mirror and she didn't care for what she saw, when she ate something at a restaurant that she wasn't impressed with, or when she was asked a question that she either didn't know the answer to or that she thought was irrelevant. I was pretty sure asking Mama if she enjoyed making that quilt would be considered an irrelevant question by her. Mama wasn't exactly the introspective type. She was practical to the core, so for her to do something simply because she enjoyed it would be rare, and for her to admit that was her motive, rarer still. More than likely her reasoning for making the quilt would include needing it for some reason, in spite of the fact that she had already made enough colorful, cotton quilts that most of us in her large brood have one of them.
Mama's sewing was meticulous, a perfectionist's dream. Her patterns were perfectly matched up at the seams, her hand sewn hem stitches never showed on the outside of the garment, her inside seam work was always carefully finished so it wouldn't unravel and then it was ironed perfectly flat. Mama sitting in front of the sewing machine that sat by our dining room window is one of my clearest childhood memories.
I was in fifth grade the Christmas after daddy left us. It was both a painful and an awkward time in my life. My body was beginning to change. I was not yet a teenager, but no longer a little girl. I was slightly chubby, wore horribly ugly eyeglasses that I hated, and I had a short hairstyle that even now has me wondering what in the world Mama was thinking to have my hair cut like that. That Christmas my gift from Mama was a homemade soft cotton nightie trimmed in cotton eyelet lace with a matching robe. When I opened it, Mama told me that every stitch was sewn with love. For this little girl who's love language was words of affirmation, being raised by a mama who's love language was acts of service, it was the gift above all other gifts.
Mama would have never labeled her beautiful sewing as creative, as a form of art. It was something she did out of necessity to clothe seven kids. Yet, in the fact that she always chose the best quality of fabric she could afford, that the texture of a fabric was something she gave special attention to, and that her sewing was always meticulous even if she was just sewing play clothes or soft flannel nighties, I see evidence of a true creative, of an artist. I hope, in all of the work Mama did sewing our clothes and making quilts to cover our beds, that she did, indeed, find a bit of enjoyment. Her children, her grandchildren, have certainly found enjoyment in the beautiful work she created.
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