Monday, May 16, 2011

well loved: quilts and kids

Not to make anyone jealous (although I realize it may be impossible to avoid on this one), but my mother-in-law makes quilts for all of her grandchildren -- sixteen and counting. And not just any quilts, but unbelievably well-crafted and perfectly chosen quilts. She has a way with colors and patterns, and the patience I have never developed to match corners and stitch in tight lines. These are what most people would call Heirloom Quilts.

Our kids call them "Bama blankies."

When our oldest was born, my mother-in-law chose a deep red color scheme for him, and filled it in with patterns and angles perfectly befitting his alpha-male intensity. My husband and I talked about the blanket and what we should do with it. Heirlooms and kids don't generally go well together (case in point: all of our desks). So we debated: Should we hang it on the wall or bring it within reach of dirty hands and drippy noses?

We chose to bring it down.

The blankets have been dragged around, snorted on, wrestled with, and tied into halters. They have been slept on, sat on, jumped on, and pulled. After a few years the cotton starts to wear. Holes develop, opening circles in the squares. Bindings go next, and then whole sections. That first blankie is down to one remaining square; the second so full of holes the twelve year-old often wears it like a cape, with his arms thrust through the holes. Once in a great while, as I watch them dwindle, I wonder if we made the right choice.

Then I come across pictures like this:

And this:

And I'm reminded about how obviously right it was to let them be loved.

These blankets have produced an heirloom something pristine on the wall never could. They have been surrogate hands and shoulders and open arms of a grandma far away -- fifty miles, and then fifteen hundred miles, and now four hundred and sixty-two miles -- our kids have been able to haul their grandmother around with them.

As I peeked in on the baby tonight, sleeping wrapped in his Bama Blankie like a dog in its bun (a banana in its peel? beans in their tortilla? Clearly I need to work on my metaphors -- all of these images are making me hungry), I thought about fourteen years of wrapped up babies and comforted toddlers and tweens looking for a little reassurance. So many moments in my mind and scattered through my photo library, images of these kids enveloped and warm and safe.

Thank you Mary. You are a wonder.

1 comment:

  1. what a lovely way to describe this. i can only imagine how soft those blankets are...