She covered her walls with newspaper to keep out the cold. Her quilt patterns were cut from her children’s arithmetic papers. I still wear her pink apron, made of flour sacking. Much repaired with fine, meticulous stitches.
She was a Depression era bride. In Appalachia. Of necessity, she became a master in the art of stretch. Of making things go further than one thought they might.
Into this austere life of thrift, she wove strands of beauty. Seemingly unnecessary. But, I imagine, very necessary.
We all grew up sleeping under her quilts. Her children. Her grandchildren. Even her great-grandchildren. I have thought of her often while working on a quilt for my grandbaby. Of the love she poured into every stitch. Of the joy she must have felt as she watched something so lovely grow under her hands.
I have dragged her peonies with me to multiple houses over the years. She loved peonies. Every year she would haul wheelbarrows of manure from the cowshed to nourish those beauties. It is a fitting metaphor, perhaps. Coaxing something exquisite out of something lowly. Like weaving gold from straw…
I have pillow cases that she embroidered. I try to think when she had the time. She drew her water from a well. Raised, dried, and canned everything they ate. And cooked it on a woodburning stove. She did not have indoor plumbing til long after I was born. What was it that compelled her to carve a space in her life, in the lives of her family, for something pretty?
It is this that stitches my heart to hers. This necessity of loveliness. This imprint of the Creator.
My grandmother has been absent the earth for just over 18 years. But in a week or so, her peonies will open again. Their stems will nod from the weight of the luscious blossoms. Tonight, someone she loves will sleep under a quilt she stitched some winters back. And it’s very likely that today, some one of her progeny will weave a little extra beauty into a humble task. Seemingly unnecessary. But, I imagine, very necessary.