I've been working on a very special project. It has been tempting to blog its progress, but I wanted its recipient (and my collaborators) to be the first to see it. I've written in this space before about the amazing woman Papa's Grandma Wilson is. Among the many other things she has given in her life are a collection of spectacular quilts commemorating her descendants' weddings and children (the two she has given to my family are shown in this post).
Some of her daughters and granddaughters and I decided to return the favor. For the last several weeks, the women of the Wilson family have been lovingly crafting unique, commemorative quilt squares in Grandma's honor. Meanwhile, using Noni's photographic chronicle of the family, I have been creating log cabin pieced photo squares showing the faces of Grandma's 6 children, 13 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren and 1 great great granddaughter.
I made photo squares depicting Grandma and Granddaddy Wilson when they were newly married, and joined them with a simple pieced heart of vinatage fabric.
When all the squares were complete, I pushed our dining room table aside and began piecing the story of this woman's amazing life.
Sometimes, there are greater things at work than we can put a name on. I had been collecting everyone's squares for weeks, without counting them or designing the finished product until I had all squares in my possession. For the photo squares, I created four for each of Grandma's six children and their families, plus two of Grandma with her children and one each of Grandma and Granddaddy--that's 28 squares. When I finally counted the squares everyone had created, I was amazed--but somehow not surprised--to find 28. The quilt designed itself.
We decided to present the quilt top the night before Sunday's family reunion. Noni and I snuck into Grandma's room and spread the quilt out on the bed, then invited Grammy and her sisters to come in. Somehow they all made it in before Grandma did, and when she arrived, she noticed it right away--and I think it began to sink in, as she looked at every face, every square, what a life of love she has led.The next day, Papa and his cousin hung the quilt high at the family reunion. Dozens of relatives took their time looking at the quilt, appreciating the love this woman's family has for her. I held it together pretty well, despite sleep deprivation and a swell of pride and gratitude--but when I caught Big B telling little b who some of the people were on the quilt, wrapping his arm around his little brother, I almost melted. Without this woman, my children would never know a family of this size, with these traditions, woven with strong love and togetherness through generations. This family has inspired me to begin family reunions on my side of the family tree, the first of which we held earlier this summer. New traditions. Another chapter in her legacy.
Look at these beautiful women! We will all gather together this fall to finish the quilt in the only way Grandma ever has: by hand. Many hands, working together, weaving the story of a family.
It was indeed a true honor to stitch together the story of this woman's life thus far. She has many stories left to tell, I suspect. I am just grateful to be included in her circle so I can hear them.
"I see the wise woman. She carries a blanket of compassion. She wears robes of wisdom. Around her throat flutters a veil of shifting shapes. From her shoulders, a mantle of power flows. A story band encircles her forehead. She stitches a quilt; she spins fibers into yarn; she knits; she sews; she weaves. She ties the threads of our lives together. She forms a web of spiraling threads: our lives invented and shared."
-Susun S. Weed