To me, the title of this post sounds like these words should be in an anthology of sentimental pioneer stories written in the late 1800s. This is the title I want, however, so I am wondering where these words will lead me.
Looking Backward: Forty years ago next June, my sister-in-law, Betsy, made my husband, Tom, and me a quilt as our wedding gift. It took many months for the whole project to come together. Tom drew Hopi designs (or at least what Frank Waters thought were Hopi designs) on squares of cloth and Betsy embroidered them. She patched these squares together with squares of cloth she had taken from old shirts, skirts, and jeans. The skeleton around the patches was dark blue broadcloth (I think that’s what you call it). The quilt warmed our beds in our dumpy Salt Lake City apartments. The quilt was bright, bold, and strong, just as we all felt back then.
I gather now that I wasn’t supposed to wash the quilt as much as I did. However, there were the two of us and two babies (mewling and puking), and I like things clean. Please keep this in mind for a few paragraphs.
Way Back: I never could sew and I can’t sew now. I mean, I can sew on buttons and fix little rips and that is it. Because I wanted to make Christmas gifts by hand for my kids and because I was poor, I did piece together a few flannel nightgowns, some stuffed animals, and, I believe, a Superman cape for Robert, and sleeping bags for Martha the doll and Railroad Dog the stuffed animal. Way Way Back: I’m so old, I was required to take Home Ec when I was in 7th grade. I made the worst, the ugliest, the craziest-pleated kilt in Milford (MI) Junior High history. I kept it for years, although I do not know why. Please keep this mind, too.
Fifteen Years Ago: Some of the patches on the wedding quilt were falling apart. Maybe I had washed it too much. A few patches almost disappeared along with some of the embroidery. We bought bright—but not as bright—quilts and coverlets at L.L. Bean and packed the wedding quilt away.
Not Too Many Years Ago: Tom and I started thinking about what we might do when we retired. We planned to travel back to Utah and explore the places we’d missed, like Capitol Reef and Escalante. We told Betsy we’d pick her up from her little Utah town and go adventuring together again.
Five Years Ago: Betsy just up and died and we miss her.
2013: A) Tom and I went adventuring on the Colorado Plateau. We saw Black Dragon Canyon with Blaine and Bonnie, but Betsy, their dear friend, wasn’t there. We camped in Capitol Reef and it was even better than we had imagined. B) We got back to our house in Charlottesville, Virginia. We took some paintings out of storage. The wedding quilt was protecting one of the paintings. We lay the quilt on the lawn and saw that, really, only a handful of patches needed to be repaired.
Two Weeks Ago: I can’t sew worth anything, but I finished repairing the wedding quilt. It lies now on our bed and we will put it in the camper to go back to Utah when the new year comes. Although the quilt, and we ourselves, are not as bright, bold, and strong as when we were young, it’s alright, and, this time, Betsy will come along with us.
Here’s the song that always reminded us of Betsy:
Oh, had I a golden thread
And a needle so fine
I’ve weave a magic strand
Of rainbow design
Of rainbow design.
In it I’d weave the bravery
Of women giving birth,
In it I would weave the innocence
Of children over all the earth,
Children of all earth.
Show my brothers and sisters
My rainbow design,
Bind up this sorry world
With hand and heart and mind,
Hand and heart and mind.
(The Judy Collins version (from Whales and Nightingales, 1970) of “Oh, Had I a Golden Thread” by Pete Seeger, 1959)