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A patchwork life.

It's strange how priorities change as one grows older. Things that once arrived as a disappointment suddenly become a much anticipated gift. Though I was brought up in a family with a deep value of history and culture, I was a senior in high school before I realized that a fact I had tossed off as insignificant for years was really very fortunate. I was blessed with two grandmothers who were true artists in the medium of quilting.

In my early childhood, the unintentional tradition began that I would receive homemade quilts from my Mamaw Pierce for nearly every birthday and Christmas of my life. Though these masterpieces were exquisite and created with tenderness and affection, thoughts of Barbie and a new Cabbage Patch Kid seemed much mote appealing. Shamefully, I can remember a Christmas when, in my selfish childishness, I cried because I got a new patchwork quilt instead of the Pound Puppy I had been hoping for. This trend continued for many years, though I learned to camouflage my displeasure more convincingly.

However, one day the strangest thing happened. I was in the extra bedroom at my Mamaw Richardson's house when I saw something that literally took my breath away. Surprisingly, it was a quilt. The top was composed completely of huge pink dogwood blossoms with creamy yellow centers and soft green leaves. When I inquired about this particular quilt, my grandmother told me to bring her the needed fabric and she would create one of these beautiful works of art and give it to me for my very own. I went that day, purchased the necessary materials, and delivered them to her front door.

My sudden change of attitude towards my grandmothers' work seemed strange to me. Despite my past disregard for the closet full of quilts I had slowly accumulated, I found myself pulling out some of the older ones and admiring them lovingly on a more regular basis. As my love for these quilts grew, I decided I would use only homemade quilts in my home for the rest of my life. When I informed my grandmothers of this, they just smiled. It seemed like a nice idea, but not a very practical one. I had a lot of quilts, but to accomplish this plan, I would need a continuous supply. I would need a new quilt coming into my home every time an old one became badly worn, and my grandmothers' quilting days were already slowing down. Mamaw Richardson playfully told me that for this to work, I would have to learn to qui/t for myself. I need not state that in recent years, quilting has not ranked among the top ten pastimes of 18-year-old girls, so I just laughed. However, in the days to follow, I kept remembering Mamaw Pierce's response to a request that I made in elementary school for a heart-printed fleece blanket in the JCPenney catalog: "Store-bought blankets don't keep you as warm as a quilt does." So being my daddy's child, and just as stubborn as he is, I made up my mind. I would learn to quilt.

In the six years since I made this decision, I have pieced six quilt tops and quilted three quilts. All of this work has been done entirely by hand, just as my two grandmothers have always done. Many people have praised me for my patience to work so diligently to finish an entire quilt. Others have looked on in disbelief that someone my age would be capable of, much less interested in, spending time on such an old-fashioned activity. I am neither exceptionally talented nor patient. I also don't think of myself as old-fashioned. I know the truth. I was quite simply blessed beyond reason with a wonderful family that loves its members enough to give away bits of ourselves in the form of fabric and thread. I am also thankful, though, that for some reason my eyes were opened to this fact early enough in my life that I could appreciate and continue the tradition.

Rozane Richardson, a native of Philadephia, now lives in Starville, where she spends her time teaching second grade at Sudduth Elementary School and counting the days until next Summer, when she will marry Rob Fulton, also of Philadelphia.
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Title Annotation:On Being Southern
Author:Richardson, Rozane
Publication:Mississippi Magazine
Date:Sep 1, 2004
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