On Monday, I will be starting a project at work that has been hanging over my head since I started working there 5 years ago. The project is critical and extremely visible. So, you know, pretty much my worst nightmare ever. It is early Sunday afternoon right now and I’m doing everything I can to keep my anxiety in check. I’m not having a huge amount of luck.
So, for just a few minutes, I am going to think about something else.
I want to tell you about my aunt and uncle.
Technically, they were my great aunt and uncle. But to me, they were everything I needed in grandparents. My childhood was difficult. My aunt and uncle represented all of my security. They were a lifeline for me when I was young.
My Aunt Marg and Uncle Vince lost their parents and oldest sister while they were still children. Aunt Marg was the oldest and, at age 15, she went to work as a seamstress to provide for her younger siblings. The youngest was my grandfather.
As they grew up, most went their own way, but Aunt Marg and Uncle Vince never left each other. They grew old together. When I was 19, Aunt Marg died. Uncle Vince died when I was 20.
Aunt Marg made all my school uniform blouses and every year she made new short sets and summer dresses for us.
And she made quilts. She made dozens and dozens and dozens of quilts.
These quilts were not for show, but for function. She made them so everyone in her family would be warm and comfortable.
She only made one pattern, Drunkard’s Path.
Her quilts were thin. The top would be constructed from remnants cut into the Drunkard’s Path pattern and the underside would be a plain sheet.
Nothing went to waste in Aunt Marg’s house. Her quilts were made from fabric remnants, discarded clothing, curtains and table cloths.
I never knew a year of my life without one or two of these quilts in my possession. They were well used and well worn.
And they all fell apart.
I called my mom years ago after spreading my last quilt out.
It was ragged. I wanted her to fix it. I didn’t want to let go of that last quilt.
Mom: I don’t know, Shell. They’re so old. I don’t think I can fix it.
Me, looking at the quilt: Hey. Mom?
Me: Have you, umm, ever noticed what the Drunkard’s Path pattern looks like? I mean a little?
Me: I can’t believe I’ve never seen this before. They kind of look like Swastikas.
Mom: Yeah. Yeah, they do a little bit.
Let me be completely clear here. Yes, my mom’s family came here from Germany, but my aunt and uncle were not Nazis. In fact, Uncle Vince fought the Nazis in France. Still, that pattern does kind of, sort of look like a swastika. A little.
So, my last quilt was packed up and eventually tossed out well over 10 years ago.
At Christmas this year, my mother gave my sisters and I the most amazing gift.
She salvaged what she could from the quilts she had left and reworked them into smaller throws. She also cut what she she salvaged in such a way that it doesn’t look like a quilt made from swastikas.
I didn’t think I would ever see my Aunt Marg’s quilts ever again.
And now I have a new one.
This one won’t be for function. I will treasure this one. But I’m not putting it away. I need to see it. I’m hanging it on a wall in our bedroom.
So, when I go to work tomorrow, I will try to think about my Aunt Marg and how so much of my strength came from her. I will try to be grateful to have part of her back with me again.
Maybe then, I won’t be so scared.