February 12, 2010

USA: Memory Piece

. PORTLAND, Maine / Time Goes By / The Elder Storytelling Place / February 12, 2010 Memory Piece By Lyn Burnstine of The Lynamber Times As I write, my left hand rests lightly on the quilt. Four generations - my blood, my lineage - chose, sewed, wore and loved these jewel-bright fabrics. “Flower Garden” is the pattern, with double rings of six-sided pieces around sun-yellow centers. Each scrap is individual, yet connected, as are the people who wore them. Even now, my first-born carries a new child in her body - the next connecting link. Here, a blue print that she wore proudly to school (the neighbor watched from her window to see what the little “fashion plate” was wearing each day). Over there, the checked dresses and smocked hats that she and her sister wore to the World’s Fair. People stopped us to admire the “beautiful little girls in their beautiful dresses.” Baby brother was too young to go but look, there is the green plaid shirt that Grandma made for him. (I’ll bet she liked having some boys to sew for after all those girls: my sister, me, my two daughters). Maybe my two nephews wore it first. Memory blurs! My sunsuits are there, and my sister’s. The little white ducks must have been hers and the pink Scottie dogs mine. Mother didn’t think redheads should wear pink. The sunsuits remind me of going barefoot in the dusty clay of those hot mid-western summers, a half-century ago. When it rained, it made wonderful toe-squishy “chocolate pudding.” I was happier wading in that glorious mud or gazing into the eternity of a puddle than trying to toss softballs to my sister. She didn’t see the world through bottle-bottoms as I did, making an agony of sports. My daddy’s pajamas are over on the edge. There, that brown print. On dark winter mornings when I was nine or ten, he’d hold me on his lap while sitting with his feet up on the “warm morning” coal stove. No central heating has ever felt as cozy as that. My first grandchild has his face, but with blond rather than dark hair. He never got to see my other grandchildren. I want to ask my mother, “Which pieces were your dresses and which were the ones you made for Grandma?” That dearly-loved grandmother, who outlived three husbands, taught my mother how to make her first quilt more than ninety years ago. While I sat with an elevated football-sized foot, she taught me to sew the pieces together. (That was the time the red wasp wove his stinging way in and out of my toes seven times.) I want to ask my mother, but she can’t tell me; she doesn’t remember that we went to the store an hour ago. Her memories, no longer linear, are like the quilt: the pieces from all those years in a patchwork of design, random bright clusters that she wraps around herself, picks out and says, “There, do you remember that?” And so do I, on this icy winter’s night, as I huddle for warmth--and find it--under my precious quilt of memories. My great-granddaughter Maybelle, the sixth generation! [rc] © 2010 Ronni Bennett