Sunday, July 29, 2007

crazy quilt days

When I was in college I saw a low budget indie film called, I think, Crazyquilt. Black and white and all about creative angst and stirrings of feminism, as I recall..I don't recall much, just the framework, the quilt, and the feelings.

I was working on my own actual crazyquilt in that period of time, living with my grandmother after a heartbreaking love affair, working in a library, saving money to go off on my first European tour. The bits in my quilt were mostly very tiny, postage stamp sized. I had no formal sewing training or experience and the quilt showed it--staggering stitches, puckers, big frayed corners. I worked on it while sitting with my grandmother in the evenings after work, as she watched the Lawrence Welk show and we talked about life.

"You are very patient" she said, looking at my growing coverlet.

It was probably the first time anyone in my life had accused me of that virtue.

All the bits came from my old dresses, worn out shirts, childhood scraps. My uncle, stopping by, noted that the quilt had no red in it. It is true, it started with mainly a sea of green and blue, a bit of yellow, but when he noted that I dutifully found a bit of red to put into the mix.

I worked on the quilt for...well, let me think...probably three years, maybe four. I finished it off on the east coast in a hard winter, embroidering all the edges carefully.

And it traveled with me, back to England, back to California. It shredded a bit and bunched. And when I was pregnant with my first child I took a corner of the torn quilt and made a baby blanket from it, backing the scraps with soft yellow flannel, embroidering more over the little squares. It wrapped him well in those early days.

I've made other quilts--yes, as imperfect and strange as the first one, over the years. The metaphor of piecing together a pattern--always a strange pattern, for all my quilts have been free form, crazy--of the pieces of a life, of bits from a past and present--seems such a true metaphor for my life.

These past few days I have had a few experiences that seem to want to come together but--I don't know the pattern. I just feel some odd connection.

My friend the beekeeper came by with a jar of purest sunshine. Pale yellow, sweet. Honey from the hives he has out where three rivers flow together. He said he thought the honey came from the wild owl clover that blooms there, purple and sweet. I held it to the light. I brought it to my youngest, and told him that Seth's bees had made some honey for us. We had toast with sweet light drizzled over it.

My friend the vegetable growing poet came by with a basket of small white peaches, and news of his bear.

Our bears have been coming by with regularity; what can we do? The little print of a small bear marks the back of our car; the dogs bark late into the night.

Out of nowhere "bearsmoma" left a comment back on a February post...the one about Jacob and Ida Hardi and their marriage certificate, which I rescued from a thrift store. In the post I mused about love, about family, about history, and wondered what sort of life the young lovers had. I imagined a happy one for them. The comment came from someone who said--yes, they lived in Dallas, they had 7 children. 6 grew to adult hood, one remains alive--his or her Father in law. And there are 15 grandchildren. One of the sons, for a time, lived in the city near me, and perhaps that is how this lovely certificate, all forget-me-nots and hope, came to the thrift store. I left a comment in return, telling my contact that--if it were desired--Ida and Jacob's certificate could go home. We'll see if I hear more. I was so pleased--the end of a story I thought I'd never know.

And a week ago I sat with my youngest son and a psychologist for an exam required in the latest "jump through governmental hoops" phase of our lives, now that Gabriel is 18, an adult. In a previous phone conversation I'd been promised games. But there were no games, just most of the same questions I've answered in writing 3 or 4 times in the last year or two.

Gabe sat in Sara's chair. The psychologist sat in the rose chair. I pulled up a stool. Champ the pitbull inspected the psychologist and found him worthy.

Gabe answered a few questions himself: favorite food (Pizza), name of brother. He drew a circle on request. He was asked to draw a square, and he drew...lines. Lines at the top, lines at the bottom, lines that curved into some private realm.
He was asked to draw a triangle. He stared at the doctor and drew his face, a frowning face.
It was about then I got to answer all the questions. Can he....No. And...No. And...No. No, he doesn't understand money. No, not at all. No, he does not jump rope.
Two hours of questions. A few jokes between--the guy was trying to be nice, respectful, and professional.
He'd talk to Champ now and again as well, which I am certain Champ liked.

After he left--no games, not necessary, everything very clear to him, though possibly not to me, I wanted to sit and cry. Not because it was uncomfortable, though early on the doc said "hmmm, you aren't used to thinking in these terms, are you?" No, I said, no I'm not.

I live with my son day to day. We have honey on toast. We go for walks. Sometimes I can coax a smile from him; often he is far away.

I realized from the questions and from the psychologist's response that, when the reports come back, it is likely my boy will have yet another label. To Down Syndrome will be added, perhaps, autistic spectrum disorder.

Nothing has changed. It is only words. And I love words; they are the other bits of my crazy quilt life. Little bright counters in a game. Things to roll on the tongue. New concepts to explore.

And life goes on, with sweet honey, with odd connections.

In my first quilt, when it was finished, the dark green wove through in a pattern like a river. I hadn't planned that,but as it grew the river moved through it nicely.

In my crazy quilt life I am not certain what color or pattern is weaving through it all. But I think maybe it is okay, maybe it will be, at the end, a surprise and a joy.

A little update:
I posted this, then checked my email, where another comment had arrived from someone connected to the marriage certificate. And this evening I looked into the gentle eyes of Jacob Hardi and the lovely, intense eyes of his bride Ida in her gown of patterned lace, with a billow of a veil and flowers in her hair. Jacob has a fine waxed mustache. The year is...I think 1910. This is the photo that went with that certificate. And tomorrow I will try to box up the framed celebration of that marriage and send it home. That family's historian told me a bit about her family; that Jacob was a baker; that one of the children, a girl, died when she was 10, and more.
I am thoroughly delighted at the strange connections made through this universe.

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