Originally sent to newsletter subscribers, but I've decided to share this here as well.
This is the story of a quilt. It is a quilt that is showing it's age - the binding is coming undone, there a few marks from who knows what, and the label can hardly be read anymore for the fading on the back. Sometimes it smells a little because it got damp, I didn't notice, and then it sat in the car for a few days before I washed it.
I started the quilt about a decade ago. The top was assembled in my first ever attended mini retreat. My memory is a bit off on this, but I think there were 6 of us gathering at my quilt mentor's house. I was the youngest by at least 20 years. But gather we did and in one afternoon we assembled a quilt top. Then we had a little raffle and I won the top! It took me a few years, but I added to it - one of the few quilts I've ever made with borders. And because it was one of the largest quilts I'd ever made at about 90'' square I sent it to a long armer, the mother of a girl I worked with. I remember obsessing about which panto to use, then learning that on a busy quilt it really doesn't matter. Then I likely obsessed about the right binding fabric. I was still a relative beginner and every decision seemed so big.
In the past few years that quilt became our picnic quilt. We take it for after school relaxing while the kids run around. It comes to the beach as a respite from the sand. Basically, if the opportunity arises where we have to sit on the ground, this quilt comes.
So, of course I had it one day in the mountains last week. We were meeting up with friends who'd spent the week camping. The quilt laid by the shore of a pond while the big kids ran around exploring. One adorable 18 month old kept trying to pick the candies on it, mistaking polka dots for M&Ms. After our picnic it went back in the car. Adventures by the river, rock balancing, a potluck dinner all came next. The kids explored the woods and staked claim over secret hideouts. A fire was lit, marshmallows emerged. A tree was climbed.
Then someone fell. She fell from the tree and the collective gasp of eight adults and twenty kids sucked all the breath from the forest for a minute or an hour. We parents jumped into gear, a flight attendant calling on her training, Dads calling on their instincts, Moms keeping the calm, kids trying not to freak out. At one point I recall someone asking for a blanket for the girl, or maybe I just thought she needed one because the sun was setting and she must be cold. I ran for my quilt, my old and stained picnic quilt. I covered her legs, one broken badly from the fall. With assessments done and a fear that the ambulance may never come despite one Dad racing down the road until he could get a cell signal, the call was made to move her, to take her to the ambulance. This girl was so strong, so brave in those moments.
So we made a bed in her family truck, a king cab. The tent and pillows of one family, packed up for a departure before the rain, extended the comfort of the seat. Someone, maybe me? Placed the quilt over the seat. One small gesture of comfort for what was likely to be a harrowing ride. We moved her, calmed her and her parents, and they sped away. The rest of us reeling and picking up the pieces of the nearly shattered, remaining children. There were tears and confusion and fear. All I wanted to do was wrap them all up in a giant quilt and giggle and feel safe. That was to come, but not just yet.
Only broken bones. Only. We cannot What If? for the days and days to come, even though it feels nearly impossible not to do so. Two days after the fall I got a text from the girl's Dad. He was almost apologetic for the battle scars the quilt now bore. There was blood. Just blood? Only evidence of a life lived, for the quilt, and a reminder of survival. The quilt helped move the girl from the truck to the ambulance, like they use sheets in the hospital. Then it helped keep her warm in a drafty hospital room. But the quilt's job was over now. Later that day I delivered a different quilt, one whose only purpose to that point was as part of my act telling stories in a trunk show. It deserves a better life, a life of true comfort.
This, this is a story of why I quilt.