I haven’t been writing – which is a surprise to no one. My lame excuse is that I can’t. I sit down to try and words just don’t come…or the words that come are ones I don’t think anyone wants to experience – especially me. Words that show pain, and loss, and sorrow bubble up out of me and push me back down the well I have (mostly) climbed out of (mostly – my grip on the edge of the well pit is tenuous). I have embraced other avenues of expression – photographing and sharing my blooms and blossoms with my frozen friends and family in the north, cruising social media without leaving much more than photographs and sharing memes…and lately – quilting.
Quilting appeals to me in many ways. I appreciate the precision, accuracy and attention to detail required. I love the way colors and fabrics and textures all come together to make a statement. To paint a picture, if you will. I love that quilts are meant to warm, and comfort.
I have joined several quilting groups and forums. One group calls their members “Visual Storytellers”. Most of my quilting efforts have been for a children’s charity. Mostly special needs children. I like to think of these little ones (and frankly, not so little ones, as the charity includes teenagers as recipients) snuggled happily in something that I created. The story my quilt will tell them is this: You are valued. You deserve to be comforted. You are as unique as this quilt – all the pieces together tell its story as all the pieces of you tell your story. Each put together in its own way.
I hadn’t thought too much about being a visual storyteller until I was asked to create a memory quilt for a young woman, 20 years old, who was struck, dragged, and killed by a motor vehicle while crossing the street from her dorm to attend her college classes. Her grandmother asked me to do it and I agreed. I’m a grandmother. My eldest granddaughter is nearly 20. I wanted to help her tell the story so I agreed we would do it together.
I met with B discuss the quilt – to be made from the granddaughter’s t-shirt collection and mementos from her short life. B carefully lifted each item from a large storage tote and spread it onto the table between us. Whether consciously or not, she placed her hand briefly on the spot of each shirt where her granddaughter’s heart would be. She explained the importance of the item – cheerleading, student government, races run (and won), places visited and fun sayings.
She explained to me how her granddaughter interacted with the world – stopping occasionally to tell an anecdote of their time together. Her hopes and dreams. Snippets of the young woman’s life. The enormity of her loss hung between us and was buffered only by the grandmother’s love and desire that her granddaughter be remembered and my willingness to make that happen. We went over the photos, activities, beliefs and actions of a vibrant being cut down needlessly. It was emotionally draining and oddly empowering. I left the session with a clear vision of how to visually tell this story in quilt format. I would become a true visual storyteller.
I am reminded that I have my own storage tote of shirts and mementos to be made into a memory quilt. When the time is right I will smooth each shirt lovingly, and place my hand where his heart would be. I will create a vessel for comfort, remembering, and loving. I will be a visual storyteller.