Sentimental lady. Perhaps this attribute best describes the lady he loves. Of all her charming qualities, which are many, this is one of her best. Memorabilia accumulated over forty years still lives in boxes, stuffed in closets, attics and under beds, which supports this fabulous quality. As a result, recent efforts of “downsizing,” have become monumental.
“If you haven’t worn, touched, looked, or even thought about it in a year, it has to go!” the self-assured rule maker boldly states, as he drags box after box of these dusty and schmaltzy jewels, from every nook and cranny.
“Okay,” she replies, knowing without a doubt, this rule is about to go out the window soon, causing friction in their somewhat perfect union.
Box after box pile up. Christmas decorations, photographs, kid’s clothing, kid’s toys, yearbooks, cards given thirty years ago, and on and on it goes. Heck, there is even a red flyer wagon and a wooden rocking horse!
“They have to go! If we are “downsizing,” we won’t have room for all this extra baggage,” the pragmatic one said, mostly to himself, placing a large trash can strategically next to her, hoping the nostalgic one will catch the hint.
She glances at the empty trash can. Slowly, and sly, she sneaks items back in their original box.
“Remember the rule,” he states.
“Your rule,” she says, with tears of joyous memories running down her eyes.
“At least one of us can make a dent in all this junk,” he thinks to himself, as he fills the trash with his old stuff.
And then suddenly out of nowhere it happened! He noticed something that had been a part of his past. He had passed by this item many times over the years and honestly, had forgotten about it. However, periodically, it had brought back memories. But why was it coming back now, of all times?
It was a quilt.
“Glance at it for old times’ sake and then let it go,” his head says.
But then, like a genie being released from her lamp, this old quilt spiraled in front of him and took control of his heart. Slowly, the patchwork quilt revealed a myriad of memories. It contained a list of names. Twenty names, to be exact. Names handwritten inside individual patchwork squares. Reading them one by one, like magic, his childhood days began playing on the big screen of his mind.
To him, these women were rock stars of his youth. Women who helped formed the early solid foundation of his childhood community, Promise Land, located a few miles north of Hamburg, Arkansas. One by one they unfold in his faded old memory bank while he slowly revealed more and more of the quilt.
She made him cookies when he was oh so young. And so did she. She took him and his friends to swim lessons. She was his Sunday School teacher. She always was so nice to him. She taught Helping Hands at church and introduced him to flannel gram stories for the very first time. She was his dad’s old girlfriend. She taught him how to use an old wringer type washer. He loved visiting her and seeing her Cuckoo Clock. Her granddaughter was a great friend when he was in college. On and on go all the memories as he finds his fingers lingering over the names of these patriarchs of his community, as the patchwork of his mom’s friends represents the patchwork of his young life; one he cherished. He knows these fine women helped form a solid foundation that influenced who he became to this very day. He has come full circle.
Visions of smiles forming on their hardworking and well deserve wrinkled faces appear in his mind. Women whose sole mission in life was to please their God, husbands, kids, and grandkids. Effervescent smiles ever present, even with aging bones aching or hearts breaking. These ladies represented the backbone of their families.
He vividly recalls watching these ladies make those amazing quilts. Their gentleman hung a wooden contraption from the ceiling. The ladies stretched the backing, added stuffing and then, sitting in chairs around the quilt, by hand, sewed the patchwork top and completed the quilt. Hours of sewing, along with conversations that covered many topics, including some that could be construed as gossip, occurred while the kids played under the quilt on the floor, in their imaginary castle.
Some of these names, Riley, Kelley, Collins, Higginbotham- were first branches from his family tree. They were some of the earlier settlers in his community. Names traced all the way back to Ireland, England, and Scotland. They traveled via boat, then land through South Carolina, across the plains of Georgia, and the mighty Mississippi River to settle, several generations, in this wonderful community. Thousands and thousands of miles of heart, love, demanding work, worry, smiles; their blood runs through his veins and their spirits are still with him to this very day.
These ladies share many common traits. Their chosen home was in the land of tall pine trees, soybean, and rice fields full of water moccasins, and mosquitoes as big as fireflies. They were fantastic growers of things in their enormous gardens and, of course, the best cooks of those things they grew, which produced fantastic eaters of those fabulous meals.
They were walking examples of love thy neighbor as thyself, work hard and play hard, and strict church goers every time the doors opened.
Their vocabulary comprised of sayings such as, “over yonder, I’ll carry you there, hold your chin up, don’t get your dauber down, get off your high horse and night-night.”
They were against drinking, dancing, shorts above the knee or doing any work on Sunday, unless, of course, the “ox was in the ditch.”
He tries to let this quilt go. He knows he does not have the space to keep it. His head says he has to let it go. His heart says to hold it dear.
This quilt has warmed his heart. He is at peace. He notices a stronger desire to love his God, his spouse, and his family.
Rest in Peace Ladies! You did good.
The quilt must live on. He cannot let it go. Some memories are just too valuable to release, no matter how much water is under the bridge.
Turns out, he is a sentimental man as well.