Category Archives: Musings

We Interrupt This Programming to Breathe

Just as I was taking a brief rest — Cheeto flea’s ridiculous shenanigans hadn’t escalated to the OMG WTF? level lately — here comes an oldie, but goodie, abortion banning.

Another time I will tell you a story from a long, long time ago, in the 80s, when I spent many hours putting up flyers for pro-choice rallies and hanging out with NARAL members, mostly angry lesbians who cared a lot about the issue, which I was more at risk for than them. I don’t think I ever thanked them (I was young and sheltered and they kind of scared me), so thank you!

I have a thousand other things I want to say, but everyone is already saying them or ignoring them or arguing about them, so I’ll just say this: I have been learning more about racism as a system problem, rather than an individual asshat problem, and that has increased my understanding a lot. If I think it’s an asshat problem, I can say, I’m not an asshat, he’s the racist asshat. He’s the problem. And I can feel good that I’m not an asshat and go on my merry way. But if I can see it is part of a larger system that so big and widespread, I’ve missed it (because I’m only focusing on individual asshats) then, yeah, I can better understand my part in the system and that the system functions outside of my asshatness. Then I can figure out how I am allowing it to happen and how as a white person I am benefiting from it. If that doesn’t make sense or you’d rather have the non-asshat version, read Robin Diangelo’s book, White Fragility. She’s more eloquent about it than I am.

Her book has encouraged me to see the abortion issue in the same light. I could see it as talking about my right to choose or whether a fetus has rights, but that seems to miss some of the point. Regardless of whether you think it’s killing a baby or I think it saves a women’s life, isn’t it weird that a man’s role rarely comes into our discussion? It takes two to tango, doesn’t it? Even someone who only drives the getaway car in a bank robbery is considered an accomplice and can get sentenced; a man’s role in creating a baby sure as hell is a little more involved than that. I know some people don’t give a crap about facts, but I can’t help myself. It is a fact that a man is just as responsible, even culpable if that’s your flavor of viewpoint, in creating life (or a biologic process of cell multiplication). So why aren’t there any penalties for a man who creates life outside of whatever circumstance pro-life people find acceptable? I think that’s kind of a big huge asshat legal blind spot, don’t you? I mean if you’re punishing people for accidentally creating life and then regretting it, and the people who perform the procedure, why stop at the women and clinicians? Why do you think that’s where these bans stop? How might men benefit from a system that only holds women accountable and punishes them for the outcome of sex?

Wait, unless is really isn’t about individual women and men, but more about a system created to do some nasty things to a specific group of women.

An abortion ban mostly controls certain groups of women. Sure, you ban abortion across the board so you seem like you’re being *ahem* “fair.” But the reality is women of means (most of them white) will still have access to an abortion if they need one. And women in the snowflake states will march and use their votes to fight back, keep access, and kick your ass if you come here with your pro-life placards, just sayin’.

So who is left to control? This ban cherry picks women who are poor, women who are Black, women who live in rural areas. These women already have a hard enough time getting access to regular health care to stay healthy for crying out loud. Nevermind, trying to get an abortion.

Now that is a lot of women, don’t you think? You can call them names if you wish to make yourself feel better, to feel like they deserve what they get. But can they really all be asshats who deserve to be punished? All of them? As much as it pains me, even I have to admit that it is statistically impossible for all those white women who voted for Trump to be asshats. Statistically speaking at least 2 or 3 of them must have some good qualities. So an abortion ban ends up specifically targeting certain women, and absolutely 0 men. It hurts and, yes, can even kill these women, whether they are asshats or not.

If you want an abortion ban, then you also have to understand you are also part of the system that is controlling and hurting this vulnerable group of women. You are also turning a blind eye to men’s responsibility in this. You can’t be for an abortion ban and be free of the consequences of how that systemically plays out. I get it, it’s easier to call out a blatantly racist asshat than admit I’m a racist who has been upholding and benefiting from systemic racism by not seeing it. Tracking men folk down who have sex is difficult, if not impossible. It’s easier to just blame and punish women, who have to deal with the reality of pregnancy and who already conveniently come with labels like irresponsible, hussy, and loose. But, see, that is a really asshat thing to do.

Don’t be an asshat.

For my fellow pro-choice snowflakes, let’s breathe together; here are some actions you can take, from a great, well-researched website called Americans of Conscience. Created by Jen Hofmann, it’s a weekly checklist of to dos for people who value democracy, equality, voting, and respect.

▢ Action 9: Support reproductive rights. [h/t Planned Parenthood]

Spread the word: Abortion is still legal in Alabama,Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, and everywhere else for at least six months until newly enacted bans and limits become effective, allowing for legal challenges as is happening in Ohio.
Donate:
Alabama Women’s Center: One of only three abortion providers in the state and the only one providing services up to the state-mandated limit of 20 weeks.
Yellowhammer Fund: Provides financial help for AL residents seeking abortion services.

▢ Action 10: Advocate for women’s equality and health. [h/t MomsRising]

Call: Your one House rep (look up).
Script: Hi. I’m calling from [ZIP] because I believe menstruation is a normal body process. However, the many who lack access to hygienic menstrual products often suffer indignity, miss work or school, and even contract toxic shock syndrome from using makeshift products. The problem severely impacts Incarcerated women. I’d like [NAME] to co-sponsor the Menstrual Equity for All Act (H.R. 1882) to improve access to these essential items.

We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Photo and item credits: Etsy

Déjà Vu All Over Again

My mother who will be 89 in a few weeks has been slowly losing her cognitive abilities, not in a straight line, more like a meandering path. She has no idea what time it is, what time of day or night, which, let’s face it is a completely human invention that makes most of us crazy.

So after telling her I’d FaceTime her at 6:30, she called me on the phone at 5 pm to say she was sorry she missed my FaceTime call and could I try again? Now let’s break this down. She has no idea what time it is and cannot track it, but she can still answer a FaceTime call most of the time. That’s meandering cognitive abilities, strolling though the meadow. Also, it’s not her fault she couldn’t answer a call I didn’t make because I was on the train making my way home. To call her.

I was in the park near my house when she called, and the previous week, I had spent a good 10 minutes speaking loudly enough for all my neighbors to hear trying to set up a FaceTime call. Did I mention she has hearing aids that don’t really work? Except when you say things you don’t want her to hear. That, plus not being a fan of yelling at the top of my lungs outside, I simply yelled, “OK!” hung up and ran the last few minutes to my apartment. Her not knowing the time is a double edge sword. On the one hand, it may seem only like 30 seconds till I call, or it could seem like an hour. Even money.

As I ran, I suddenly was transported back 18 or so years ago, when I’d leave work later than I had anticipated and have to run to catch the train or bus to pick up my son from daycare. At best you pay a penalty of $5 for every minute you are late. At worst, a teacher who doesn’t know you well can tell Family Services you are a bad parent, and then you have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do Lucy.

As I ran up the last steps, burst through the door shedding my backpack, coat, and grabbing my computer glasses so I could see her, I thought about the disappointment — hers now as she waited, maybe what was to her an eternity, or my son’s many years ago, as he was the last kid to get picked up, wondering if his mother had forgotten him.

Or maybe that’s just how it feels to me, running towards people who are counting on me.

I called, a little sweaty and breathing heavily and she answered right away. “I’m sorry I missed your call, boy, what a day I’ve had!”

“Really? Tell me all about it, mom.”

At least she can’t call Family Services on me and the call is free.

Photo credit: http://kcaneurology.com/home-page-3/attachment/woman-running-late-1024×1024/

 

 

 

Fresh Legs

Mike and I have been going to our dance place since 2014. Other people commit to being CEO by 40, running a marathon by 30, or some other foolhardy pursuit. Ours is dancing. We committed to becoming regulars, and so we did. Most Sunday nights we step into our little slice of heaven, having fun with our merry band of dancing friends, making new friends, and on occasion, impressing the young ones with our moves and our love of the music. I can tell that’s what they are thinking from the sidelines as they watch us and sip their drinks. Or that’s at least what they should be thinking.

But it isn’t all rainbow flags and unicorns. Sometimes people try to steal your scarf. Packs of straight people, who have no idea about the importance of a safe space for gay people, descend on us and stand in the middle of the dance floor talking, getting drunk and twerking, and then committing one of the most unforgivable of offences, hitting me with their silly purses because they are too cheap to pay $3 to check them. Meanwhile their menfolk stand around uncomfortably, wondering what they got talked into. All of this they could do in nearly any other bar in Boston — why invade our world?

Yes, it’s true, I’m straight, but I understand I am a guest here and respect the space and the people in it. If I want to do straight things, I do them in a different place. See how that works? Also, I enjoy making up a lot of rules other people should know because, I’ve been here longer and have more dance cred than you, oh-poser-having-a-one-night-dance-stand-you-won’t-even-remember-because-you’re-going-to-be-puking-soon. Yeah, that.

One week in particular was really bad. We were overrun with straight people. They were talking loudly over the music, and I can’t even tell you how that is possible. I have to wear professional custom earplugs and I could hear them. They formed their own little dance line, taking up half the space, not caring about the rest of us trying to bust a move. And of course, I got bumped multiple times with the stupid purses. And maybe that put me in a crabby mood, but the music seemed repetitive — how many times can you dance to the fast version of “Sweet Dreams (Are made of This)” while watching Annie Lennox wander around in the night in a white nightgown holding a lantern? I went home feeling as if there had been a shift in the gay dance Force, and not in a good way.

But then the next week, Stephen came.

Stephen, from my post, California Steamin’  was visiting our coast from that place. He is a New England native who got lured to California, and I’ve mostly forgiven him. He said he wanted to go dancing that Sunday. I’d had a long week and a busy weekend, and frankly would have been OK not going, but I had promised, and it was Stephen, who I don’t get to see that often. Also, I’m a committed professional, so my ass was on the dance floor.

I’m so glad I did. In being a regular, I had forgotten what a magical place our dance club is, even when it’s overrun by drunken, straight people. Stephen was having a great time, dusting off his considerable dance moves. After nearly every song, he’d say, “Oh, my god, I love this song! I haven’t heard it in years!” or “I love Annie Lennox!” And suddenly, Annie, floating through the night in her white nightgown, was transformed into an ethereal goddess of 80s music. And then I loved her too.

And I was transformed, remembering how lucky I am to have a safe place to dance to the 70s and 80s music that made me, with my dear friend and partner in living our best life, Mikey. And how lucky are we that we can share it with our friend Stephen?

Damn lucky, and thank you Stephen for giving me a fresh perspective and reminding me of that. Here are my beloved boys. Let’s dance.

stephen2

 

 

Beware the Webinar

Just a quick one this week. Was your week crazy too? Did the Super Duper Full Worm Moon have anything to do with it, do you think?

So in the grab bag of life, I received this email at work. The last blogworthy one I got had more corporate gobblegook than an HR policy 150 page PDF.

In this one I was cordially invited to a seminar on engaging employees. I do internal communications for doctors, so the invitation itself was not so unusual. It caught my eye, and not in a good way.

“Hi Sandy,

With your role in communications, I thought you’d find value in the highly-requested replay of a webinar we hosted with the CMO/CCO of Booz Allen Hamilton, Grant McLaughlin, on connecting and engaging dispersed employees.”

Um. “Booz Allen Hamilton”? It sounds like a name Saturday Night Live would make up for a skit. Booz? I work at a respected academic medical center, and I would be embarrassed to even say that to my boss. I’m not a complete Pollyanna. I mean maybe of you’re a music promoter, or a “lifestyle” guru, or someone who actually sells alcohol for a living. Then it might be kind of funny. I’m a Word Girl, names of shit matter. But Booz, and I’m supposed to take you seriously?

So then I must apologize to the younger set. I next thought, “Ooooh. This must be one of those young, happening, slim suit, bearded, buzzed side cut, overly gelled hair swoop on the top guys. Maybe with tats.” You know, this guy:

hipdude

I know, I’m being youngist. Apologies. I clicked on Booz’s CMO/CCO-kookookatcho Mr. Grant Hamilton’s link. Yeah, no. He’s one of my generation. Ugh. Now I’m even sorrier and can’t unsee it.

Grant McLaughlin

Now I’m into it like a dog with a bone. As if Guy Smiley here wasn’t bad enough, I decided to find out who the other esteemed speaker is, the “Communication Expert,” capitalized because, you know, that’s a Very Important Improper Noun. Here’s Becky Graebe.  You ready? Here she is…

Boozblogpic2

Is she even real? She looks like a Barbie doll. Becky? Are you in there? Does she blink? And what’s with the hanging light bulbs? If you look fast, it’s like a starry ballroom or something, with our slightly vacant-eyes “Expert” floating around.

As is fitting punishment for making fun of my fellow human beings, now I was just totally creeped out.

These people are out there. Giving webinars, seminars, and doing who knows what other “educational” things to unsuspecting, hardworking communications people.

All I can say is, stay sharp and watch your back. Booz and Becky are coming.

 

 

As

The Garden of Gardner

On a recent visit to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, I found myself drawn to the center courtyard, an enclosed space with water, plants, and a skylight 4 stories up. It’s one of my favorite places to escape in the cold winter weather. Isabella designed the garden and building with the Renaissance palaces of Venice in mind, and also incorporated numerous architectural fragments from European Gothic and Renaissance structures.

In previous visits I looked at the garden for a little while and headed the other rooms and three floors of artistic treasures of paintings, furniture, tapestries, ancient statues, and more.

But in this visit I decided to just stay near the garden and try to see everything I could in it. To look at it in a way I never have. Sort of in a meditative way, where you actually see the object, not the imagery and thoughts your mind thinks of when you look at it.

gardner 2

I don’t know how successful I actually was, but I periodically moved from seat to seat slowly making my way around it, to see it from different perspectives. I was also trying not to photo bomb all the young women who were taking selfies and then photographing each other on the stone bench with the garden in the background. One young woman spent so much time fussing with and flicking her long blond hair in preparation, I started to wonder if Vogue was doing a photo shoot. It made me feel wise and superior — oh look at those vain, young ones — as I leaned in slightly toward them to see if I could make them take a photo of themselves at an awkward angle to keep me out of the frame. Ah, youth. So fun to mess with.

There was a lot to see, and even though I spent about an hour and a half looking from the different angles, the details just kept coming–there was no way to see it all.

On the other side of the garden I found a book about it. It’s set out on the bench, so you can learn a little more. It said that most of the garden statues were of powerful women and goddesses, like Athena and even Medusa — death by snakes is pretty powerful. It teasingly mentions that Odysseus is tucked in the corner (I never did see him), and then the booked asked if that was Isabella making a statement about the power of women. Heck yeah! Her wealth and presumably a husband who was a good partner allowed her the independent life she led. So, yeah, I’m going with strong chicks in the garden for $500, Alex.

Then I noticed that the flowers in the book looked very different from the current flowers I was looking at — mostly white, which is a color I was getting all too much of outside. There were pages describing the careful attention to changing flowers for the seasons, spring, summer, fall — and all the elaborate cultivation of “warm” purples and oranges and yellows. Strangely they didn’t mention any elaborate preparations for winter, when the visitors are at their most color deprived.

Then in my little Zen experiment of being calm and really “seeing,”  I started to feel ripped off. In fact one passage said they start these long hanging orange flowers called nasturtiums with seeds in June and then grow them for 9 months, like a baby, until they are 15 ft long. There were pictures of the flowers hanging two and three stories from the gothic windows along the sides of the garden. Suddenly I’m counting 9 months after June — wait a minute. That’s right now. Where the heck are my pretty orange cascading nasturtiums? All I get is bunches of cold white flowers? There were a handful of pretty flowering maples in the back, which remind me of my beloved Memere, who grew them, but still. Mostly white flowers.

Where are my pretty, “warm,” colorful flowers?

I might as well have been flicking my gray/brown wavy hair and taking a selfie with all of the “wisdom” I was feeling right then.

Then the book explained what the big stone box was that I was sitting next to:

grapes

Because of all the grapes along the top, and because it is a good-sized box, I thought it was maybe used for crushing grapes to make wine. Can’t you see Lucy and Ethel stomping around in there? What? I’m a child of the 70s and 80s. Plus all the carved people are either looking at each other, or trying to grab their neighbor’s beautifully carved buttocks while also gazing at the other neighbor’s accurately carved naughty bits. Usually alcohol is involved in these situations.

However, the little book that taunted me with pretty flowers informed me it’s a sarcophagus. As in coffin. Excuse me, the Farnese Sarcophagus. According to the website:

‘The Farnese Sarcophagus is one of the most important works of art in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Its glorious images of cavorting satyrs and maenads has inspired generations of artists, collectors, conservators, and viewers.

This large, rectangular marble coffin was created in the area of Rome in the late Severan period, around 225 AD. The occupants of the monument are unknown, since the lid was lost or destroyed. It was rediscovered in Tivoli in about 1535 and its beauty inspired Renaissance artists.”

So, what do I know? I looked, and with my I Love Lucy education, made a really wrong guess. How can we ever really know what old things mean to the people who made them, 1,800 years ago?

We can’t. All you can do is be quiet and look as best you can. And try to not to photo bomb the young ones’ pictures.

 

 

Lights Out

I’m renting an amazing apartment in the Boston neighborhood of my dreams and feel like I won the lottery. It’s in an old building and as my friend who I’m renting from likes to say, there are no straight lines in this place. That’s what living in Boston means, with its 100+ year-old housing stock. All those kids living in the high-rise luxury apartments springing up in Boston like a toxic algae bloom have no idea what they are missing. I guess as the youngest child of four, I’m used to adapting to people and things that are bigger than me.

Unsecured doors swing open on their own, the bathroom door is loose and the closet door across from it door sticks. That doesn’t bother me a bit.

Then I encountered the light fixtures, which I believe predate my friend’s ownership (at least I hope so, or I may find myself knocking the toxic algae bloom door. Love you, landlord!)

It started with lights going out in the kitchen — fancy track lighting spotlights. Fancy to me because my idea of lighting is 40, 60, or 100 watts, and if you’re really getting crazy, use a 3-way bulb. I have tall ceilings, which I love, so, OK, I took out the tall step ladder Lora left for me, thank goodness. There are 3 little lights, and they don’t screw in, and they are flush to the fixture, so there is nothing to hold on to to get them out. Lora said there was a little rubber suction cup to pull them out. Um, OK. I couldn’t find that, but I like to think I’m pretty resourceful, so I thought I’d use a sticky ball of duct tape, which works only on the bulbs coming out. Putting them in, not so much because they get hot instantaneously, and then it just makes a melted mess and the bulb gets junked up. It took some coordination, what with being at the top of a ladder and reaching up awkwardly, but when I finally got it loose, I see the bulb has these two prongs you have to push in and twist to lock in, high up on a ladder in the middle of the kitchen. I’m not really looking forward to that part, but first things first.

You have to get your mitts on replacements.

It took a couple of stores to find the right bulbs. And then it took a couple of tries to get that first one in. I’m trying to match up the prongs into the holes and then twist it to lock it in, which sounds simple, except I’m on top of a ladder and can’t see anything. Just blindly stabbing the thing in there, hoping for the best. It finally feels like it snaps in. Great!

So when the second one went out a few weeks later, I thought I was ready. I had the bulbs, had some duct tape, had some experience. Not so fast, girlie. The second one wouldn’t go in. Or rather, felt like it was going in, only for me to climb down the ladder, turn it on and see it not light, or flutter on and off from being loose. I went from calm to a hot, sweating, swearing mess in about 10 seconds, which as you know, makes these tasks much easier. Sweating and swearing while teetering on top of  a ladder is not a good look for me, so I let that bulb stay out for a few days. Off course it’s the one pointed at where I cook,so my annoyance won out. It took another couple of tries, and it’s still isn’t clicked in quite right, but whatever. I moved on.

A few months later the living room overhead light bulb went out. It looks like an ordinary overhead light. I climb up the ladder, unscrew the glass bowl and discover more of these pronged light bulbs. Seriously? What is this, like the Betamax version of light bulbs? What the hell is wrong with plain screw in light bulbs? I gave a pass on the track lighting, because it’s seems like a fancy kind of lighting, which naturally requires extra things like suction cups and prongs. Fine. But an overhead light? With regular sized bulbs? Prongs? Really? Who even sells these things? Even more puzzling, it was one of those swirly tube bulbs — you know the ones that cost 10 bucks a piece and came out at a time when we’d only ever paid like $1 or $2 and the electric companies were giving us all discounts to buy them. Save energy, shine your environmental hero halo! Only to discover now that they are filled with mercury! Oops! Hey, don’t throw those away! True they did last longer, but you still have to get rid of them somehow. So not only did I need a light bulb with prongs, I had to hope they still make the non-swirly kind.

Light bulb people! Why do you feel the need to make a different kind of bottom for a light bulb? Just make the top more efficient and without mercury? Just focus on that, OK?

OK. Again, I had to make a couple of trips to different stores to find  a replacement. The young man who helped me, who most likely was born around the time these stupid swirly light bulbs were invented, gets a gold star for customer service,  because I went all “crabby old lady” on him. What with the prongs and the mercury swirl. He was appropriately sympathetic, in part because he only had one kind of replacement. I had no idea if it was the right wattage, I didn’t have a choice. That’s the other thing with these fancy/weird bulbs; they have no wattage or markings of any kind on the bulb or metal. So you can’t order them online, because you only have a picture to compare to, and guess what: size does matter. And, what, one wattage fits all? Or you know it’s not going to last on the market so why bother?

OK, I bought two bulbs for $20 bucks and change from the nice young man who did not judge me to my face. The package says they will last 10 years. Yeah, right, just in time for them not to be made anymore. I went back up the ladder and anticipated a prong wrestling match like the track lights in the kitchen. But lo, it’s amazing what leverage and easy access can do. It was in!

Phew, OK.

Not even a month later the dining room ceiling light bulb goes out. Ha! You can’t fool me twice. I’m ready with my pronged, efficient, non-mercury filled light bulb. Come at me bro! I get to the top of the ladder, unscrew the bowl, and there it is, laughing at me.

A conventional screw in bulb.

Screw the bowl back in, down the ladder, put the prong bulb away and fish out a conventional bulb. Back up the ladder. OK, done. Whatever.

Not even a few weeks later, a bedroom ceiling light bulb blew out. I’m really starting to hate all these ceiling lights and make a promise to myself to only use the floor lamps.

I climb up the ladder, but I’m not really paying attention. I mean, I have prong bulbs and I have conventional bulbs. What else could possibly be in a traditional-looking ceiling light fixture? I unscrew the bowl, which by the way is becoming a major pain in the butt. All these lights have pull chains and you can’t get the bowl off the chain, so you have to hold the bowl, while your taking out or putting in the bulb.

But I digress.

And what do you think I found behind light bulb door number 3? Three small lights, apparently called “torpedo candelabra” bulbs, and two of them were out. I thought of a few things I wanted to torpedo. Sigh. At least they have conventional screw bottoms.

Another trip to the hardware store, with bulbs in hand, and I was only  a little grumpy with the young worker. At least these bulbs seem more available. And the prongs taught me to be happy with the screw in version.

So the only light left to change is the bathroom light/fan set up. I’m going to stop using that thing tout suite. 

Photo Credit: Beautiful Halo: Ha, good luck replacing lights in that sucker.

Quilt Trading

Although I don’t have a comforter, I own 2 store-bought blankets, one of which is the infamous, 70’s polyester indestructible f***ing pink blanket, reserved for outdoor movies at the Hatch Shell in Boston. The other is a more conventional cotton number that is on my bed, but before you start a gofundme for blankets, know that I am not bereft of warmth, and that I don’t need to depend on my occasional night hot flashes. What have served as my blankets and bedspreads (do people even use that word any more?) and, yes, comforters?

Quilts. Specifically, ones made by my grandmother and my mother. Most of them are at least 30 years old, but there are a few younger ones. At least one, what we used to call a car blanket, is older than me. You put it in the back of the station wagon to pad the four kids rolling around back there unbuckled on long car rides. Then we pulled over on the side of the road to eat bark in caves. Go ahead and laugh, I’m still alive and use it as a picnic and beach blanket.

My Memere passed away in 1994, and my mom is now 88 and has Alzheimer’s and has lost a lot of her sewing ability. But I still have their quilts, and by proxy pieces of their happiest moments. As a kid my Memere made us summer quilts and winter quilts. When I was a teenager, she took requests, and I asked for with one with horses, which I still have. I received a larger one as a wedding present (it’s the one on the far right in the top photo). The marriage dissolved at the 20-year mark, but the quilt is still around — a little worn in places, but it still works and still has the tiny stitches Memere lovingly sewed all those years ago. Then my mom picked up the quilting bug, and so I have a smaller fun quilt she made that folds into a pillow for those trips to see movies at the Hatch Shell. She made it after coming with us a few times when she visited. She was so excited to find the pattern. It’s a perfect annex to the pink blanket, and more recently has started to serve as a warm place to sit in my wood floor for meditation. Then when her grandson came along, she showered him with several baby quilts and then a quilt for his “big boy” bed. As a teen, he got another quilt with colors he picked  himself.

My mom found a bunch of quilt tops Memere never finished, so she started on those. Those are amazing twofers because they have the stitches and love of both. My favorite is made up of Memere’s handkerchiefs. Back in the day no respectable lady was without a handkerchief. She had many of all designs — scalloped edges, birds, flowers, and even states. After I divorced, I changed out my wedding quilt for the handkerchief one. When I moved last year, I noticed that some of the delicate handkerchiefs had holes and were worn. I told my mom, and she still had some of Memere’s handkerchiefs and sent them to me in the mail.

My preferred fiber arts activity is crocheting, which Memere also did; despite my rich legacy, sewing for me is a utilitarian skill — buttons and small holes primarily. For a good year, I looked at the quilt and then looked at the replacement handkerchiefs, felt fear in my heart and then picked up a book or the remote and told myself I’d tackle it another day. So many tiny stitches all in perfect straight lines or perfect curves! So many tiny stitches. I liked the idea of adding my stitches, but I also didn’t want poor Memere to roll in her grave when they came out all big and uneven. My mom continued to encourage me and tell me it didn’t have to be perfect, which is easy to say for people who make perfect stitches. I knew she was right, though, so I started asking her about the steps, and what I had to do. Finally, I took a deep breath and dove in. The easier part was removing the damaged handkerchiefs. A seam ripper and several episodes of Modern Family are all you really need and are quite cathartic. A little more challenging was picking new handkerchiefs, placing and pinning them and sewing around the edges. I started that last winter and just recently finished. I bought some time by declaring the summer too hot to work on a big quilt that has to be spread on your lap.

I rested on my laurels a bit, but those darn seasons keep coming and soon it was winter again, and I had to stare down the barrel of the actual quilting — this is the free-form thread that either follows the along with the pattern of the fabric or can just be an outline of an object like a heart. Unlike the stitches around the border of the handkerchief, which are not the focus of the quilt and can hide on the sidelines, the quilting itself is like the front and center cheerleader, at the top of the pyramid, doing a split. Did I mention I favor crocheting? But my mom kept telling me to not worry and just put the stitches anywhere and have fun. I told her I might even use bright, colored thread, just for kicks. She was delighted. On this snowy Presidents Day I took the plunge — making the initial “L” for mom and Memere’s names (Lorette and Lumina), and then I’ll spell out Memere and Mom. Wish me luck (you can already see “Memere” ain’t gonna fit in that space)!

quilting

So while the handkerchief quilt is being repaired, I put my old wedding quilt back on the bed, but it too was fraying and in a way that is not as easily repaired — “easy”! Ha! While I have a decent quantity of quilts, only those 2 fit on my queen bed. Just buy one, you might say, and I might say, after all this time, I’ve been spoiled and am a handmade quilt snob. I’m not putting any mass production quilt on my bed — it might give me hives — or heaven help us a “comforter,” which is hot and heavy, and not in a good way. What can I say? I’m a delicate snowflake flower.

Then I thought of my aunt who caught the quilting bug and does beautiful machine quilting. She laughingly declares she doesn’t have the patience for hand quilting, and after quilting the letters “L” and “M” today, I am totally in her camp. In our little quilting world, machine quilting is on the edge of blasphemous, but I’ve seen her work, and it’s stunning. I also love her passion and that she is carrying on the tradition in her own way. I thought I might commission a quilt from her.

Before I could though, my sister said she had a quilt that mom made that never really fit on her bed, and that it was actually making her sad because of mom’s decline. Was I interested? She sent me a picture.

It was perfect. It’s my mother’s Quilting Opus — made of 56 squares that feature a different quilt pattern, with fabulous names like log cabin, bear’s paw, crazy house, and windmill. So the quilt made its way to me — no hives, just gorgeous, artistic comfort.

quilt3

And the trading doesn’t stop there. My brother has a few decorative quilts my mom made to hang on the wall, and when I moved to my current apartment, he gave me one that he didn’t have room for. I’m still deciding on the perfect spot. I’m sure as we reconfigure our homes and lives, we’ll continue to trade, swap, and share the quilts.

In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of crazy quilting to do.

Photo: Left to right, my sister’s weding quilt, the handkerchief quilt, and my wedding quilt.