The Quilt

The Quilt

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom

The Quilt

Our lives are like quilts—bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, stitched with love.
~Author Unknown

I had heard about it for about a year and a half before I ever saw it. In our cross-country, bi-weekly phone calls, my mom would talk about the progress she had made.

“I have the material picked out.... I finally finished piecing it together.... I’ve been working on basting it to the batting....,” and finally and triumphantly, “I’ve finished the last stitch!”

Through the whole process, I was enthusiastic and supportive, but, curiously, somewhat disconnected from the actual work that was taking place. My mom had created fabulous quilts for my sister and brother and now it was my turn.

I first saw it on Christmas morning at my parents’ home in Whisler, Ohio. I knew it was finished and that it would be making its way into my hands. The thought warmed me and made me feel very much like the little girl that I had been growing up in the country all those years ago. Christmas morning rituals came and went, bringing with them a sense of wholeness that I sometimes felt was missing in California because of the distance that separated us.

The moment had come at last. Mom went to the closet and returned with her treasure. There it was! The culmination of literally hundreds of hours of work that she had repeatedly told me was “a labor of love.” As we spread it out before us, the vibrant colors and patterns delighted me. She had captured my love of nature in the cool greens. The maroons and oranges were a reflection of countless sunsets I had witnessed throughout the years. Each large square contained five stitched hearts to represent the timeless bond between a mother and daughter. The pattern was called a Dresden Plate, and it did indeed look like a plate with fans of material radiating from the center.

As my eyes drank in the myriad colors, I was overwhelmed with thoughts and emotions.

“I really don’t deserve something as beautiful and special as this!” I reflected on the many occasions on which I felt I had disappointed my mom. But her eyes told me a different story. I saw pride and love, and I know she saw it reflected back from me as she looked into my tear-filled eyes. I really don’t know what I had expected to feel, but this was more raw and intense than I had imagined.

As I touched the fabric and ran my hands across the warm, textured surface, I remembered something Mom had said to me during the course of her creation. “I sit, and as the needle moves in and out, I think of you. I remember you as a smiling baby on my lap, your first steps and utterances, sending you off to elementary school in the new dress I made for you, sleepless nights waiting for you to get home on the weekends in high school, helping you pack for college, and watching you drive away with your friends in your rusty old van on your way to California.”

It hit me then with such clarity! With every stitch, she was memorializing our memories. To a stranger, this piece of work might have seemed like an attractive but ordinary quilt. But to my mother and me, it was a legacy, something no one else in the whole world could share. It was ours. And now she was giving it away to me. I wondered how she was feeling. Was it difficult for her to let it go? Or was it a relief to pass it on?

I would get a sense of what she might have been feeling eight years later when, in the same room, in the same house, I too gave away something I had worked hard on. I had hand-stitched a baby quilt for a family friend. This was a project I had therapeutically worked on during the month I spent at home helping to take care of Mom as she slowly slipped away from this world from cancer. During that time she, along with my sister and aunt, taught me how to quilt, and Mom was shocked that her un-crafty daughter would take it up and do a terrific job on top of it. She never knew this, but this was a mission, and it kept me sane. I needed her to see that I could and would continue her legacy.

Unfortunately, the passing on of my quilt was somewhat anti-climatic. Our friend expressed gratitude, but it wasn’t the big, overwhelming reaction I had expected. I knew what my mom and I had felt eight years before was deeper. My mother had given me the ultimate gift of love, made up of a series of squares, patterns, and colors that would warm and comfort me until we could meet again.

~Hope Justice

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners