A Piece of Themselves

A Piece of Themselves

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Book of Christmas Virtues

A Piece of Themselves

Some see a group of women, twenty-three strong. Others see a group of twenty-three strong women. Everyone sees that their fingers are flying nearly as fast as their mouths.

Going to Pieces, the quilting guild at the Fort Drum, New York, army base, is at it again: their monthly sewing spree. It’s a time each woman anticipates. A time to share patterns and platitudes. A time to trade ideas and intimacies. A time to join quilt blocks—and lives.

With many of their husbands deployed to the Middle East, the women seek relief in this regular gathering. Finding strength in numbers, they learn to emphasize life over loss, joy over loneliness and victory over defeat. In part, they achieve this closeness by telling stories— mostly about their children. They laugh over the latest toddler’s antics, cringe over an adolescent’s angst, roll their eyes over an update on teen fads and fashion. And the telling and sharing bind them into a sort of extended military family.

Even while war’s dark cloud hovers over them, they choose to meet and mingle—especially with the holidays creeping nearer.

But tonight’s mood is somber.

Something is obviously absent: There are no Christmas patterns in sight. No button-eyed snowmen, beaded holly or smiling nutcracker appliqués in hoops. No splashes of seasonal snowflakes, gingerbread men or angel prints on tables.

There’s no casual chatter about old favorites like Log Cabin, Irish Chair or Tumbling Blocks. Neither do any of the women introduce new patterns, show a quilt they’ve recently completed or suggest working on a sampler.

Tonight a reverence blankets the room. Rather than creating individual blocks to join, they know this particular quilt requires more—a personal piece of each of them to make the whole. The project they’ve chosen echoes that faraway place always so near in their minds: Iraq.

The pieces they cut with such precision come from a young man’s clothes. His desert-sand camouflage— fatigues and battle dress uniforms that will never be worn again, never be needed again. The template they pick is Lover’s Knot—the pattern they see as most symbolic of the quilt’s purpose, as well as their own feelings. The pieces will fit together like a complex jigsaw puzzle.

And the women wish they could as easily fit together the fragments of their compassion, their unspoken grief, their empathetic heartbreak.

Each snip and stitch is done with the knowledge that this quilt will go to one of their own. The family of the oh-too-young soldier who paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

When memories dim—until there is nothing more than a feeling, a taste, a smell to remind him of the Daddy he’ll never know—it will wrap a lonely child.

When night presses in—to remind her of the husband whose death left a jagged hole in the fabric of her life—it will swaddle a sobbing widow.

With this purpose in mind, these stoic women hold in tears of their own to cut and piece, quilt and bind. And, when their work is completed, they will bestow the quilt with love rather than pomp . . . with gratitude rather than ceremony.

Why?

Because these sorrowful sisters, above all others, understand the sacrifice involved, and this is how they choose to express their appreciation.

Carol McAdoo Rehme

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