The time was fall of 1976. I was a young wife and mother with a baby and a toddler.
Christmas had always been a magical time for my mother, my father and me. However, I had married into a large Irish Catholic family with traditions different from ours.
My husband’s family was planning a big Christmas gathering, with family members flying in from the Northeast, and my husband wanted us to have gifts for everyone. Everyone equaled about 18 people. We did not have a budget to support that, but the 1970s were a time that embraced a lot of arts and crafts and luckily, I was a part of that movement.
My husband gave me a very limited budget with which to work my magic. I first made sure our own two young boys had gifts, then I processed how to provide gifts for all of the other relatives. I opted to do some plaster painting and a lot of macrame (both very popular at the time). I spent countless hours painting some figurines: a Laurel-and-Hardy for my in-laws, a bust of Mozart for a friend who loved classical music.
Then I began to weave skeins and skeins of jute into macrame plant hangers, each one with beads that matched the décor of different family members.
As the holidays approached, I recognized that I had nothing for my own parents. They were by far the most generous to our family and yet I had no gift for them. I was also out of money. I looked around and decided I would try to make a quilt for them, in time for Christmas.
The problem was, I was not much of a seamstress. I had never learned to quilt and I had no money for fabric. I did have a couple of bags of clothes we were planning to give to the Salvation Army. I pulled the clothes out — old flannel shirts from my husband, Winnie-the-Pooh sleepers from my baby, some old jeans of mine and anything else I could find — and began cutting them into squares.
I found some discounted quilt stuffing and a remnant of red flannel for the backing. I sat night after night sewing the pieces together. I called it my “poor girl’s quilt.”
It didn’t look like much and when the time came to gift it to my parents, I had tears in my eyes thinking they would hate the gift. They loved it.
My mother asked about each square and loved that it represented the whole family. She was so complimentary of my first effort at quilting. For years afterwards, whenever I would visit my parents’ home, I would always see the quilt on her rocking chair.
When my mother passed away, I brought the quilt home. It has been packed away for years, until just recently when I brought it out and refurbished it with new backing and filling. It still is a pretty sad example of a quilt. However, whenever I feel like things are tight, I can take it out and remember a time when I had even less. I can recall my babies in their sleepers, and my old comfortable jeans, and I can know that my parents sat under the quilt on a cold night and felt its warmth. It may have been a “poor girl’s quilt,” but the love it holds still persists today.
Everybody Has a Story welcomes nonfiction contributions, 1,000 words maximum, and relevant photographs. Send to: email@example.com or P.O. Box 180, Vancouver WA, 98666. Call “Everybody Has an Editor” Scott Hewitt, 360-735-4525, with questions.