My mother, product of a very practical education in what it meant to be a woman, including the beginnings of a degree in Home Ec from Cornell (she snuck over to the Social Work department later without telling her parents), knew how to sew almost anything. She had one of those ancient sewing machines with the lever you push with your knee, a beautiful Singer that sunk into its own lovely wooden cabinet.
I found it terrifying and never learned to wrangle it successfully.
But really, I had no need, because my mother sewed blouses and jumpers, costumes for plays, even Bermuda Bag covers to match the popular wrap-around skirts of my college years. She kept scraps of everything, from the Laura Ashley fabrics on the throw pillows in my old bedroom to a piece of the Mary Poppins fabric from a little sundress made in 1965.
After she died in May, 1993, I discovered the boxes of fabric scraps, which even included the remnants of bed-hangings and draperies professionally made. My mother liked to keep things.
Almost two years later, after an amniocentesis that confirmed this baby did not share the last baby’s problems, a genetics counselor asked if I wanted to know the sex of the baby. She knew I had two boys at home. I felt at that point I didn’t really care, I was so relieved to know we had a healthy baby, that there would be no repeat of the particular suffering of three years earlier. With an attitude of "whatever," I said, "Sure."
I could hear the smile in her voice as she said, "It’s a little girl!"
Somehow it was harder to think of having a little girl without my mother, which may sound strange because we had a difficult relationship. The sorts of early adolescent snags I have now in communicating with The Princess were a lifelong struggle for us. But I knew from the effort she expended to do things for me that she cared. She showed, rather than telling.
I called Quilter Friend and asked if she would make a quilt for my baby, and whether she would be willing to use some of the material in my mother’s boxes. My brother’s wife packed and shipped them, and Quilter Friend and I had a wonderful time going through the boxes and her own shelves of fabric to find things that would work together.
In the background of all this, the church choir in which I sang with Quilter Friend’s husband, had also approached her to make a quilt for my baby. In the end it was a "surprise" gift from them, full of more love than I could have imagined when I considered the little girl who would never know my mother, her kind touch, her patience with block-building and Ninja Turtles, her way of organizing a drawer or a shelf as magically as Mary Poppins.
(Click on the picture for a larger view at Flickr.)