Saturday, August 14, 2021

Gallivanting for Fabric

Good morning Noreen! Are you dressed? Face on? Had your coffee? Feel like going for a spin? 

Well, no. And no. Not soon?...where to? Puzzlement leaked through the phone. What was I up to?

It sometimes takes coaxing to get her out of her house. I know it's good for her to get out and, after she's been persuaded, she does too.

I need more border fabric, I told her. Nine yards -  no kidding,  nine yards - of backing. This quilt will cover a football field. Sale today at Nana's. How soon can you be ready?

She was still arguing with herself when I got there. Did she feel well enough to go gallivanting? Though still vacillating, she was dressed, spiffed and caffeinated. I took that as a yes and off we went.

Noreen is almost a decade older than me (and I'm getting up there!) She had a stroke a few years ago that put an end to her dancing days but she still has all her marbles, stays up with the latest in politics, world news and health care. Me? I'd rather hide under a bush, or in a quilt shop (as we were about to do) and hope that the politicians all sink into the oceans they don't seem to give a rat's hind quarters about and choke on all the plastic accumulating there.

Nana's was humming. Their sale was a fiftheenth anniversary celebration of their opening. It's a small, cozy quilt shop and I settled in to do some vacillating of my own. One of the biggest challenges in quilting, for me, is choosing the fabric. Especially when there is so much to choose from. But, miraculously, I found what I wanted in less than ten minutes. The quilt in question is in Kaffe Fassett fabrics which break all the rules I learned when first I started to quilt. 

Light, medium and dark for starters. KF designs blithely ignore that one. Small, overall designs (think calico) was another. KF specialises in big, splashy florals. Suffice to say I'd been intimidated even contemplating such a quilt. But now I was one furlong from the finish line. No more vacillating. Nine yards please.

That's it, behind pieces of the KF.
It should calm things down

Spotted in the restroom
Can you read the sign?

Oh, I don't know if there's that much here, said the assistant, eyeing the bolt doubtfully. But I had counted folds and felt confident. Turns out there was eight and three quarters. I'll make it work!

Onwards to Quilted Twins for the yard and a half I needed for my last two borders. They were opening at one o'clock. We got there at twelve thirty and thought we'd have to kill half an hour - until we saw a light inside and "Open" on the door. The quilt gods were smiling on us. We had the store to ourselves - a bonus for Noreen - not having to navigate around crowds of intent fabric shoppers and risk falling. 

Because they weren't busy yet we even chatted with Rachael, the woman who started the store with her twin sister,        

She told us how the shop got started. Her sister was in Poland with her missionary husband. While the husband preached the gospel Becky saw the need for warm blankets in the freezing winters there and decided to make quilts. She asked Rachel, her twin, to send her fabric. Rachael's children were grown, she had the time, so she started hunting. And found that, though not a quilter herself, she loved selecting fabrics. Soon she had more fabric than even her sister could use so she started selling it on line. Some of her customers begged to be allowed to come and select fabrics in person. The rest is history. Quilted Twins is only open a few days a week. The other days Rachel and her staff are kept busy filling orders on line. And with Covid, anyone with half an inclination to quilt has moved into hundred percent mode so they stay busy.

I was elated. Not only had I found backing fabric that would work to calm my KF quilt, I'd got the last piece on the bolt of my border fabric. Noreen used to make beautiful quilts when first I knew her. She doesn't have the energy for it much anymore. But she did get fabric to make a baby quilt for her soon-to-be-born first great-grandchild. We were both happy as larks, but exhausted from spending all that money. 

And hungry.

Off to The Green Door for a delicious lunch. Then home again, home again, jiggedy jig. 

I called Noreen again this morning. She's still kicking. She took a nap when I dropped her off and is feeling no ill effects. It's good to have friends to go gallivanting with.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

One of Nature's Gentlemen

 I run to answer the telephone which hangs on the wall between the kitchen and dining room. The desert sunshine streams through the open windows while the yellow curtains billow gently in the breeze. 

Life is good. We're young, our beautiful baby girl is down for her nap. Our first child - a black Labrador named Suzy, is curled up on the grass outside, chasing rabbits through doggy dreams. We're on the OC's first AF assignment in the middle of the Mojave dessert. When first we arrived here I thought we'd come to the ends of the earth, but now it's the birthplace of our firstborn, we live in a house on a tree -lined street with a fenced-in garden, our neighbors are all friendly, young like us, starting out. This is how life is supposed to go, right? 

But I was only playing at being a grownup. When my mum's voice came crackling down the line from the other side of the planet, my world crumbled. The sun still streamed in through the window, the curtains still billowed in the breeze, Suzy yawned and stretched in the grass outside, stood up, circled a few times for a more comfortable dreaming position, then settled back down. Mere seconds had passed but my life, in those few seconds, was changed forever. My dad, my beloved dad whom I adored, was in the hospital, about to have surgery for a tumor on his brain. The outlook was bleak. Life was a tragedy and I was a four year old.

Marilyn, a woman who lived across the street from us, stepped into the breach. Our husbands worked together, she had a daughter the same age as ours and two other children, but I hardly knew her. Nevertheless she took command of the situation. Our little girl, barely eighteen months old, had no passport. No worries, said Marilyn. No arguments, said Marilyn. Go see your dad, said Marilyn. I'll take E every morning while J goes to work. He can have her back in the evenings. Everything will be fine here. Go see your dad. 

And so I went and sat with my dad. I was glad to be with him but wondered how things were going back in the desert. The OC had grown up with European immigrant parents. Men did not cook; men did not change diapers; men certainly didn't wash those diapers or any other clothing for that matter. That was women's work. Would my daughter be scarred for life without even the benefit of ever meeting her grandad? 

The OC meanwhile, applied for a passport for her. My father-in-law (referred to in older posts as The Carpathian Prince) pulled all the strings he could find, both to expedite the passport and get me back to California without going bankrupt. Everything fell into place. My dad was stable for now so I flew home. Miraculously E had survived. In fact she didn't like me anymore! When I tried to give her a bath my first night back, she howled for her daddy. Turns out he'd risen to the challenge with help from Marilyn. He was chuffed that E was now "Daddy's girl."

In a few days she forgave me and we flew back to Ireland. Now two of us sat with my dad. As a child, I used to tell anyone who'd listen that "my Daddy will be charmed with me." Now he was charmed with his granddaughter. But he was getting weaker every day. The operation had removed some of the tumor but couldn't reach it all. It was growing again. And fast. 

I was with him when he died. He was smiling and pointing at the ceiling, but I couldn't understand why. Then I remembered how he had told me that his mother, my grandmother, had done something similar. Our Lady was coming for her, she said. And now she was coming for him.

My heart broke that day and it never completely healed. I know that death is part of life, something we all have to face sooner or later. I wish he could have faced it later. He was fifty six. My children never had the pleasure of meeting and knowing him. He was, as so many people said to us at his funeral, one of Nature's gentlemen.

There was never any love lost between The Carpathian Prince and me. At best, we tolerated each other, but I will always be grateful that he moved heaven and earth to get me home that time.

That was forty seven years ago. Marilyn and I are still in touch on a weekly basis. Nobody could ask for a better friend.

We no longer live in California,

and Suzy long ago went to doggy heaven.

E survived, is all grown up, married with two teenage boys of her own. She replaced her toddlerhood best friend, Suzy, with Marty. She and Marty communicate in Schnauzer-speak, a language unique in that each speaker speaks with a pronounced lisp. Everyone needs a doggy friend!

Our phones are in our pockets now but when they ring, I still, sometimes, get a little tremor of dread, remembering that day in California and the breeze through the yellow-curtained windows.