Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mr. Starling’s Quilt

Grandma baked a lattice-top cherry pie for the church social.

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I went to the barn this morning and found two fresh eggs, still warm.

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Uncle Bobby got a job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door, but he really wants to play the clarinet.

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Mama washed my quilt today, and hung it on the line to dry.

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This quilt is one of the best I’ve ever made. I swear, the whole process just kind of did itself, and I sat back and watched it happen. I usually spend hours or days fussing over little things like running out of basting pins or breaking the last sewing machine needle or having the entire machine itself seize up and refuse to function. It never goes smoothly, never.

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This time, it did. Imagine my complete delight when I had the perfect backing fabrics in the cupboard, a cotton batting on hand in the closet, a yard of pink for the binding, and enough thread to get me to the end without an emergency trip to the store.

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I did change my mind about one thing—I was going to use gray as the alternate patch color, but after I had everything cut out, we went away for the weekend, and the whole time, I was thinking about that, thinking about the gray, and was just not feeling it. So when we got home, I went to the cupboard, and there was this, just sitting there smiling at me, patiently waiting.

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My seams all lined up (and I don’t try very hard at that, believe me) and my quilting stitches are as perfect as I can make them. On the Loaner Machine, I did that! I think I am in love with the Loaner, and have been entertaining brief fantasies of trying to keep it forever. I should tell you, the Loaner is an old-model Bernina, one of those metal ones that ticks along like a Swiss clock as you sew. It just inspires confidence! If only it could wind a bobbin, I think we would be ready for a permanent relationship.

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These lovely prints kept calling to mind my favorite great-uncle, who was one of those old-time farmers, the very best kind with his Farmall tractor and his dog and his overalls with the red handkerchief in the back pocket. He had two kinds of clothes; the overalls with a blue chambray shirt and work boots and a soft cloth engineer cap, and his Good Clothes.

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He had a few good shirts, had probably had them since my dad was a boy, and his wife washed them carefully, mended them when they needed mending, and he wore them whenever he had to, and not a minute more; Sundays, Thanksgiving Day, to funerals. His shirts, and the wide ties that came with them, looked like these fabrics. They were immaculate, and they looked like 1948.

His car was the same way, actually—an utterly spotless 1960’s model Plymouth or something like that, just a car he had because a man has to get his wife to church somehow.

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This quilt would’ve been on the four-poster bed in the upstairs room where I slept when I stayed with them. There were lace curtains on the windows, roses on the wallpaper, and sheep in the pasture just outside, murmuring away as the sun came up.

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I could tell stories about life on that farm all day long.