The Hundred Year Quilt

 fabric1My good friend Gail visited me last week. We typically begin each conversation by laughing and making sure that we are indeed still friends.

We met while serving on our county’s Behavioral Health Board and quickly realized we had a long list of similar interests, including a love of art and creativity, the outdoors and community service.

Then, one day, I made the mistake of sneaking out of the meeting for a few moments and came back to find I had been elected chair.  Stuck, I shepherded the Board through a challenging two year transition period of sitting on far too many committees with the tasks of integrating Mental Health with Alcohol and Drugs, finding a new Department Director and changing our bylaws.  I had hoped that I would leave the Board with a predictable schedule in Gail’s capable hands when I moved out of the area.

No such luck. Gail has had her hands full.  We both know I got out at just at the right time, with one crisis after another landing at her feet.  She’s doing a great job and I am very, very grateful it’s not me. I’m also very glad we’re still friends, despite me setting her up as the next chair. 

Last week when she visited, we wandered over to our favorite local Quilt Shop, looking at the fabrics and ideas, knowing full well that my expertise is limited to a Quilting for Dummies’ rag quilts and Gail’s not even sure where she stored her sewing machine.  But, it’s fun to imagine what we could do, if only we knew what we were doing.

When we returned home that evening, I showed Gail a pattern I had downloaded three years ago for a Mixed Brick Quilt.  It is large enough for a queen size bed, very attractive and supposedly for all levels of expertise, including beginner.

uh huh.

As I said, I’ve had the pattern for three years and can only get through the first two paragraphs before zoning.

Gail read it, also zoning, but kept reassuring me that she had full confidence that I could successfully make the quilt. And, if I could, she could…

I think I gave Gail the same pep talk as I packed up my stuff, handed her the chairperson’s gavel and bolted out the door.

So, last Friday, I spent two hours back at our favorite quilt shop, purchasing twelve different materials that I think will go together.  Hope may be the operative word. Then, I brought them home, with directions to first wash the fabric with something called a color catcher and then iron with a light starch.

I had to iron? Iron? Starch? Before starting? Are they kidding?

All of which meant I had to find the iron and ironing board.  I knew I had gotten them when I married almost 50 years ago but have avoided using either one.

In no time at all — ok, I was watching the Warriors do a number on the Pacers so the ironing wasn’t all that tedious — the yardage was properly washed, dried, starched and ironed.  It dawned on me as I stood at the ironing board, more engaged in cheering on Curry than starching and ironing, that somehow I had missed out on all the domestic stuff I could have learned as a child.

Of course, I had two brothers, a father and a mother who had five brothers and was herself a bit of a tomboy. It’s no wonder that I never learned to cook, iron or sew.

But I could catch, throw and hit a baseball, and catch and throw a football — and not like a girl.

I remember back to my teaching days, when a football bounced its way across the quad and I scooped it up.  The boys shouted out, asking if I could hold it for them. Fat chance.  I threw it — a perfect spiral — across the quad, over the heads of the mob of students and right into their midst.  I gained a few brownie points that day.

Today, however, I am looking a paragraph 2 of the quilt directions — something about cutting out 386 bricks and blocks before proceeding to paragraphs 3 and stitching them all together and then cutting them again.

Holy Mackerel, this is going to take a hundred years or more to complete.

The next conversation with Gail should be very interesting.


Last Exit

IMG_0226My friend Jane has a background in theater and music. Over the years she has occasionally been assigned to direct high school student musicals.  Usually, however, she hides and pretends she’s merely another English teacher, while keeping her fingers crossed that the current administrator doesn’t learn of her expertise. 

However, I think Jane is a frustrated director in need of an adult play and cast.  She’s been bugging me for years to take her concept idea for a Broadway hit and write the script.  She already has the title, Last Exit.  As soon as I started this blog, she called to remind me once again of the play.

As any of you reading these entries know, Jane and I consider ourselves sisters, part of a larger group of sisters and a decades-long friendship.  We’re pretty sure we were all family in some weird past life, and it’s always delighted me how we can simply pick up the thread of a conversation even if we haven’t been in touch for a while.

Dianne found us earrings that remind us of our sister relationship — taken from early cave dwelling artwork illustrating four women.  We wear the earrings at sister events or to lend support when it’s needed. 

I remember walking into a School Board of Trustees meeting and sitting down next to one of the principals.  Mary, one of the sisters, was presenting so of course I had on my earrings.

The principal leaned over to say hello, spotted the signature earrings and grimaced.

OK, I knew about you. I even knew about Suzanna and Peggy, but Mary? Mary? Mary is a sister too? Tell me it’s not true.

I smiled.  We’re everywhere.

He sighed. We do know about The Sisters.  If the group shows up to advocate for anything, we’ve all agreed to just let you have your way.  It’s easier.

I smiled. The administrators of twelve high schools and a central office prepared to acquiesce without debate or bloodletting. Countries should take note.

As we’ve retired, we still get together, but now we also show up en masse for illnesses or injuries, taking a day here, a meal there, a drive to the doctor’s or just visiting. We’re very fortunate to have one another.

With that kind of background woven through the fabric of our lives, Jane and I are certain it will continue until our final curtains. At least we came to that conclusion one evening over plotting, laughing ourselves silly and a bottle of something or other.  

Jane wants to make us into a smash Broadway hit, so we can all retire well above our current teacher-retirement means.  She has the plot down and most of our parts cast. I believe Jane has selected Ellen Bursten to play herself and Judi Dench to play me, which, in itself, it’s pretty darn cool. Jessica Lange, Allison Jenney, Shirley McLaine, Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren and Cathy Bates round out the headliners.  You really won’t want to miss it.

While not giving away the entire plot, because we will want you to purchase tickets, the play follows a group of aging sisters reflecting on their lives with lots of laughter and some tears.

The play opens with the sisters at Mimi’s grave site following her unexpected passing, which, in reality, happened almost four years ago.  We make a pact over a bottle or two of wine that when one of us is dying, the next youngest will, um, accelerate the transition — gently and with love, of course, but eliminating as much suffering, lingering and impact on the savings account as possible.

And, so it goes, one sister at time, until only the youngest — enter Helen Mirren — is left standing alone at the last grave site, waiting to face the music and police.

As she is escorted off stage by police, exiting stage right, she smiles grimly with her final words.

At least now I’ll have free room, board and medical care for the rest of my life.