"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Children's Tales

Out of respect for their privacy, I don't talk much about my kids on this blog.  They haven't asked me to do that but it is always on my mind when I post.  I wasn't even sure if I should put photos or mention Charlie and have kept photos and videos at a minimum.  When it comes to Charlie, there are some freaky people out there (of course, I don't mean YOU!), and my kids and their spouses have responsible jobs and probably wouldn't appreciate me going into too much depth about their lives.

That being said, I don't think it does any damage to share photos of the progress on the wedding quilt I am trying to finish up for my youngest girl, Kate.  She and her husband have been more than gracious about the, ahem, four year delay in completion.  And counting. 
Kate and her Sweetie were a long term couple when she told me in December 2006 that they'd set a wedding day the following March.  As in 4 months, later.  Gulp.  It was very exciting and I immediately launched into a blue wedding quilt made of pineapple blocks (one of my favorites).  I managed to get enough blocks stitched to get the top about half done when life really took off.  My son and HIS long term Sweetie decided to get married in August (five months after Kate's wedding), and sadly, Mom was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  She passed away on Mother's Day Eve. Between one thing and another, I never got back to Kate and Chris' quilt beyond a few feeble attempts that never gained traction.
While I quilt, I think.   Today, I thought about my three children (they are always near the top of the list). 

I was  blessed with fine, healthy children with good heads and loving hearts.  Not one of them ever gave me trouble or broke my heart. 
Bill, the oldest, was always a rock.  Next to no outbursts or tantrums.  He was generally calm, a tad stubborn, smart, multi-talented, frequently impatient and patient (depending on the mood), capable and confident.  He has never suffered fools easily.   I don't think there was ever anything that he did that he didn't do well.  And I mean, really well.  An auditory learner, you could talk to him even as a child and he would understand the nuances of what you were saying and accept hard facts he didn't want to face.   And even as a teen, he would look you in the eye, admit when he made a mistake and be able to discuss difficult topics, rationally and with amazing insight.  In dramatic contrast to my angst ridden, worry about minutia mindset, Bill could have been the poster child for "never let them see you sweat."  Utterly unflappable and while the rest of us might be running around flapping our arms like scared chickens, he'd just set an eye on you and bring the panic in a room to an instant halt.

He can be intense.

Bill is moody, ranging from happily affectionate (in rare moments, downright giddy) to unyieldingly distant.  With few understated words he can express the deepest love or the coldest disdain.  He chooses his friends (and wife) wisely and keeps them close to his heart.  He is like an old dock on still water that gently rocks and creaks but is amazingly solid under your feet even though on water.  A dock and a man like that feel as if they've been there long before you were, and will remain stalwart and unchanged long after you are gone. 
Bill was a philosophy major that went on to become a lawyer, surprising me because he is a deep thinker and artist.  I was not surprised that he went to law school because the intellectual aspects would appeal to him.  However, I rather expected him to drift towards the arts, music and/or writing, perhaps a college professor.

He has been a class act from birth.  Well, except the time the fish weren't biting and he got so jealous when Windy, my second child, finally landed one that he told her, "Congratulations, you just killed the last fish in this lake and now there won't ever be any more baby fish." (To this day, I can still hear Windy wailing in grief and guilt.)

Windy was, and is, passionate, emotional, loving, hard working, creative, and has more confidence in her little finger than I have in my whole body.  She wears her heart on her sleeve and not infrequently can cry, laugh, rage and hug, simultaneously.   She has gorgeous blue eyes and porcelain skin that give her away so she has no place to hide strong feelings.  And all her feelings are strong.  When she was a child and a young girl, I was so keyed into her, emotionally, that the onslaught of extreme emotion she would emote would frequently hit me like a shock wave and just about fry my own circuits.   And like a summer storm, the riot of feelings would dissipate and off she'd go to happily climb another mountain, leaving me reeling.
As a child, NOTHING stopped her.   I don't mean she was manic  -  I mean she was focused and determined.   She was the child who would try out for cheerleader or student counsel officer or something like that and just put herself out there. 

It used to make me absolutely crazy.  I would no more have done that and risked rejection or disappointment than I would stand on the corner and preach that the end of the world is coming next weekend.  But Windy just hurled herself into life.  She'd try, sometimes she'd succeed, sometimes she'd fail.  If the latter, she'd pick herself off, dust herself off, and hurl herself back at life without even taking time to lick her wounds.  And nearly every time, she would succeed the second time if she didn't the first.  But as her mother, I wanted to stop her.  I admit it.  I wanted to tell her to be content with her friends and her life and the little joys that come from being with people you love and not risk getting hurt because getting hurt hurt so bad.  It hurt ME so bad to see her struggle because she swam in waters that would have terrified me. 

Windy wasn't afraid to take risks (and I'm talking healthy risks) and I am just not like that.    

While she was a kid, I watched with wringing hands as she would get battered by swimming in the rapids of life instead of the kiddie pond.  When she became a young woman and the stakes were so much higher, I was just wild that she would get hurt.  Normally, I am not in favor of prescription meds or excessive alcohol but, in hindsight, it might have made life easier on the family if I had imbibed.  

Unlike her brother (or her sister) she didn't know how to protect her heart.  Or so it seemed to me.  One of my biggest fears was that she would abruptly reach a point where she lost her nerve and faith in herself, attributes that are such a wonderful part of who she is.  We've all seen that so many times, and her openness and willingness to take risks was something I couldn't control and couldn't stop.  It was like helplessly watching your child play in traffic.  

She was so cute, open, generous and just so damned endearing and excited about life. I wanted to wrap her up in emotional cotton and keep her safe but she wouldn't let me.  When she was little, I wanted to pound kids that were mean to her (I didn't but admit I lay awake at night and fantasized about it).   I was in a rage when her art teacher said something disparaging about one of her drawings (she was just a little thing and the drawing was actually quite good).  I was utterly unnerved when she fled to Boston for law school (over my strong objections) and I honestly don't think I was able to sleep all night for two solid years from angst. 

As the years passed and she came into her own, her passion transformed into courage as wisdom became part of who she is.  Her dry wit sharpened, she learned to constructively direct her fiery nature, and her generous spirit remained intact.   She is such an incredible woman and sometimes I wonder if she even understands how much she astounds me. I mean, I think she can do anything and she hasn't compromised a single bit of who she really is.
And just so you know, I am learning to deal with my worry.  In fact, I have encouraged my fearless daughter to ditch the whole law thing and teach dance. 

Then there is Kate, the loving little sneak with the merry heart and dancing eyes.  She was a bright eyed scatterbrain as a kid, but Bill always insisted she was the smartest one in the family and if he says so, it is likely to be true.  Certainly her many achievements would support that, though she's got competition from her siblings (all three are lawyers).  She once abandoned her truck that broke down on the way to highschool in the middle of a residential street.  She didn't call to tell us she'd left the truck until she got out of her next class (she didn't want to miss class or be late).  Sigh.  And yes, it was towed. 

Another time, she stuck a fork in a light socket to see what would happen (Brother Bill informed her, "Congratulations, you have broken the house and now it will catch fire and kill us all while we sleep.").  As I told her, later - "You had a good idea something would happen or you wouldn't have done it!"  Another time, she wanted to watch feathers fly out of her pillow when she stabbed it with a fork (I don't know what it is with her and forks).  The mutilated pillow was on her waterbed at the time and there were predictable side effects.

I understood Kate.  She was a bit fey when she was tiny and reported seeing all kinds of shadows and spirits; routinely had dreams that came true; and strong intuition.  I'd been the same way and often thought the gods knew what they were doing when they set her in a family that accepted that. 

Kate's emotions are open but contained and she is easy to be around because she can deliver bad news with a sad smile, and good news with a grin.    Kate was, overall, easy going, affectionate and relaxing to be around.  She was born understanding how people work and is both descerning and forgiving.   Kate in a bad mood is almost amusing - like a dog wearing a Halloween costume.  Her teachers and adults loved her because she was calm, funny, polite and reasonable. 

When Kate is hurt, she will sometimes tell you, sometimes not.  There is a tendency to accept on faith that everything is okay simply because she is not the type to punish someone who annoys her or hurts her feelings.  I wonder how many times I've said or done something insensitive that wounded her but didn't realize it because she didn't say.  She is full of grace with a poise and dignity that will wear well over the years. 

Kate met her husband-to-be while still in her teens and paired off early as did I (they'd been together about 8 years by the time they wed).  Like me, she tends to have a comfort level with a few close friends and family, and be content with those emotional connections.  She is completely loyal and supportive of  the ones she loves.

The youngest, she was spoiled silly and got away with things her siblings wouldn't have been able to sneak past us.  And of course, the fact is, we didn't watch her as closely because by the time she came along, we'd figured out that kids don't break.  Plus, she generally showed good judgment.  Besides, her older brother and sister would have let us know if she was getting in too deep.  Bill might have set her straight, perhaps without mentioning it to us.  Windy?  Windy might have told on her (Windy was such a tattle tale that she once informed us that Bill had threated to tell on HER about something, effectively busting herself).  Kate being Kate, sometimes took advantage of our cluenessness but never took it too far.  She seemed born with barriers that kept her from behaving outrageously.  I used to remark that she still has the first nickle she was ever given but was happy to allow others to spend their money to pay her way.  She used to swindle Windy shamelessly and Windy would let it slide (with periodic complaints).  But that was then.  As an adult, Kate is hardworking, talented, conscientious and dedicated to doing anything she does well.   She is brilliant, witty, loyal and as loving (and loved) as an adult as she was as a child.
Did I mention I am blessed?

Back to the Wedding Quilt.  I used my favorite pattern from McCalls Magazine (February 2006) to make six more pineapple quilt blocks in the past few days.
Each block begins as a simple four patch:

You add a lighter border (1.5 inch strips) and trim them just enough for a seam allowance:

Add colors to match the four patch colors - again, 1.5 inch strips:
This pattern is so easy it is embarassing:
 Trim 'em up:
You continue in this pattern (light, then trim, matching colors, then trim) and with each round, the pattern becomes more and more dynamic:

 They start positively spinning:

 The last step before squaring them is to add corners (using 6 inch half square triangles) that match the colors and trim the edges:
 The blocks - all six of them - came out PERFECT:
 These blocks haven't even been squared up:

Okay, so here comes a problem.  The first blocks I made so MANY years ago, didn't come out perfect.  I mean, it was back in the days of assuming following directions and straight seams were optional.   I hacked them up, cobbled them together, ran big seams and little seams and it is amazing they look as good as they do. 

It can be a curse to improve your stitching skills.

But what to do with these six PERFECT blocks that are too big to fit with the rest of the quilt top?

My first thought was to just hack down the new blocks to fit the old, no matter how crappy that looked or how unholy the whole procedure would be.  But I just can't do it.  I CAN'T.  I think I will just have to view this as a design challenge. 

I'll let you know what I come up with.

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl


ranette said...

What a wonderful tribute to your beautiful children Penny! I feel like I know and love them. You have every right to be proud !

I'm not sure what I would do about putting the old blocks with the new, but I look forward to seeing what you come up with.

Oh and I really enjoyed visiting with you the other day!

Linda said...

Why don't you take the corners off the old blocks, add enough of another row to make it match the size of the new blocks (even if it's only 1/2") then put the corners back on and away you go! I doubt the extra rows will show up very much.
Lurkin gLinda

Amanda karol said...

I LOVE this post....the whole entire thing!

Penny said...

Thanks, Amanda. :) And Linda, I think I've come up with a plan for what I want to do with it. I worked on it for awhile, today, and need to make about 10 more blocks but that should do the trick.
And thanks to you, too, Ranette. It was great to see you.

Stephanie D. said...

What a beautiful tribute to your children! It's apparent just how much you love them.