Material Grief

It’s quiet. For the first time in how many weeks, I have some peace and quiet. The kids are outside, and Clem is off doing something, and I, am finally by myself. Which means, I’ve had some time to think, a precious rarity these days. Good or bad, it’s time and I’ll take it.

Clem helped me this weekend, and together, we tidied up our basement. I’m happy to say, that my sewing room is ready for me to have some creative time in it. It took more time to put together than I thought but I’m happy it’s done. My creativity time is extremely valuable to me, but it’s often put behind everything else, so this is monumental for me right now.

Everything has its own place, finally, and as I was putting away the last few items, I managed to trip over my sister’s sewing basket. It’s a Thirty-One Gifts tote bag containing her material and other sewing notions, many remaining within its unopened packaging. I’ll always remember what I felt when my mom brought it over, shortly after her passing, confirmation.

It’s just some material, but is it?

To look at it, would be unimpressive, but for me, it holds deep significant meaning. A somewhat intimate meaning, that gives a mere glimpse into her creative and beautiful mind. It’s half full of a few folded yards of fabric from miscellaneous quilt shops, and it also contains the many pieces that she’d sewn together over the last few years of her life. These were to form her very first quilt. A very first quilt, that never came to fruition.

As I look at the vast array of fabrics that she had chosen, I understand that they are a direct reflection of her. My mom and I still reminisce of our envy of her ‘eye’ for not only color, but for decoration as well. She had a knack that neither of us possess, whereby she could put different and unlikely objects of color and pattern together into an amazing and inspiring orchestration of arrangement, making us green with envy. Of course we tried to copy her artistic flair, but we could never quite obtain the same ‘joie de vie’ if you know what I mean. Have you ever met such a person? They are life changing, aren’t they?

I remember our shopping trips together, and the things she’d pick up would often cause me to laugh and poke a little fun at her. That was often short lived when I’d find her newest creation, stunningly displayed, and catching my green envious eye a few days later. It’s no wonder she was so talented.

Her talented touch

As you may know, Lea was a hair stylist by trade with a mastery of sorts in hair coloring and foils or whatever you threw at her. Lea colored hair like no other, effortlessly capturing the essence of a certain shimmer in the way one’s hair would lie, complimenting their unique and wondrous features for all to behold. A Michelangelo of beauty, if you will.

Her added wisps of color would add vibrancy and life to anyone’s unique features. Not only was she a true artist, but she was a discoverer of sorts, of the beauty within each of us. And once she found it and brought it out, you couldn’t help but keep her close because you didn’t want to venture back into the ugly, from whence you came. She was a panacea in her own right.

I still feel very heavyhearted when I see and touch the fabric that she once held in her hands. I hold each one delicately, afraid to shake what remains of her presence from the delicate cloth. I’m afraid to lose her influence, that I feel remains in each piece, wanting it to be an extension of her being. It’s something that she chose, held and had plans for and it came from her heart and her mind. As I toil with it, I wonder what her plans were for this beautiful cloth, was it for another quilt? Pillows perhaps? Or, was it merely purchased because it spoke to her and she felt drawn to it which caused her to purchase it and ponder its fate at a later date? I guess I’ll never know.

For now, I am beholden to her precious articles, until my mom and I decide when to do something with them. We’ve already discussed finishing the quilt she started, and making it into two separate ones for each of her sons. We will have to use some of the extra fabric in her sewing basket to complete the projects of course, but I’m just not ready to do it yet. We have time, plenty of it. The boys are young yet and will understand and treasure the meaning behind these quilts once they’re older, I’m sure.

Hanging on to her as tightly as we can

This past fall, I used a small amount of her material in two quilted wall hangings that I’d made for my mom and my brother as housewarming gifts. Lea didn’t make it to see their completed new homes and partake in the hosting of its first inaugural family meal at Thanksgiving. I’d decided to make the small quilts prior to her departure, and by incorporating her fabric, I managed to add an heirloom aspect to the pieces I hadn’t thought of. I thought that by using a small amount, they’d always have a piece of her nearby in their new homes.

At that time, I decided to wait before making one for myself because this small bag of fabric, didn’t take me to the happy place within my creative mind. That made it difficult to focus on the project, and set the right tone for it. I hope that maybe one day, I’ll be able to see this basket as an inspiration and a reminder of happier times, instead of the sorrow it still fills me with.

For the time being, her sewing basket will remain in a safe place within my sewing room. I feel her presence sometimes when I am creating, and that’s a comfort. She was my guide, and she never failed in telling me the honest truth about what I was making. That was truly one of the greatest gifts she ever gave me, honesty. Harsh sometimes, but it always came from the heart, and the new and inspiring aspects she contributed were elegant and stunning.

I loved our collaborative moments because she and I had similar but contrasting tastes. It often took me out of my comfort zone, but by allowing myself to be influenced by her suggestion, I created some of my best work. I miss sharing photos of our creations during the construction process, and oohing and ahhing in wonder about how we each did those amazing things. I miss that. I yearn for it. In hindsight, I’ve discovered that it is a huge reason for my love of ‘making’. Just showing her and talking about it, comprised a large potion of my creative bubble, my very being. It’s hard to believe that I’ll never have that luxury again.

As I pick up another piece of her material, I notice the intricacy of the patterns within. They’re definitely her. I feel that this will become a part of my quilted wall hanging. It speaks to me, in a familiar way, and I wonder, what is it saying to me, and, is that what spoke to her? As I instinctively grab my phone, my mind gently reminds me, yet again, she’s not here any more.

Maybe it’s still just a habit I have yet to break, or perhaps, it’s because it still feels like it was just yesterday.

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