My wife texted me earlier today asking if I wanted to picnic with our son. I tend to work more than I should, so I decided to cut out a little early as it was a special occasion. Once I came home, we left for Natural Grocers and then hit the park.
Pulling into the parking spot, my son realized we didn’t have a blanket to lay on like we usually do. Before we moved to Hawai’i, we sold and donated all the things we couldn’t bring with us, One of which was our old picnic quilt. So we zipped over to Walmart, purchased a King-sized quilted blanket, and then headed back to the park.
We spread out the new blanket, whipped out some sandwiches, and then soaked in some sun and the beautiful day.
My son went to play tag with some kids, and I started to look at the quilt we were on. I was thinking about how it was less than thirty bucks, and I imagine there was a good margin. Materials and labor were in that, too, so there must have been some, maybe not cutting corners, but efficiency put into the work.
My grandmother, Nan, made our old quilt as a labor of love. Where the new quilt had a straight line of stitching, our old one had swirls. You could tell a lot of time went into it. The padding between the new one was thinner, and the groundwater soaked through where we laid.
Staring at the clouds, I began to think about Nan.
I remember her as always being sour. My brother, two cousins, and I were kind of dropped off at my grandparents. This is at a double-wide mobile home on a municipal airport. We lived with them through elementary school while my dad worked and my mom was in college. I imagine she felt stuck, following my grandfather Pope around while he lived out his dreams of working on airplanes. And then to have some grandkids hoisted upon her, I guess I understood her salty demeanor.
She was quick to snap at us, and I always felt like I was walking on eggshells my whole childhood. My female cousins had it even worse from her.
But she would always make us sweaters (which I hated at the time), quilts, and even shorts and other clothes, which must have taken some time and effort.
She would make dinner for us every night and all kinds of desserts throughout the week. Cookies and cakes. For Thanksgiving, when she learned I liked pumpkin pie, she always made an extra. When I was tired of pumpkin and said I liked blueberry, there was one more of those.
So she was sweet in her way.
This made me wonder, was she extra sweet with some things to offset how salty she was the other part of the time?
Besides her yelling at one of my cousins and breaking a flyswatter spanking her, I couldn’t pinpoint a thing she did negatively other than we all knew not to cross her. However, I could give you a ton of examples of little kindnesses she did for us.
Pope always told me he would pay me if I came and helped him fix airplanes. I had always considered that a death sentence for any dreams I had—a last resort. But somewhere around 2009, I was laid off with little prospects, and I thought that would be a way to get some cash. However, when I called to tell Pope I would take him up on his offer, Nan answered the phone. I asked to talk to Pope, and uncharacteristically she asked why. When I told her it was to work for Pope, she practically yelled at me, “NO, YOU’RE NOT!”
A short time later, I was working a job in my chosen career path and was glad I had steered away from what was the black hole of airplane repair. So even her negativity worked positively.
She passed away before my son was born, but I always wished she could have met him. Thinking about that handmade quilt today, I see how much she did care about me. It’s weird how it took some years, distance, and a cheap blanket to make me realize it.