I learned to quilt at my husband's suggestion.
We were living in Rochester, Minnesota, at the time. And while a mythical neighboring burg might have good-looking residents and above-average children, Rochester had giant Canada geese and long, dark winter nights. I seem to recall 4pm sunsets and ice-slicked sidewalks ... and that was in May. So you can imagine how rough January was.
I was working full time as the advertising and promotions coordinator for a small hotel chain, the flagship property of which was physically attached to the renowned Mayo Clinic. This was a grand old dame of a hotel that catered largely to meetings and Mayo patients. As such, in addition to a rooftop pool, the elegant fine-dining Elizabethan Room and -- it was 1980 -- a disco, the Kahler Hotel had a nursing service. That was our euphemistic way of saying you could get your pre-test enema right there in your room.
With responsibility for all broadcast and print activities related to marketing eight hotels (in Minnesota, Ohio, West Virginia and Texas) as well as internal employee communications, I was busy and, occasionally, slightly stressed. I needed something relaxing and entertaining to do during those frigid evenings, and thought a community ed class might fun. Because I couldn't make up my mind -- Norwegian tole painting? Cooking with white food? -- I handed the course catalog to hubby and asked him to pick.
How about quilting? he said. You like to sew. (He was probably just relieved there wasn't a Tailoring a Safari Jacket for your Husband class.)
Quilting didn't become an immediate consuming passion during that eight-week course, but I did like what I learned enough to keep trying.
I don't know exactly how many quilts I'm made in the 30+ years since, but when people see my work they typically ask one of two questions: How long did that take, and Which one is your favorite.
But my very favorite quilt is quite pedestrian by comparison. It's simply an assemblage of colorful flannel squares, some appliqued with stars, that are sewn together so the seams are exposed then snipped to achieve a fluffy, raggy appearance.
I made my first raggy quilt --many have followed -- for a friend who was adopting a toddler son. I didn't know much about his birth family or origins, but the idea that this child was lucky enough to be chosen as part of a loving, boisterous extended family made me so happy about his future. The whole course of his life was changing. I wanted him to have a little hug from me when he went to bed each night.
When my friend sent me a photo of him, tucked carefully under that quilt, sound asleep, I knew that would always be my favorite quilt.
I recently made a similar fluffy, raggy quilt for his newborn cousin. And when this boy -- now 10 -- and his mom came to pick it up, he stroked it gently, said it was pretty.
But his mom called me from the car to tell me this: as they left the house, he had said, This quilt reminds me of mine. It made me happy when I touched it.