Monday, December 10, 2012

Taking a Few Deep Breaths

I inwardly groaned. Sorting through swatches of different material was not my idea of a fun way to spend a Saturday morning, even though it meant I got to spend it with my grandma.

"Honey, be sure you're looking carefully at not just the colors, but at the textures, the patterns and prints...we want to make sure the pieces are true fits with each other. You know, this quilt is more than just your 4-H project. One day, you'll be wrapping up your babies in it and then your grandbabies, too. They're all going to feel the love that's going into making it," she smiled as she threaded the bobbin on her treadle powered sewing machine.

I ruefully looked out the window, my nine year old brain filled with things to do outdoors in the sparkling, crisp December air.  Her feet worked the treadle under the machine with an ease and even pace I struggled to master when it was my turn to stitch together the now matched quilting blocks.

"Slow down, don't take it so fast," she soothed as I pumped the treadle as fast as I could. "You don't want to get the thread jammed. Take a few deep breaths and you'll get the hang of it."

Her experienced hands guided mine as we moved piece after piece through the machine until we had them complete. She took over stitching the quilt top together while my grandfather finished hanging the quilting frame from small hooks in the ceiling.

I stretched to ease my cramped shoulders, stooped as they had been most of the morning.

"Are you hungry, kid?" she asked as she studied my face. She laughed as I nodded emphatically. "Let's go get some biscuits and gravy going and we can have some of the cold pot roast from last night. I know your grandaddy is probably hungry, too."

In her expansive kitchen, she set out her biscuit making gear and pointed over to the stove. "I think you're about old enough to start this gravy yourself now. Do you remember how we did it the last time?"

I smiled, swelling inside at the importance of the job. My grandma was one of the best cooks around and her gravy once made a preacher weep with gratitude. I pulled out the ancient cast iron skillet and turned on the gas burner under it, while adding bacon grease to it. I wanted it to be done quickly, so I turned the burner up to High and moved to gather the flour and milk I would need. In no time, though, black smoke barreled up from the frying pan and my grandma rushed to the stove to shut it off.

She hugged me through my embarrassment and laughed it off. "Don't worry, we'll get some more going in a minute. Things like this take time to develop. Simmering produces good flavor, and if you hurry it, the good part of it gets burned up. Take a few deep breaths. Don't be afraid to wait."

Back to our project after lunch, we sat at the quilting frame with the quilt stretched out before us. Although it was a small, it seemed to me that it would take forever to quilt the graceful, small half arcs we had planned. Using a piece of chalk attached to a string, she meticulously traced the pattern onto each block.

Hearing my impatiently tapping feet, she said softly, "We don't want to rush here. If the pattern is off, the quilting is going to be off, and then you're going to have something for the rest of your life that will be out of kilter. Patience pays off. Just take a few deep breaths. You'll see," she patted my hand before going back to the chalk.

In the days to come as we quilted, I did learn to take deep breaths when I wanted to hurry. Although my stitching wasn't as even or neat as hers, I saw the difference in how mine looked when I hurried and when I didn't.

And tonight, now that the first cold front has blown through, I will pull out that little quilt again and I will look at it carefully before I lay it across my daughter's bed.

The firm, even stitches of my grandmother will still contrast with mine; more spidery and tentative looking.  And even now, more than 40 years later, I will still feel the love that went into it, and I will stop, and take a few deep breaths.

74 comments:

  1. Your grandma was a wise and loving woman. Is she still living? It's wonderful that you have that memory and probably, many others; and to possess the quilt whose destiny she knew. How special. Now, I'm going to take a deep breath and tackle my list of things to do. :)

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    1. Anita: No, she's already passed on, but I still think of her most every day. I love what you said, " and to possess the quilt whose destiny she knew". Wow- that will be rolling around in my mind all day.

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  2. Aww such a lovely story! And it sure is important to slow down and really appreciate the process of working.

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    1. ibdiamond: It adds so much value to what we do when we take the time to savor it. I have to remind myself of that in this busy season!

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  3. What beautiful memories to treasure!

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    1. Sinder Ella: I am truly a blessed woman, and I never let myself forget that~

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  4. This is a wonderful post, Shelly, reminding us about the impatience of youth. It certainly is true that "haste makes waste." I think we were all guilty of wanting to rush through tasks to get to the fun stuff. I remember the monotony of my boyhood drum lessons, practicing flamadiddles and paradiddles on my boring rubber drum pad, my attention divided and thoughts focused on getting outdoors and playing ball with the guys. I am aware of your cold snap in Texas. Another blog friend, Suzanne in Fort Worth, wrote on her blog that the temp was dipping down to the 20s. I hope we soon get some of that refreshing air over here in Tampa Bay! Have a wonderful week ahead, dear friend Shelly!

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    1. Shady: I often wish I knew then what I know now, but I guess it's something that only comes with age and some maturity. And yes, the cooler weather has been quite the nice change. Hoping you all get some soon!

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  5. Dear Shelly, tears water my eyes right now. Your posting is so poignant and touching and filled with the grace of what you and your grandmother meant to one another. It is filled with the grace we breathe in and out as we try to live in this moment, this stitch, this stir of the gravy. Thank you for writing so beautifully about the quilt that still helps you remember your grandmother's love.

    Many years ago, when I was in the convent, Grandma O'Mara, my mother's mother, came up to the convent with Mom and Dad and gave me a quilt she'd made for me from the old dresses my mom and I had worn. I said, "Grandma, I'll always keep it and I won't use it so it'll stay nice forever." And she said, "Dolores, I want you to use it every night. I want you to wrap it around you and you'll know that you're wrapping my love around you." And so I did. It is now in tatters and yet I still have it on the top shelf of my closet and I see it hanging over the edge whenever I turn on the light there. And always. Always. I remember her face and her eagerness for life. That quilt is her blessing given to me. Peace.

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    1. Dee: I have tears now, reading your reply. I love the picture of your grandma's eagerness to bless you and to impart to you some of herself. It truly squeezes my heart. I love how she wanted to wrap you in her love, no matter how far apart you were. What a legacy she left you-

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    2. Dear Shelly, a true legacy. She terrified many of my cousins but I always found her both puzzling and intriguing. I thought she was an example of a salty journeyer with a heart of gold. And she had led such an interesting life.

      She told my brother and me stories of chewing "toe back ee" down in the Ozarks and of working as a waitress back in 1895 at a rooming house in Kansas City where she met my grandpa who worked on the railroad as a conductor. She was a character from a Dickins' novel and she stretched my imagination. Peace.

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    3. Dee: What a fascinating woman! She would make an excellent subject for a book~

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  6. Dear Shelly, Your grandmother sounds like such a loving, beautiful, woman. When we are children, it's so difficult to sit still long enough to learn the technical skills that we need to make anything from scratch. My mother and my grandmother were both skilled in sewing and crochet, and I had no patience to keep learning after a few frustrating attempts. Reading was my blissful passion and I soaked up books and went outside as much as possible. Your story reminded me what it was like to be myself as a girl again. I love and appreciated the wisdom of patience passed down through generations. How wonderful that you still have that quilt to remind you of your sweet grandma and the time she spent with you.

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    1. Jenny: There are times I wish I could go back and be a better listener, be a better learner, be someone who really soaked in what they were teaching me when I was young. I can only hope now, though, to redeem what I did take in by amplfying it and passing it down to my kids and someday, to my grandkids.

      And yes, when I was young, I was just like you. I either wanted to be outside on a horse or reading as many books as I could. Pretty good stuff, still, for mind and body!

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  7. I warrant "slowing down, taking a few deep breaths" is a skill that has served you well in your career as well as in your cooking and quilt making! Blessings of a grandmother's wisdom.

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    1. vanilla: And I happily reap the benefits of that wisdom daily!

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  8. Shelly, what a special post, one I can identify with in my life. I can remember my grandmother having a group of women sitting around and quilting, her living room was filled up with the women and the quilting frame. (I think that is what it is called.) One favorite quilt was when each woman "autographed" the quilt with stitches. I also recall my grandmother wanting only those women who took small stitches to work on the quilt. How many times have I heard my mother talking about "small stitches". A few years ago my dad's cousin gave me a very well preserved quilt that my grandmother made. I look at it and try to figure out the pieces that had been used from her dressmaking scraps.

    BTW, have never been able to sew in my life, had no interest in it and can not sew on a button. I am not kidding about the button.

    Shelly, another wonderful story! Thank you for sharing your memory!

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    1. Cindy: Oh, I wish I had the skil of both my grandma's at sewing. My stitches are always crooked and kind of loopy. If I practiced more, though, it might get better...

      I'm so glad you have the quilt from your grandma. There's just something amazing about a tangible item her hands and heart have been all over so many times.

      And as talented as you are? I"m sure you could sew on a button! :)

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  9. Shelly,
    Another beautiful memory. My grandmother also quilted, and one of my most precious possessions was the quilt she made me for a wedding gift. Sadly, it was lost when we were robbed and lost all our belongings; but I still remember the pattern and the wonderful loving skill she put into it.

    blessing to you - and Merry Christmas - Marsha

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    1. Marsha: I'm so sorry you lost that quilt to thieves. At least it is still alive in your heart and mind, and the legacy of love she included with it is still vibrant in your heart.

      A blessed, Merry Christmas to you and yours, my friend!

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  10. I have a quilt made by my grandma...also some real feather pillows. A keepsake. Mostly, I am blessed to have had a beautiful grandmother who cared enough to make and give me such a gift. Your posts are always wonderful in such a way they bring up memories in all of us.

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    1. Christine: What precious keepsakes to have and to treasure and to remind you of the richness of her love for you. I know it's what you pass on to your own kids everyday.

      P.S.- I loved the video of your baby girl! I tried leaving a comment, but it wouldn't take and then I had to get going to work. But enjoyed it nonetheless!

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  11. What a great lesson there was in this story - I try to teach that here too, but alas it has not caught on yet. Love your grandma. sandie

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    1. Sandie: It will catch on, it will, even though with me, it took many years, but you're planting the seed. My grandma was a true treasure to me~ :)

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  12. This gave me goosebumps, Shelly. Thanks. I need to remember this when I get impatient.

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    1. Jeanette: I especially need to remember it in this holiday season when things get so frenetic. Thank you for stopping by!

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  13. What a wonderful memory! Your grandmother's steady guidance shows that it takes patience to teach patience.

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    1. Funny is Family: Absolutely- what a great truth!

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  14. What a wonderful woman your grandmother was --- so patient, so wise and teaching you such an important life lesson while you worked on that treasured quilt! I loved reading this, Shelly! It brought tears to my eyes, thinking of the values our grandparents and parents taught us that seem so undervalued in these stressful times.

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    1. Dr. Kathy: Those values still hold a wealth of treasure for those who choose to embrace them. You're right, though. Sadly undervalued these days...

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  15. That is a great memory to have. My mom quilts a little; I wish I knew how.

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    1. Lydia: I'll bet it's something you could pick up quickly. I plan to reawaken my dormant skills soon- I remember how relaxing it is~

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  16. Awwwwww, what a wonderful memory! Gave me goosebumps! I have a couple quilts from my grandma, and some baby quilts, and some afghans from my other grandma for my babes....all treasures, but what is even better than all that is that YOUR grandma took the time to teach you patience and a talent you could pass down to your children and grandchildren.

    Thanks for sharing your memory....glad you got some chill in the air!!

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    1. Jamie: Those quilts are going to be treasured by your kids and your kid's kids, for generations. It's such a neat, tangible thing to have, and wrap up in in this finally cooler weather we have!

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  17. What a wonderful post your grandma sounds like an amazing woman you were so lucky to have such an amazing woman in your life.......thank you for sharing the memory with us

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    1. Jo-Anne: Yes, I am so thankful for my grandmas. You know, as a grandparent yourself, how much influence they have over a child's life~

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  18. How wonderful you still have the quilt and can hand it down to your daughter and tell her all these memories. :) :)

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    1. Rita: They are the perfect heirlooms!

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  19. Shelly those are special memories for sure. Thanks so much for sharing them. Made me stop and think about happy memories of my own grandparents, all of them no longer with us.

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    1. Linda: The best legacy my grandparents left me is the wealth of wonderful memories that still warm my heart every time I think of them. I'm glad you have the same with yours~

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  20. Another example of the heartfelt writing I've come to expect from you. Exceptionally nice work.

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    1. Stephen: Thank you for your very kind words!

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  21. What a wonderful story you shared, Shelly. Your grandmother sounded like a "gem" of a woman! How neat to be able to have spent that time with her,soaking up her wisdom and learning how to quilt and cook under her direction so to speak. I love her advice to take a few deep breaths. I think we tend to want to rush through things and our lives, but I like her words of taking those deep breaths. I think I'm going to adopt that wonderful advice she shared with you years ago!

    betty

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    1. Betty: There's so much more to life than just rushing through each day faster and faster. There's much there to savor, too.

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  22. Beautiful story, Shelly! I treasure the times I would spend with my grandma. She taught me to cook without using recipes: a little of this, a little of that, and she taught me how to make delicious gravy! She was the most positive and enthusiastic person I think I've ever known, and I've tried to look at the world in the same way she did - full of delightful people and things to discover and enjoy and learn about. I like your grandmother's advice about taking deep breaths and being patient. I'll try to remember that.

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    1. Karen: We're truly blessed women to have had the grandmothers we had, ones who invested so much in us. And I'm taking a few deep breaths this holiday season.

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  23. I needed this, Shelly, and didn't even know it. It seems I am so often rushing to the end of something, instead of taking time to enjoy the process. Thanks for sharing a bit of your grandmother with us.

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    1. jenny_o: Much too often I find myself doing the same kind of rushing. I'm purposing this holiday season to take some deep breaths and savor life. Thank you, my friend~

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  24. Dearest Shelly,
    "Take a few Deep Breath"♡♡♡ I got you and your beloved grandmother's message♬♬♬ How lovely these memories are! And the quilt passed down to you must be the treasure for you. Unfortunately, I don't have much memories with grandparents with both sides as we lived a bit far. But my mother made me some dresses when I was little before she started working. I wasn't able to learn sawing from her like you did from your grandmother. But my mother was a good cook (haha, not so excellent one), I DO appreciate her making me stand by her and cook together. Hehe, this post of yours made me really nostalgic for my mother. I DO believe you did fine job for quilting as well beside the good writer(^_^)v

    Sending you lots of love and hugs from Japan, xoxo Miyako*

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    1. orchid: I love reading about your mom and all that she's left you with. I know your parents must have been wonderful people because they raised you, my dear friend Miyako! I'm sorry you didn't get to live closer to your grandparents when you were younger. And yes, I, too, am now so grateful that my mom and my grandmas all had patience with me in teaching me so many things, too. Have a terrific day!

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  25. Mmm... biscuits and gravy.

    Another moving piece. There's nothing like passing on our lessons and culture from one generation to the next. That's what makes losing people that much harder. Thank you for sharing this lovely post.

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    1. Theresa: So true about making it harder to lose them. It"s difficult to understand when we are young how irreplaceable those losses are, although they still live on in our hearts.

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  26. What a truly beautiful story Shelly, about that time all those years ago when you making the quilt with your grandma, and how special to think that you are still using it after all these years. So, you see, your grandma was right! I love family stories like these and I also love your writing style. I always feel as if I am right there with you and today, I was there putting the quilt together and helping to make the gravy. I can imagine how you would much rather have been outside!

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    1. thisisme: Wouldn't it be wonderful to be having a cup of tea together, quilting? I would love that, my friend~

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  27. Oh, Shell. I miss your grandma. I miss my grandma. We had the same sewing machine up here, the same pot roast (but with potatoes), the same warm, leisurely way of being when in the presence of such grace and patience.

    Thank you.

    Pearl

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    1. Pearl: I am nostalgic like you can't believe today. But my great thing is that we live in the house that was my granparents, and her sewing machine sits here today. Our grandmas live on in us, I like to think~

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  28. I can imagine your nine year old heart wanting to get the job done. Those treadle sewing machines could sew fast and were fun to use. To think you still have that quilt after 40 yrs, and I am sure its a beloved piece. We appreciate things from our childhood more that we enjoy other things gained today. The story behind your quilt is as special as the quilt itself.

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    1. Crystal Mary: It took me until I was 40 to fully realize that so much of the beauty of life is not in the final product, but in the journey. You are so right about valuing things from childhood. I still love that quilt above all the others we have, and I hope my kids will one day when it's theirs.

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    2. It have always enjoyed reading your articles...very thourough and inciteful. I'm just leaving the comment to appreciate your efforts in disseminating the knowledge. ...will keep following your posts as always.....
      Estetik

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  29. Hola Shelly interesante relato, gracias por compartir,
    tienes un bello espacio un placer.
    si te gusta la poesía, la palabra inaudita te invito a mis blogs.
    felices fiestas.

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    1. Ricardo: Gracias por visitarnos! Espero con ansias regresar la visita. Feliz Navidad~

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  30. You must have such wonderful feelings when you bring out that quilt. It's a treasure.

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    1. Nas: To me, it truly is. Thank you~

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  31. such a beautiful story! makes me want to be a grandmother like that...good for you..

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    1. Annmarie: There's so much goodness a wonderful grandma can inject into a kid's life- that is my goal, too~

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  32. Shelly this is such a touching and wonderful story. I am so so happy for you that you have this wonderful memory and the quilt to treasure forever.

    Grandmas are very special blessings!!♥

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  33. Jackie: They are the most special of blessings!

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  34. Hello! What a lovely childhood memory. Thank your for sharing such a touching story. I have many wonderful memories of my Nanna, you've just taken me back. Xx

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    1. Michelle: I'm so glad you have such wonderful memories of your Nanna! Grandparents can add such a steady foundation to a child's life, and those of us who've enjoyed the terrific ones, like you and me, are truly blessed.

      Thank you for stopping by- I'm heading over to yours now!

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    1. esboston: You always make me smile!

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  36. A beautifully touching post.

    *hugs*
    Kelley~

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    1. Kelley: Thank you! I'm heading over to your blog right now~

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