Category Archives: Essays

my mother’s quilt

Mother’s whole cloth quilt. 72 inches square, hand quilted.

I’ve been meaning to post a photo of this for a month or so now.

Back in 1998, I wanted to make my mother a quilt.  I “made the mistake” of asking her what kind she wanted, and she asked me for a whole cloth quilt (one made out of a single piece of fabric).  Well, back then I’d only been quilting for about ten years, and I had no real idea how to design or make one.  All I really knew was that I didn’t want it to be beige or white, as the only whole cloth quilts I’d ever seen by then were.

But I couldn’t find a pre-printed top in anything but beige or white, and I didn’t know where to buy a) fabric wide enough to make a bed-sized quilt out of a single piece of fabric, or b) a bed-sized stencil (I’m still not sure there is such a thing as a bed-sized quilt stencil [wry g]).  So I did the best I could with what I could find.

Technically, this is not a whole cloth quilt, because it’s pieced out of 42″ width fabric.  I bought a center feather wreath stencil and two border stencils, a lot of blue (her favorite color) fabric, and got to work.  I remember that I saw blue fabric in my sleep for weeks after I finished it.

I washed and dried it, and picked off what I thought was all the cat hair, then I took it with me when I made my annual visit that year (we lived 2000 miles apart).  The first thing she did after we spread it out on her bed was pick a cat hair off of it.  Well, no, that was the second thing.  The first thing she did was hug me and tell me how beautiful she thought it was.

My mother died in January of this year, at the age of 92.  That quilt decorated her bed for eighteen years, first in her home, and then in the assisted living facility where she spent her last two years.  It’s been washed many times, but it’s held up pretty well (the binding’s a bit worn, is all).

And now it’s mine again.  I miss her, but I’m so glad she loved this quilt.

To Texas and back

A closer-up view of bluebonnets.
A close-up view of bluebonnets.

I have just returned from my annual trip to Tyler, Texas, to visit my almost 92-year-old mother, and, this time, to make a short (three-day) jaunt with my sister, who lives down there, too.  We planned this several months ago, before all of the problems with my condo made me decide to sell it and take another Long Trip, and the plane tickets were already bought, so I didn’t try to cancel it.

Mt. Rainier from the plane.
Mt. Rainier from the plane on the way down to Texas.

Anyway, Mother is getting more and more fragile.  I won’t get into her health issues here except to say how grateful I am that she’s still alive for me to go visit.  I stayed with my sister Ann, and that’s only one reason I’m grateful she’s down there nearby for Mother.

Anyway, I’d been wanting to go to Austin and San Antonio and the Hill Country for a long time, and since this time I had to rent a car, anyway, I decided to go, and to invite Ann to go along with me.  After a couple of days visiting with my mother, we headed south to San Antonio.

One of the nice things about Tyler is that to go any direction but due east or west, you pretty much have to get off the Interstate.  The drive to San Antonio, aside from missing one turn, not realizing we had until we’d gone too far to turn back, and having to reroute ourselves, was fun.  Wide open spaces, small towns, and wildflowers scattered all over the roadsides.

We arrived in San Antonio in the late afternoon, and found a hotel within walking distance of the River Walk and the Alamo, and went to eat supper along the River Walk.  The River Walk reminded us both a bit of certain parts of Disneyland, but it was still fun (and about 10 degrees cooler than up on the street), and we ate fancy pizza right next to the water.

The next morning, it was raining just a bit.  We strolled over to the Alamo under Ann’s umbrellas (she had two).

The Alamo.
The Alamo.
A close-up of where a cannon ball hit the Alamo during the famous battle.
A close-up of where a cannon ball hit the Alamo during the famous battle.
A view of the front of the Alamo from where we were waiting in line to get in.
A view of the front of the Alamo from where we were waiting in line to get in.  They don’t let you take photos inside.

I liked the Alamo.  It was very interesting historically (they did a terrific job with the museum exhibit part of the thing), and the gardens were lovely.  The rain was a minor nuisance, but not a big deal.  Yes, the Alamo is basically a shrine to Texas, but I knew that going in, and, well, I eat history up with a spoon, so I had no problem with it.

A blooming cactus in the gardens beside the Alamo.
A blooming cactus in the gardens beside the Alamo.

On our way back to the hotel to pack up and check out, we saw a whole bunch of carriages decorated as if for a wedding.  Turns out we’d arrived the night before San Antonio’s annual Fiesta began.  According to one of the carriage drivers, Fiesta attracts more people every year than New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, and was started when a bunch of ladies got drunk and flung flowers at each other 🙂

In the afternoon, we drove up to the Hill Country, which is sort of legendary for its spring wildflowers.  It did not disappoint.  After lunch in Fredericksburg, we took some back roads out through the rolling countryside (calling it hilly would have been stretching things, IMHO), and saw whole fields of flowers.  Bluebonnets, of course, but also winecups and evening primroses and all sorts of things.  Just gorgeous.

These are called winecups.
These are called winecups.
I had to look this one up in my brand-new Texas Wildflower field guide. It's called Prairie Pleatleaf, and it's a member of the iris family.
I had to look this one up in my brand-new Texas Wildflower field guide. It’s called Prairie Pleatleaf, and it’s a member of the iris family.

We wound up spending the night in the town of San Marcos, just south of Austin, and came in for a rude surprise when we turned on the Weather Channel.  A huge storm was headed our way.  You might have seen the recent news reports about flooding in Texas?  Well, we weren’t in Houston, where it got really bad, but the rest of it?  We were right where it was about to hit.

So we decided to cut our trip short by one day and go back to Tyler the next morning.

People think it rains a lot here in western Washington, and we do get a fair amount.  But it’s a soft rain.  Texas rain is like driving through a bleeding waterfall.  I’m not overly fond of thunder and lightning, either.  At least we didn’t have any tornado warnings.  But we made it back, and my only disappointment was that I didn’t get to go to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin.  Maybe next time, if there is a next time.

Once back in Tyler, the weather cleared up (bad weather seems to go around Tyler a lot of the time, which is really weird), and until I left several days later (having planned the trip with the jaunt in the middle so Mother could rest up while we were gone), I not only spent as much time as I could with my mother, but I got to stroll around a nature trail just down the street from my sister’s house, where there were also lots of wildflowers.

Faulkner Park, near my sister's home in Tyler.
Faulkner Park, near my sister’s home in Tyler.  So many different kinds of trees, and so many different leaf shapes and sizes.
Red clover.
Red clover.  I’ve never seen clover blossoms that big and that color anywhere else.
Evening primrose (although this species actually keeps its blossoms open all day). Did I mention that I adore my new camera???
Evening primrose (although this species actually keeps its blossoms open all day). Did I mention that I adore my new camera???

The last day before I left, Mother and I drove out to a place called Love’s Lookout, about fifteen miles south of Tyler, where there’s a nice little bench with a beautiful view, and we sat and talked for a while.  It’s kind of our place, and I’m glad she was still able to go out there with me.

An autumn view from Love's Lookout, taken in 2006. I didn't take my camera with me this time, so you'll have to imagine how lush and green the countryside was the other day.
An autumn view from Love’s Lookout, taken in 2006. I didn’t take my camera with me this time, so you’ll have to imagine how lush and green the countryside was the other day.

And that was my visit to Tyler this year.  Every year now I wonder if this will be my last visit with my mother.  I hope not.