We Are Each A Quilt

Pierre Fontenot Friday, March 4, 2022 Comments Off on We Are Each A Quilt
We Are Each A Quilt

Dear Reader,

Someone asked me what turning 65 was like.  

I thought, ‘Aging is like being a quilt.’

Every House Had A Singer 

I am old enough to remember a childhood where every house had a Singer sewing machine, and all the children knew not to mess with Momma’s fabric shears.

It was common, to see your mother sewing a hem, or reattaching a button to a shirt.  It was common for your grandmother to be in conversation, while working a needle and thimble.

But on a higher status, above all fabric projects, was when the woman of the house was working on a quilt.  A quilt was a long-term project, when you could, as you could, might take months, might take years, to finish one.

It begins with collecting the fabric.  Could be shirt, could be pants, could be pajamas, could be long johns, could be feed sack, could be anything, but for a quilt, the good stuff is always old, and better yet, sentimental.  

It might be grandfather’s old barn jacket, or grandmother’s old Easter dress.  Sometimes a quilt has a piece that represents family good news, pieces of a baby blanket of someone now grown, turned into a quilt for their children.  Sometimes a quilt has a piece of fabric that represents a great loss; when grandma died, they cut up her favorite table cloth, where so many family meals were eaten, so that a piece of those memories would live on in the quilts of her daughters and granddaughters.

Slow Like A Pregnancy

The fabric is cut into pieces, into a pile, which to the child observer, looked like scraps.  The scraps were sewn together, to make a block.  

The blocks were sewn into a pattern.  There are many traditional patterns: log cabin; star; bear paw; nine patch; sixteen patch; crazy quilt… the list goes on and on.

Making a quilt is labor, but it’s labor of love, which might explain why quilt making is such a feminine project.  The stitches, so small, so many, like all the little things of family and motherhood.  There’s reverence in the unspoken, an awareness that she is making something that will outlive her.

There is a quiet patience to a quilt’s creation, slow like a pregnancy, with one great difference, because a quilt is made of old pieces, it’s never a newborn.  Because it’s handmade, it outranks everything that is store bought.

In my years in the antique business, I found very few orphan heirloom quilts.  Finding one gave me the same sad feeling as when I found an orphan family Bible, with flowers pressed between the pages.  A family that would disrespect either, had lost the tie, that binds.

A Quilt Of Whys

When someone asked me what it was like to be 65, I found it surprising, that of all the things my subconscious could reply with, how curiously perfect, to compare aging, to being a quilt.

It’s so accurate.  I am a quilt.  I was born singular, this one neutral baby, but aging has made me a collection of pieces, joined together atop the original me.  

I am scraps of moments, that form blocks of memories.

I am a little of this, a little of that.  I am both bright and faded.  I have been cut apart, subtracted from, stitched together, added to.  

Parts of me show heavy use, but much of me has been wasted.

In some places I am frayed, hanging by a stitch.  In other places, I’ve been improved by the healing needle and thread.

I bear the odor of being soiled by bad times, and bad people, who have done bad to me.  I also bear the good fragrance of the good people, who added to me, in like, and in love.

I am a quilt of days, and what I did with them.  I am a quilt of thoughts and feelings, that only I thought and felt.

I am a quilt of my Yes’s and No’s and Maybe’s.

I am a quilt of questions.  I am a quilt of Whys.  Some of my Whys are sacred, like the Whys of being a witness to unfair deaths, of innocents and betters.

Wouldn’t Change A Thing

When I was young, it was a cliché, to be listening to an elder, them telling about their hard times and bad licks, but no matter how rough their road, they’d all conclude with the same words, “I wouldn’t change a thing!”  That made no sense, until I got to be their age.    

The great mystery of having a life is figuring out who you really are.  The quilt of me is the uniqueness of me, my good-est good, my bad-est bad, my each and every.  As I’ve aged, it’s becoming clear that random isn’t so random.  I sense the unseen hands of Complexity.  I feel orchestrated by Purpose.  Like the old folks of my childhood, I want to see how it all comes together, for this One and Only Me.  

One day we’ll meet our Maker, wearing the quilt of ourselves.  Wouldn’t surprise me a bit, if He said, “I know every scrap and stich of you.”


This edition of Uncle P’s Bedtime Stories is dedicated to the manual labor of being ourselves.  The most respected quilts are hand-stitched, no cheat with the machine.

Uncle P’s three books can be found at Expressions, 3100 Ryan Street.  Uncle P can be reached at eightyoneantiques@gmail.com.

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