My lovely wife, Lisa, is always after me to clean out our attic, although for the life of me I can’t figure out why. She ventures to that enclave exactly twice a year. Once, in early December to help bring down the Christmas decorations and once in mid-January — OK, maybe February — to put them back up. What does it matter to her if everything we have ever owned is strewn out across what used to be the children’s playroom?
But I try my best to keep her happy, so from time to time I venture into the land above the garage and attempt to purge and straighten and tidy up—usually to very little avail. The problem is there are so just so many treasures in that attic! Before I can get elbow deep into my chores I invariably find myself puttering around with a discarded erector set or pouring over statistics on the backs of old baseball cards.
This week I found myself with a bit of spare time on my hands and thought I might earn a few brownie points by attacking the accumulated clutter of the past three decades. After all, the holiday season is just around the corner. Imagine Lisa’s delight when she trudges upstairs to get the Christmas wreaths this year and finds that order has replaced chaos. That’s what I told myself, but alas, it was not to be.
This time it was quilts.
Yes, quilts. My mama made them, a long, long time ago.
It’s funny what we take for granted. When I was small child the ladies in Porterdale would gather to make quilts. I suppose these were quilting bees, but I don’t remember ever hearing that term. Mrs. Sadie Beam had a big quilting frame hanging from the ceiling in an empty bedroom and all the ladies on South Broad Street would gather around that frame and sew and stitch and talk while my playmate Linda King and I crawled around on the floor underneath, turning that space into our own personal fortress.
Once the ladies finished with one person’s quilt they would start on the next person’s. It was a constant process that spanned as many years as I can remember and the fruits of their labors were beautiful hand-stitched bed covers that each family would treasure for years to come. Or perhaps not.
Those beautiful works of art would bring hundreds of dollars on today’s market. Back then, however, they were strictly utilitarian. The bedrooms in our mill village house were not heated and global warming had not yet rendered winter obsolete.
Many a night I would crawl into bed weighted down by so many quilts that turning over in bed was a near impossibility. When company from out of town came my sister and I would sleep in the living room on a pallet of quilts. Once in a great while we would take in a picture show at the Moonlit Drive In and Mama would toss a couple of quilts into the back of the car for us to sit on while we watched Doris Day and Rock Hudson on the big screen.
And I wish I had a dollar for every time I saw one of the men on our street lying under a car on a homemade quilt, working on a transmission or replacing a leaky brake line. I know. That would be considered heresy today to certain collectors.
In time my mother came to realize that the beautiful quilts she was able to piece together by hand had value beyond their everyday uses. She spent a lot of time sewing quilts during her waning years and took great pride in every stitch. She made log cabin quilts and wedding ring quilts and shadow box quilts—-and some patterns that were her own creation. Some were carefully constructed of colored squares, the material chosen just for that project. Others were sewn from bits and pieces of fabric leftover from the skirts and dresses my sister wore to school each day.
So naturally, when I came across a box of these quilts in the attic I had to take them out and examine them. One was red and brown, its repeating pattern putting one to mind of a cotton-batted field of little red school houses. Another, crafted from discarded scraps of brown, blue and white cloth looked like a series of log cabins on a snowy day. My favorite featured a series of six-sided stars in varying shades of red, white and blue that was my Christmas gift the year my father died.
So I’m sure you can understand why the attic had to wait. I just hope Lisa can.
Darrell Huckaby is a local author. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/darrellhuckaby.