Tag: families

Calder Ray’s Standing Invitation

BabyQuilt4

The clock ticks loudly. Time to make that quilt for my soon-to-be born grandchild. I have no idea what I want it to look like – something that doesn’t alarm me cause I usually start with only the vaguest notion of what I want to do. Even on the rare occasion when I do have a detailed, clear idea, it seldom turns out the way I envisioned, creativity being what it is and all. Not knowing the gender or room color, I gather my supplies, selecting colors that tickles my eyes and cloth that satisfies my touch. I trust my Bones.

Leaves3

Ideas and images come to call as I go along. I cut scraps into ovals and send them out to my elves, asking them to get signatures for me. And when the pieces come back, I decide I have to – I just have to – stitch over the autographs to make them more visible, more lasting.

BabyQuilt5

I stitch wherever I am – in the car, on the sofa, in the studio. Sometimes I stitch in the darkness of a hospital room.

BetseyWillBubblesMay2016

and at my niece’s house. (Which reminds me: I need to order them some more bubble juice.)

Monkey2
My 2 year old great nephew is gracious enough to model a monkey for me, something to fill that unexpected bare spot. Once it is stitched, he seems a little under-enthusiastic about my monkey (which indicates his bend towards the more literal-brained side of the family). (Which is all of them except Nancy.) (Though a couple of them seem to be melting a little bit as they go along.)

BirdAndNest1 copy

FlockOfBirds

I stitch the bird and the nest and the flock of birds while at my son’s house. Because all I could hear on the inside was a short tape of things my father-in-law said when I showed him the sketches I made on my first day of drawing class, I decide to cut freehand instead of drawing on the fabric and cutting on the lines. I feel like a proud kindergartner when I show my son the impromptu birds and nest.  I’m not sure he noticed the heart-shaped eggs. They were a last-minute addition. Of course.

(Note: See that autograph just to the right of the top bird on the left in the picture above? That’s Nancy’s signature. And the one to the right of it? That’s my 2-year old great-nephew’s siggie.)

Branches2

I stitch the trunk (which was originally hanging down below the quilt) and the branches while at my daughter’s house. Oh those branches. What a fit they give all of us – Alison, The Engineer, and me. I lay down fabric for each branch to indicate the different branches of the family tree. But it is too chaotic – too much visual clutter. The three of us grow quite cranky. Nobody knows what to do. Finally, in a Hail Mary foot stomp kind of move, I find enough of the same fabric, fold it over and over again, lay it down on the already-attached branches, and voila! My eyes calm and purr. Each branch now sports a different base and the same top cover. The same, but different. Together, but separate. I like that. And the trunk? It is far too distracting hanging down, so I snip it off and hem it up.

AnimalsAndInvitation

At The Very Last Minute, I add an impromptu gathering of our cats and dogs, sitting in a surprise flower bed. Then I add the invitation . . . When becoming gets too hard, go to the Forest. Maybe this is one time I should’ve printed my words on paper and stitched through the paper cause then I might’ve had room to say “family” forest. Hopefully everybody – and most especially You Know Who – gets the idea.

JeanneCalderRay2

Finally this happens

TheChambersMen

and this (oh those Chambers men)

and 3 months later, when they come for a visit here atop the mountain,
this happens while Calder Ray lays on a pallet of 3 quilts made by my grandmother,
his great great grandmother. First we sing our first duet . . .

. . . then one sings and the other dances.
In this neck of the woods, we call that a Hootenanny.
(And um, about that singing. It’s fairly obvious to everybody
that Alison does not get her talent from me.)

SignedSealedDelivered

FinishedQuilt1

And now the quilt  – Calder Ray’s Standing Invitation – hangs in his room.
Signed. Sealed. Delivered.
(Note the wall color – ha!)
Everybody calls him Calder, but I’m Southern,
and we like double names, so I call him Calder Ray.

LoveNotesToCalderRay

And on top of the shelves under the quilt is this blue elephant. I bought it before he was born cause I knew – I just knew – he was gonna’ be a boy. Because so many different colors of dirt and rocks lie between Calder Ray and me, I keep Mr. Blue Elephant filled to the brim with handwritten bedtime notes from me. When he’s old enough to appreciate it, his parents are supposed to pull one out every night when he’s tucked into bed and read it to him. Eventually he’ll be able to read them himself, of course, and I already know things I want to write him when he’s off at college or heading down The aisle. You know I do.

I also have an inkling of another quilt I want to make him. Well, 12 or 15 quilts, actually. One to wrap up in when he is sick. One to wrap up in when he needs fortification. One to lay on for nap time. A quilt to sleep under on Christmas Eve, another for Valentine’s Day (also my birthday, so that one will have to be special), his birthday quilt, a New Year’s quilt, a First Day of School quilt, and a big, anytime/anywhere quilt that will remind him of the special sauce I’ve already begun whispering to him every chance I get:

You are kind.
You are funny.
You are smart.
You are creative.

This quilt I can already see.

A Grandmother by Any Other Name

LettersToMyGrandchildJournalBookOne

Today, in plain sight of the demanding to do list, I shove everything aside and sit writing letters to my unborn grandchild in a beautiful journal my friend Tari bought for me when I took it off the shelf and told her of my plan. I won’t know this grandchild like I wish I would, you see, and she or he won’t know me, either. Geographical distance separates us – undoubtedly not as much geography as lies between some of my friends and their grandchildren – but today I take no solace in comparisons, and the scolding voice that admonishes me I ought to be ashamed of myself for such frivolity in light of all that needs to be done and warns me with a wagging finger that such honesty could bring consequential riffs in an already extensive geographical divide, is asked in no uncertain terms to go hurl itself off the top of the waterfall.

Today my heart breaks into a thousand shards at the thought of it all, and that is just the way it is.

I pen these letters in what most surely will be Book One in hopes that One Day, when the child is old enough to think his own thoughts and wise enough to ask her own questions, she/he will take this book to a quiet spot – perhaps on a boulder in the middle of a particular waterfall – and get to know me more deeply and will feel my caring, love, and unwavering support, maybe even glean some wisdom, in my inked words.

The time draws near when I need to assume my grandmotherly moniker. Now “Grandmother” is a fine name – and I count myself lucky to have known some mighty fine women who went by that name. But me, I long for something different. Am I being difficult? Is it because my mother, who honored her promise to her mother-in-law to name her firstborn after the mother-in-law’s son who was killed as a teenager, chose to spell “Gene” (my uncle’s name), J-e-a-n-n-e? Is it because I’m a writer? Do I put too much stock into names? Maybe, and I don’t give a rat’s ass why, I only know that I want special names for us.

Kaitaiki

My friend Jane Cunningham, who hails from New Zealand, sent me the most beautiful scarf made of yak wool, and it came to me in a mailer bearing the word “Kaitiaki”, the Maori word for protector or guardian.  “Tiaki”, the mailer explains, means “care.” I’ve kept the envelope for I don’t know how many months because that word spoke to me, and though my Southern tongue will most definitely mangle the pronunciation, it’s a word that tapped its foot and cleared its throat by way of saying “Heed.”  Might this be The Name?

Maybe I spend time on this because it is the one thing I have some say over. A child’s personal history begins with the memories and stories of their grandparents. This child will not know independence and grow wings by walking to see me the way my young children walked to see their grandparents. And this child may not sit at the table with the roots of multi-generations telling stories and kidding each other,  or have a treasure trove of stories about great great aunts who hid cheeseballs in pecan trees, or great granddaddies who saw a teddybear advertised in the Western Auto weekly flyer and insisted on going right then to buy one with his great grandchild, or know what it’s like to ride on a tractor for hours on end with his granddaddy, or go see her grandmother after school and be paraded around the office as the obvious apple of her grandmother’s eye, or have any other number of opportunities to give him or her paternal roots that run so deep . . . but she or he will have a book of letters, and we will share special names.

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