Friday, March 24, 2006

Save Our Stories

Yesterday I was interviewed for the Save Our Stories project. This is a massive project by the Alliance for American Quilts to "capture the voices and stories of quiltmakers", transcribe them, and make them available online. There are already hundreds of interviews in the database and as I scrolled through the list, I recognized many names of people I know and of people I've heard of, but the vast majority are not famous. Yet they all have a story to tell and it would takes months to work your way through the list.

As part of the interview, I was asked to have a quilt at hand to talk about. That sort of posed a dilemma because there isn't much of a story behind most of my quilts. I don't make quilts with political statements, and there are no Deep Hidden Meanings. What I chose was the quilt "Nine". I made this as a tribute to my late mother-in-law, who raised nine children. My husband is the oldest; his youngest sibling is only 4 years older than our daughter. My inspiration for the quilt came from the priest who was giving the eulogy at the funeral service. He talked about the "coat of many colors" that she wove as she raised nine unique individuals. With those words, the idea for this quilt sprung almost completely formed in my head, and unfortunately, I tuned out the rest of what he said. Many colors, all woven together, yet making a cohesive whole. That is the family that I have married into.

This is the quilt. There are nine panels, and inlaid into each panel is a strip with nine different fabrics. Everything is similar, yet nothing is identical. The edges are uneven to represent the different personalities, yet the panels are joined into one unified piece.

Even though siblings and their families live on both coasts and in the Chicago area, we meet once every three years at the Outer Banks in North Carolina for a week-long family reunion. At last count there were 39 of us, in three generations. Since that reunion, we have had one marriage and one new baby. With both parents dead, my husband and I are the elders of the group (and that is a might scary thought). We have been doing this since 1973, and the babies on that trip now all have babies of their own.

We also have t-shirts made to commemorate the event. My son designs the logo and we have them printed up in all sizes from baby XS to adult XXL. We gather on the beach and pose for a group photo. As the years have progressed and the group has expanded, the camera has had to be positioned further and further away. Notice how nicely we have positioned ourselves, to make a balanced group.

My husband and I are seated in the center, the places that were always occupied by his parents. We are now older than his parents were when we first started these trips. Egads, I'm making myself depressed!


Karoda said...

You indeed have a wonderful story with that quilt. The group photo is priceless. I'm going to go call one of my sisters right now...we have been kicking around the idea of a group vacation.

teri springer said...

Cathy, this is so very cool. My in-laws have 5 children, each married. The oldest has 4 children, the next has 2, then 3 then 2 (us) then 1 (plus 2 steps). Then there are grands. Mike's paternal grandmother just died earlier this year (101). We are TRYING to all get together next week for a family portrait with my MIL. Problem is the Air Force is not cooperating.....but it finally looks like we can work it out. All together there will be 33 of us. But there's still MOST of the grands to get married (of 12, 4 are married with one getting married this summer). So, I can relate (tho, I am from a small family).

BTW, you and the DH look WAY to young to be the patriarch and matriarch of this clan!!


Gerrie said...

I agree with Teri - you look much to young!I am the matriarch of my family and I choose to feel that way. The quilt story is lovely and congratulations for being part of this great project.

Deborah said...

What a wonderful tradition!