(For part one in Ana’s Adventures with the Quilting Grannies, click here.)
The title today is misleading. I don’t actually quilt. I did learn basic sewing (both machine and hand) as a child, but real, grown-up sewing is much harder than the childish projects I completed. I especially loved the sewing cards–colorful printed pieces of hardboard with holes to “sew” yarn or shoelaces around the edges of the picture. It’s a great way to teach children fine motor skills.
Quilting with the grannies this past week, though, has been an eye-opener. When I hesitated outside of the doorway last week, wondering whether I’d be laughed at for volunteering (even if the info did promise “anyone” could join regardless of experience), I was surprised at the warmth of the welcome. The grannies are pushing to finish as many quilts as possible (either 27 or 37 so far and several more in the process) by next week, so they’re working overtime.
If you want to know how to work hard, ask a granny. 🙂 Yet they know how to have fun, too. When one woman came in later, the group leader said, “Oh, good! You’re here to make us coffee.” Everyone burst into laughter. I couldn’t understand why, until the leader turned to me and explained, “It’s a standing joke because she never makes coffee.” She even owns a coffee pot at home, but visitors have to make their own coffee because she doesn’t drink it. When I said I didn’t make coffee for my visitors, either, a few of the grannies said they would make it for me. I said, “No, I really don’t make coffee. I don’t have a coffee pot!” It took a few times for them to believe me. 😀
What has been most wonderful? Work for everyone to do, equally and without regard for skill level. The three sewing mistresses, completely amazing with their Singer sewing machines, whirr away at seams so fast that no one can keep up. Others pin fabric or attach binding, tasks that take knowledge, skill, and a steady hand. Then those of us who can’t sew (or at least not as well as the sewing mistresses, and no one sews that well) tie knots on the tops of the quilts to hold the layers in place. Or we iron fabric ready to be cut into squares. Or we sort thread spools to be put into bobbins, or thread needles and clean up after the knowledgeable ones.
In the midst of it all, the happy, cheerful chatter weaves in and out from expected first grandbabies (any day now!) to biopsy results to vacation plans. When I went back the second day, several people gave me a hug and said how glad they were I returned.
Yesterday, one of the quilting grannies invited me to learn how to play American mahjongg. It wasn’t absolutely my cup of tea, but it was fun to learn something new and lovely to be included.
I lost my first grandmother before I was old enough to appreciate her. I remember her, but a visit to grandma’s was an obligation rather than a privilege. After that, I came to treasure my second grandmother. I was the youngest of the grandchildren so no big deal when I arrived, but out of all the grandchildren I probably visited her the most and definitely called her the most frequently. The year before she had to go into a nursing home, we talked on the phone almost daily while I was overseas. Skype had made it possible for me to afford more than a monthly phone call, but I never could get Grandma to understand that calls were nearly free (not even $3 for an unlimited monthly plan). Sometimes she would only let us talk for five minutes before she insisted on hanging up because it was too expensive. Other times, we’d get into a great discussion about the crops or the weather woman’s new blouse or her latest embroidery project, and thirty minutes would go by before she’d inform me that she needed to take a nap. “Well, I’ll let you go now,” she’d say.
When Grandma went into the nursing home, the center required residents to bring their own phones. (I have never understood this.) Grandma refused. From what I could gather (because I couldn’t talk to her directly), she was sure she would go home any day, and so a phone wasn’t necessary. Cut off from my daily contact with her, I struggled for the last year of her life to find a way to connect. Finally a nurse friend of mine suggested that I call the nursing station, explain to them the situation, and ask them to help me. Grandma’s care coordinator brought her into a conference room to receive a phone call and explained that I would call her. By then her hearing was nearly gone, even with hearing aids, and despite turning the phone volume up as loud as possible Grandma couldn’t hear most of what I said. She had trouble paying attention, too, but she knew it was me. At least I think she did. Maybe the care coordinator only told me that to make me feel better, but it worked.
I wasn’t able to afford the airfare for Grandma’s funeral, but I had already said good-bye. She knew I loved her, and that was all that mattered.
When I visit the quilting grannies today, I’ll think of my grandmother and smile. She would boss me around, just like some of the grannies do, and she’d sass with the same spark of attitude. But she’d say with the same hope in her voice, “Hope you’ll come again.”
I will, Quilting Grannies. Thank you for giving me back a little of my grandmother’s love.