Tuesdays with Ana: Quilting is good for the soul

(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. πŸ™‚ 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. πŸ˜€

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.

 

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25 thoughts on “Tuesdays with Ana: Quilting is good for the soul

  1. abby says:

    I love this post, i am grinning from ear to ear. It is wonderful that you are embracing them as they are you…a win/win!!! I was not close to my grandma’s, one died before i was 2, and the other did not speak english, had over 30 grandchildren, most older than me, so i think they wore her out…LOL. I am trying to do a much better job at ‘grand-mothering’! Love hearing about your quilting grannies!
    hugs abby

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Grannies are truly special. I was lucky to get to know mine. I wish that you would gotten to know your own grandmothers, but it’s neat how much love you give your own grandchildren now. And yes quilting grannies are the best.

      Like

  2. pao says:

    This is such a bittersweet post. I can relate to that, not being able to afford the flight to see your Grandma. I couldn’t afford the flight back to see granddad. I’m glad you have such lovely memories of your Grandma and that you have the quilting circle around you. Aw, I just want to hug you now. No poking fun at Ana today.

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Airfare is so darn expensive! I wish that there were more affordable ways rest of travel, but I don’t know if it can happen anytime soon. Well, I guess we have to make do the best that we can. At least Internet has made long-distance phone calls cheaper and sometimes free. And thank you for the hug.

      Like

  3. Blondie says:

    I agree with Abby. Now you have a whole new group of grannies that will remind you of yours, what a great thing. Ty and my parents are really not into being grandparents and the kids hardly know them. But between our church and our neighbors we have all kinds of grandparents and aunts and uncles. One of my boys even brought a neighbor to his “Grandparents Day” at school.

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      I keep hoping that when I get older, some nice neighborhood children will adopt me as their granny. I’m not absolutely old enough to be a granny yet, but there’s always hope. How great that your kids of been able to find loving grandparent figures in their community. We all need them!

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  4. minellesbreath says:

    I did not really know my Grandparents, however I had great relationships with my great Aunt and older aunts and Uncles. The camaraderie that can exist among all the ages is real and beautiful if only we allow ourselves to be who we are!

    I am so very happy you are enjoying your time with the quilting Grannies!
    Your own Grandmother is looking down and smiling!

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      My own grandmother is probably wondering why I am not doing the quilting properly. LOL she did like things her way. Of course it’s not like anybody else that we know, right? I wish you could’ve gotten to know your grandparents, but I’m glad that you had relationships with other figures and your family. And yes did the inter-generational dynamic can be wonderful.

      Like

  5. Joelle Casteel says:

    what a wonderful, beautiful post, Ana πŸ™‚ thanks for sharing the stories of the quilting grannies and your grandma. I’ve been thinking of my maternal grandma a lot recently. She died when I was 11 or 12. I already appreciated her- she would come up with excuses for me to stay the weekend, knowing it would get me away from my mother’s verbal abused. I have the electric organ that she left me when she passed. sometimes though as an adult, things can take on such a different hue- I have stories of her racism that I simply never saw while she was alive, or at least as a child, didn’t understand to be racism. It’s not a happy thing

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Thank you, Joelle. πŸ™‚ I’m glad you had a good experience with your grandma and that she was a protector/nurturer for her. We all need someone who loves us for who we are. Do you know how to play the electric organ?

      Like

  6. sassytwatter says:

    What a beautiful post. Sounds like a wonderful fun group to be involved with. Made me think of my grandmothers who are very different. My maternal grandmother was always in the kitchen cooking (she taught me how to bake) with 9 children she was used to having to always feed someone so when I went we went to Sweden ever year it felt like she had us eating every 2 hours. I’m very fortunate my paternal grandmother is still alive & a pistol at 87. She does not cook she’s queen of making reservations. No subjects are off limit with her. But wow what a temper the one time I called her grandmother instead if by her name defiantly learned my lesson. I also didn’t own a coffee pot till the Rabbi said he wanted to come over & talk over coffee regarding are wedding bought a cheapie that was used once and then donated when we moved.

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    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      It is! Although one of the grannies asked me yesterday if I had work I needed to get done. Um, sort of. πŸ˜€

      Grannies who make reservations are just as wonderful as any other kind of granny. πŸ˜€ I hope you share your candy with her, missy! Tsk.

      LOL wow, did “Grandmother” make her feel old or something?

      Coffee pots are overrated. πŸ˜€

      Like

  7. Irishey says:

    Ana, this is…just…cool! πŸ˜€ I’m glad your time with the quilting grannies warms your heart with memories of love shared with your own grandmother. This sounds like a wonderful group of ladies, and you’ve found a little bit of home for your soul with them.

    I had a grandma like these grannies. She extended warm welcomes to everybody, and made them feel accepted and loved. My mother is very much like her in that respect. Alas, I am a work in progress to be as openly welcoming and friendly. Sometimes, shyness or insecurity about being welcomed or included myself makes me a bit reticent. Pfft. Yes, it is true. Lol!

    Hugs, and Happy Tuesday to you!

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Aw, thank you, Irishey! The mahjongg wasn’t exactly the same, but it’s always nicer (for me, at least) to fall into a rhythm working. I like “women’s projects,” the traditional kind–cooking, baking, sewing, taking care of children. It’s a wonderful instant community.

      I am glad you have a warm granny and a mom. We all need that kind of start to our life! And you have been given a gift of humor…that opens many people up to you. You can’t be your mom or grandmom, so just be you. πŸ™‚

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  8. catrouble says:

    Hey Ana…this post really made me smile…love that you are enjoying your time with the quilting grannies…I agree with Irishey…they sound like an awesome group of ladies. Of course, they are lucky to have such a wonderful surrogate granddaughter!

    Happy Tuesday to you!

    Hugs and Blessings…
    Cat

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Good to make you smile! I’ll never be a real quilter, but I’m happy to tag along and help out. Less responsibility and stress that way. The oldest granny is special, indeed. I can’t believe how spry, alert, and capable she is at the age of 95.

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  9. SH says:

    Your post made me smile! How wonderful to find such a heartfelt welcome and acceptance! I did not have grandparents growing up, they had passed away. I became a Grammy for the first time last year and gained a second grandchild two weeks ago πŸ™‚ The love I feel for them is intense and they melt my heart when they look at me and smile πŸ™‚ Enjoy your quilting and the company!!

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Oh, how sad not to grow up with grandparents. When I see immigrants raising their kids all on their own, it makes me sad. We really need someone to spoil us! I bet you are spoiling those grandchildren past all recognition. πŸ˜€

      Like

  10. Roz says:

    What a beautiful, heartfelt post Ana. This made me smile too.

    I think it’s wonderful that you have connected so well with the grannies and I’m so glad it warms your heart with fond memories of your Grandmother.

    We moved from the UK when I was very young so I never really got to know or connect with my Grandparents (or other relatives for that matter) apart from the few occasions they made the journey to visit us. I remember those visits were filled with much excitement and I have fond memories of them which I treasure.

    Hugs,
    Roz

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      When people love and accept us, we become more lovable and acceptable. πŸ™‚ I learned that lesson many years ago, and I’ve carried it with me since then. Still, every once in a while it surprises me again.

      You know exactly what I mean about immigrant families. It’s hard! I hope you had surrogate grandparents and aunts/uncles who were able to fill that spoiling kind of role for you.

      Like

  11. octoberwoman says:

    Beautiful post. Grandmothers are very special people. My paternal gandmother died when I was a baby, and paternal grandfather before I was born. But I have very many happy memories of weekends spent at my other grandparents’ farm when I was a child. I miss them both dearly.

    Like

    • Anastasia Vitsky says:

      Thank you so much. πŸ™‚ I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I am glad you had your mom’s parents to cherish and be cherished by. The Big Brothers Big Sisters program is wonderful, but it seems like we could also use a Grandparenting program, too. Hugs.

      Like

  12. sassytwatter says:

    Fantastic post!!! Learned a lot. About 10 years ago we started celebrating it seems like every holiday just as a fun way to invite people over go to a different market & cook together. Every year at some point we do our own little Chinese New Year party and make the noodles fish dumplings and a few other thibgs I can’t wait to share me new knowledge.

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