Recently, a couple people on Instagram have remarked that my quilt and these embroidered pillowcases look like heirlooms, and it got me thinking a lot about that word. About what heirlooms mean to me, and why. Although I don’t come from a very sentimental family, I do have a few very special items that have been passed down to me. I don’t know if the original owners of these things thought they were as special as I think they are. Probably not, since the very thing that makes them so special to me is that they remind me of the people who gave them to me.
I just got back from a week in Wichita, taking care of my mom after a minor surgery. While I was there, she gave me a mirror that she made in the early ’80s, before I was born. I have always loved it…for me, it represents home and comfort and my beautiful mother. I hope that someday, when I pass it on to my own child, it will symbolize those things for her too.
Before I was born, a friend of the family made a quilt for my parents. It was huge…easily draped over my parents’ full-size bed, but probably could’ve even covered a king-size one. Thousands of tiny, one-inch hexagons in hundreds of colors and patterns. As a baby, I would spend hours staring at all of the patches. There where ginghams and stripes, solids and flowers, polka dots big and small. Even a black & yellow owl print that always kind of creeped me out. When we were kids, my brother and I would throw this quilt over the dining room table to make a fort, or spread it out in the living room and have a picnic in our drippy wet swimming suits. In middle school, it was my bedspread. I can remember very clearly lying on it, reading To Kill a Mockingbird or The Face on the Milk Carton, listening to The Wallflowers or rain falling on the roof, nursing a broken heart (because when you’re thirteen, your heart is in a perpetual state of brokenness). This quilt was loved. It was a member of the family, just as much as my younger brother or our cocker spaniel. I wish it hadn’t fallen apart (and wish even more that I’d had the skills to repair it), but it ignited this desire in me to learn how to sew, to make a quilt for myself, to create potential heirlooms that could be passed down for generations.
I love filling my home with the things I’ve made. But, even more than that, I love dreaming about the life these things will have beyond my own use for them. Dreaming about what they’ll symbolize to the person who owns them next. Hoping that they become a cherished part of my own family, and then my children’s families, and so on. (And yes, I will teach my children how to mend, so that even when things fall apart, they don’t end up lost forever!)