Columns

Quilts and the ties that bind

 

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Newly retired, Dad waited by the front door to take my mom grocery shopping.

“Tom, you can’t wear that,” Mom exclaimed.

“Why? Don’t I match?” he asked.

A fair question, since Dad was notoriously color-challenged.

But that wasn’t the problem. He’d donned a sport coat and a snazzy red tie with multicolored stripes.

“Sweetheart, you’re retired. You don’t have to wear a tie every day anymore, especially not to the grocery store,” Mom explained.

Disappointed, he removed the tie, but kept the jacket.

Dad loved his neckties.

He grew up picking cotton in Arkansas. As he labored in the sweltering heat, he dreamed of a different life – one that involved a desk job and wearing suits and ties.

His career in the United States Air Force, followed by a career with the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, allowed him to achieve his dreams.

When he died in 1995, he’d amassed an amazing collection of neckties. My husband kept a couple, and most of them were donated to a local thrift shop. But I couldn’t part with all of them. I set aside a few dozen and gave them to some dear friends who incorporated them in a beautiful quilt. That quilt hung in my Mom’s bedroom until two years ago when she moved to a retirement facility.

Now, it’s draped over our living room sofa where I can see it every day and think about how blessed I was to have a dad like mine.

It’s also a daily reminder of the friends who took the time to create such a sweet remembrance.

I love quilts, like my dad loved ties. The beauty, artistry and stories behind the patterns fascinate me. Sadly, when it comes to sewing, I’m all thumbs and totally lacking in skill or patience.

Thankfully, I have friends who work magic with fabric, needle and thread.

The necktie quilt isn’t my only memory-filled patchwork. Eleven years ago, our oldest son was struggling through adolescence. His actions and attitudes grieved me. I worried. I fretted. I prayed.

A friend made a lap quilt for me to curl up in when I felt overwhelmed. Because I’d often referred to our firstborn as our “golden child,” she incorporated big golden hearts throughout the design. The border features the worlds of one of my favorite hymns, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

That quilt kept me mindful of my son’s true nature. Every time I wrapped myself in it, I felt cocooned in the comfort of my friend’s love and prayers, evident in each tiny stitch.

My husband has his own special quilt. A diagnosis of osteoarthritis in both hips a few years ago rocked him. A strong, active man, he struggled with the reality of a degenerative disease at a relatively young age.

Bonnie, my sister-in-law, knows that pain all too well. So, she went into her sewing room and crafted a cat-covered quilt for Derek. Using masculine colors for the backing and border, the counterpane delighted both of us – especially when we spotted the cat curled up in a basket that looks just like our Thor.

And recently, a new quilt arrived in the mail, made by an extremely talented, prolific quilter.

Its vibrant colors brighten our bedroom, adding homespun cheer, and the accompanying note warmed my heart.

“Thank you, dear friend, for all your glorious words which help so many,” she wrote.

You can spend hundreds of dollars on beautifully pieced quilts, but the quilts in my home are priceless. Each one is threaded with memories, and has been stitched with prayer and bound with love.

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Columns

Like the seasons, decorations come and go

It started small.

Several years ago, Mom was downsizing her autumn decorations and gave me a wicker cornucopia and a figurine of a Pilgrim woman carrying a basket of produce on one arm and a pumpkin in the other.

“I don’t know what happened to her Pilgrim husband,” she said. “I’ve been looking everywhere, but I think she’s been widowed.”

My Mom was a serial seasonal decorator. From pilgrims and pumpkins in the fall, to angels, candles and a Christmas village in the winter, followed by roses and greenery in the spring, she marked the change of seasons with change in household decor.

I, on the other hand, confined my home embellishments to decking the halls at Christmas.

That also started out small: a crèche, a nativity calendar, some stockings and of course, a tree.

Those few homey decorations somehow evolved into many large red and green plastic totes filled with wall hangings, wreaths, framed art, pillows, candles and a multitude of heavenly hosts.

Holiday fever spread to my kitchen and dining room with Christmas dishes, stemware, towels and serving pieces.

Then my husband and our youngest son caught the contagion, and now sometime after Thanksgiving, our lawn will be filled with lighted deer, candy canes, a nativity and angels.

I do have some self-restraint. I drew the line at a toilet paper holder that plays Jingle Bells. And even though the Santa bathroom set complete with a chimney on the tank cover tempted, I resisted. I mean, he already knows when I’m sleeping and knows when I’m awake; he doesn’t need to know anything else.

So, I should have known better when I adopted Mom’s harvest decorations. They looked lonely perched atop the piano.

We took the kids to Green Bluff, and I bought a few little pumpkins and corncobs. Then I added a couple vases Sam had made in elementary school. I really liked the autumn look, but the trim still seemed sparse.

Derek suggested we visit Hobby Lobby – a suggestion he has come to regret. For one thing, he didn’t really think I’d go. I have a deep-seated aversion to any type of craft or fabric store.

“They have home decorating stuff,” he said.

What he really meant is they had some cool outdoor decorations for the garden and his shed.

But he was right about the home decor. I browsed the harvest-themed shelves with Thanksgiving in my heart and picked out a few items.

Then I went back later and picked out a few more.

By now my eyes had been opened, and it seemed like every store I visited had some kind of autumn trim. Coasters, candy dishes, tablecloths, lighted garlands. Before I knew it, I’d somehow amassed a bin full of fall decorations, and there was more fall foliage inside our house than outside.

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When I added a welcome mat and a couple outdoor “Welcome Autumn” signs, I felt I’d tied the theme together and vowed not to add anything else.

So far, so good.

Last year Mom moved to a retirement facility, and the transition was difficult. She spent her entire life turning houses into homes as she followed my dad’s Air Force career. Moving from a four-bedroom, two-bath home to an apartment was quite a change. But she rallied, and last week I thought it might be nice to add a few fall touches to her new place.

Of course, this required a quick trip to Hobby Lobby, but I wasn’t distracted in my mission and just picked out a couple of small things for Mom.

She was delighted and asked if I was still using the decorations she’d given me.

“Do you still have the Pilgrim lady?” she asked. “Did you ever find her a husband?”

“No, she’s still unattached,” I replied.

I’m not buying anymore decorations. I really mean it. But don’t you think that poor Pilgrim has been single long enough?

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Columns

Keep the Orange in Halloween!

Sometimes you just have to take a stand – a produce stand.

After two back-to-back zucchini columns, I really thought I was done writing about squash.

I thought wrong.

You see, autumn is my favorite time of year. There’s nothing better than taking a stroll around the neighborhood under a crisp blue sky. Leaves crunch underfoot and trees show their best colors; a riot of russet, red and gold.

Halloween and fall decor comes out with bats, witches, spider webs and jack-o’-lanterns appearing on porches and lawns.

But the past few years I’ve noticed a rather alarming trend – ghostly white pumpkins. At first I thought folks were painting them, but then I saw the pale imitations popping up in grocery stores.

Turns out farmers are growing varieties of albino squash with names like Lumina, Cotton Candy, Full Moon, Polar Bear and miniature Baby Boos. They’re planting them mostly to keep up with decorating demands.

That’s right. Pinterest is ruining pumpkins!

An article on a travel website about the new crops, stated, “Orange is so yesterday.”

Have they even noticed who’s in the White House?

Speaking of, I don’t mean to be divisive, but unlike the Lorax, I didn’t speak for the trees, the Christmas trees, that is, and look what happened.

White flocked trees meant to simulate a dusting of snow, quickly devolved into madness when the new generation of artificial trees arrived. You can now purchase Christmas trees in most any hue; silver, pink, blue and even rainbow.

Taking the green out of holiday trees is an abomination. We might as well jettison Santa’s red velvet suit and put him a tux. While we’re at it, we could color his snowy white hair, trim that fluffy beard and give him a man bun and a soul patch.

Obviously, I’m a holiday purist.

Pumpkins have been orange since the Garden of Eden and I see no reason to adulterate them. Honestly, I find the albino variety ugly. Our landscape is soon going to be buried in white; can’t we enjoy a bright splash of tangerine before winter dulls our vistas?

As expected, when posting a potentially controversial opinion on social media, the haters came out in force. I was called “squashist,” “gourdist” and even “orange supremacist.”

I accept the charge of pumpkin profiling and am not ashamed.

This slope has already proved treacherously slippery. One Facebook friend admitted to owning a pink pumpkin. PINK! For the love of gourd!

My sister told me she’s even seen a teal squash. That’s something you can’t unsee.

It’s enough to put me off my Chocolate Chip Pumpkin bread and my Spicy Pumpkin muffins. Well, almost.

Another friend posted a meme of a field of albino squash captioned, “White pumpkins drained of their spice by illegal poachers. Please demand ethically sourced Pumpkin Spice lattes.”

Someone else replied, “#allpumpkinsmatter.”

I admit that gave me pause, and I briefly considered aborting my “Keep the Orange in Pumpkin” campaign, but I’d already gone to the trouble of creating a #pumpkinpurist hashtag, and feel it could be trending soon. It would be a shame to lose momentum.

When a friend wrote, “I judge a pumpkin by the content of its character,” I had to admire the sentiment. To be fair, if you slice into an albino pumpkin, you’ll find orange flesh, and supposedly these pale imitations have thinner skins, making them easier to carve.

Nevertheless I must persist.

And while I’m at it, pumpkins are fruit, so don’t go saying you got your vegetable servings in for the day, after three slices of pie.

As I wrapped up my research, I read this headline, “There’s no rule that pumpkins have to be orange.”

To that I can only say, well, there should be.

Contact Cindy Hval at dchval@juno.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval