It has been over a month since my last post, much to my chagrin. Between the holidays, winter break for the kids, school and moving, things have been hectic to say the least. I am the proverbial headless chicken right now. This should be a Trash Talk Tuesday topic, but rather than wait until next Tuesday to post, I am taking advantage of yet another (thank you, Old Man Winter) snow day at home with the children.
I hate moving. It is an enormous pain and it seems to take forever. Boxes, boxes and more boxes. There is no better way to completely make you feel like a hoarder than moving. You have to pack it all up, and then stare at it collectively. When did I acquire so much crap?! And then there are the books….oh, the books. There are so many, and I quite literally cannot help from buying more. Fortunately we have found the perfect spot in the house for said books….a lovely little nook which will soon be converted in to a three sided bookcase, with bench seating, complete with hinged lid to hide away blankets and such. I will keep you posted on that project as it starts to take shape.
I was finally able to retrieve my things from storage that have been sitting for about a year. Amongst the treasures rediscovered was my great grandmother’s Minnesota A treadle sewing machine, a fabulous writing desk gifted to me by a dear friend…..and the quilt. The f*@ker bird quilt.
Allow me to explain….
My great grandmother was a quilter and an Appalachian Queen. I own several of her quilts, a few are of the “crazy” quilt variety, but a couple of them are embroidered as well. One is biblically based, showing scenes from different bible stories. The other one is the f*@cker bird quilt. Right now you may be somewhat perplexed, wondering how on earth the same woman could quilt a beautiful bible based bedspread then turn around and sew something with expletives. It’s kind of like cleaning out a closet and finding a box of porn right next to a “Jesus” box…complete with bible, etc. etc. It doesn’t quite make sense and also makes you wonder how well you know your neighbors. But that’s another story for another time.
Duality could be one reason for the seeming juxtaposition, but it’s a bit simpler than that.
The actual theme of the quilt is the state birds of the United States of America. It is incredibly detailed and beautifully done. The amount of time and effort that went in to creating this piece is simply mind boggling. The embroidery for each state, complete with an image of the bird and the name of that state, was stitched entirely by hand. As I examine each state and it’s bird, I can imagine my great grandmother sitting in her living room down in the holler in Strange Creek, West Virginia, watching Hee Haw and sewing away the evening. As you can imagine, there isn’t much going on in Strange Creek, West Virginia.
All is well until you get to Alabama. The state bird is the Flicker. The letters are in all caps. There isn’t enough room between the L and the I, they run together ….and well, there you have it. The f*@ker bird quilt. Snicker.
As a child, this quilt was on the bed in the “back bedroom” (that’s back-woodsy speak for “guest room” for all you non Appalachians) and I can remember staring at it and laughing my can off…but not too loudly. It always sort of felt like a dirty little secret to look at it and read those words. Strangely, I looked forward to seeing that quilt every summer when we went to visit. Not so strangely, I think I’m finally beginning to understand the origin of my potty mouth.
I never said anything to my great grandmother about the “typo”….how could I? I would have been mortified and embarrassed beyond belief to bring it to her attention. And speaking of attention, how could SHE not notice?
My great grandmother was an amazingly strong woman. Her mother passed when she was in the fourth grade, leaving her to care for her younger siblings while her father worked to feed them all. My daughter is in the third grade right now, and the thought of her leaving school to take care of even smaller children is bewildering. My great grandmother met and married my great grandfather when she was 14 (I won’t even go in to drawing comparisons to my daughter on this one) and they had three children, one who died shortly after birth. My great grandfather was a coal miner and passed way from Black Lung Disease months before I was born. My great grandmother lived alone and never remarried. Ironically, she died when I was in the fourth grade.
Of course I see her strength in the fact that she endured much heartache throughout her life, but always seemed joyful. I also admire her strength in being amazingly resourceful, having the ability to get by on not much but always having plenty for everyone else, making the most amazing fried chicken you’ve ever had and canning her own sausage. OMG that sausage….she went to her grave with that sausage recipe and the day we ate the last jar was a somber occasion, indeed. I admired her handwriting, which was quite elegant for a lady with a fourth grade education. I also admire the strength of her funky hillbilly feet….yeah, you read that right. Barefoot always, her feet were so calloused and hardened from years without shoes that she could squash and kill bees with her feet. This may not seem like a useful skill to you, but I reckon there may have been some feller in town with a bee allergy who thought to himself, “that little gal could prevent me from going in to anaphylactic shock. No need to carry my Epi-pen….I’m gonna go a’courtin Ms. Delphia….” Lol.
So back to the quilt….and I have given this a lot of thought over the last few days…..did she ever notice her slip of the needle? My entire childhood I thought she couldn’t have possibly known. Why else would she leave it on the bed for all to read? Reflecting upon it now, however, I think she did. That’s not to say I think she did it on purpose, I most certainly do not. I like to think of it as a happy accident, something that made her chuckle a little after she realized what had happened. I think that she had learned through all of her heartache and suffering that you have to take the good with the bad, and that life doesn’t always turn out the way you planned. Or, that if you are paying more attention to Minnie Pearl than what you’re stitching, mistakes are bound to happen.
Lesson learned, I think she finally said, “eff it”….. and now I really do understand the origin of my potty mouth 😉
Peace, love and blessings to all….
P.S. I’d love to hear about any fun family heirlooms you have hanging around, so please share! Also, as you can see from the picture, this quilt desperately needs cleaned as well as repaired. If anyone has any advice as to how to go about it, please pass along some wisdom!