Something Lighter

I needed to listen to something light the other day because my thoughts had been immersed for too long in serial killers. I go for the crime drama shows and had just finished the last episode of Mindhunter on Netflix – two seasons about the early days (1970s) of the FBI’s “Behavioral Science Unit,” a department that studied patterns and traits of the baddest of the bad to help find and identify others of their ilk. The second season concerns the Atlanta Child Murders of 1979-81. It’s heavy stuff.

Not yet ready for bed after I turned off the TV, I was curious how much of the show was based on fact so I googled Atlanta Child Murders. Seems the writers of Mindhunter got a lot right.

That led to curiosity about the renamed “Behavioral Analysis Unit” founded in 1972 at Quantico by real-life agents Robert Ressler and John Douglas. That led to a piece on the qualifications for being an FBI agent (what does it take to get that job) which I couldn’t/wouldn’t even consider for various reasons, which then led to an article about the most notorious of the serial killers, the Top Ten, the ones that shaped the initial studies and led to criminal profiling that is still used today.

Ted Bundy, Edmund Kemper, Jeffrey Dahmer and others – these almost alien men committed crimes that have no words strong enough to describe. Ghastly, shocking, horrifying, evil, wicked, despicable, heinous, demonic, atrocious, monstrous, brutal – all these words seem pale to me when examining the crimes. This is not the kind of stuff you should be reading before going to bed if you want good dreams.

So I finally said to myself, Yeah, something lighter maybe.

A gardening podcast perhaps? My gourds had reminded me that the garden was not a complete failure this year.

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My neighbor Jennifer took some that I offered and had fun with her daughter Anna Lane.

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But I didn’t find a gardening podcast. Instead I stumbled on something called The Slow Home. No, it’s not about the homeowner’s intellectual deficiencies. And it’s not about how fast we move (or don’t) when we are exhausted from shoveling too much concrete that is masquerading as dirt. It’s about purposefully, mindfully adjusting your pace, your home, your life to make room for the stuff that matters to you.

It was a lovely alternative to serial killers, I must say.  And an intriguing topic.

Taking our time, enjoying the moments, not in a hurry – do we do this as much as we should?  Thinking about such things reminded of some of the scenes I like best in some of the children’s books I like best. (These are for you, Mona!)

Such as when Frog and Toad stare at the garden plot together and Frog gently suggests that the garden will grow in its own good time.

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Or when Fern and Avery take turns swinging in the barn door in that famous summer of Charlotte’s Web.

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Or when the boy plays in the bracken with The Velveteen Rabbit.

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Or during One Morning in Maine when Sal and her sister Jane have to wait just a bit longer for their ice cream cones because of “Mr. Ferd Clifford and Mr. Oscar Staples, who were sitting in the store talking about trapping lobsters and how the fish were biting.”

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Or in Blueberries for Sal when Little Sal “picked three berries and dropped them in her little tin pail…kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk!” (Oh, may we take the time to hear the kuplinks and the kuplanks and the kuplunks in our lives!)

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Or when, “early every morning, Francois, the keeper’s son, stopped on his way to school to say, ‘Bonjour, Happy Lion.’”

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Or when Madeleine is not afraid of mice.

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Or when Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel are peacefully settled in the humble cellar of the new town hall and Mrs. McGillicuddy brings a hot apple pie 😊

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I was just reading to Ellie and Nelson last week, so I’ve got these lovely, peaceful images fresh in my mind.

 

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Frog and Toad and Fern and Avery and the Velveteen Rabbit and Sal and Jane and Francois and the Happy Lion and Madeleine and Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel make me wonder about “the company we keep.” For years I read these books and many others to my kids, over and over again, and now I read them to my grandchildren when they come visit. The pages are soft from many, many turnings. The images are familiar old friends that warm my heart and gentle my day.

We all have something, I hope, Something Lighter, Something Balanced, Joyful, Peaceful, Delightful for those times when Something Gruesome or Tragic or Angry wants to win the day and snag every part of us and paint the world all wrong. What’s your Something Lighter? I know some of your answers: fishing, golf, painting, woodworking, writing poems, cooking, playing games, watching the Patriots (!), playing Wordfeud or Rummikub, walking the dog… What else?

A Tattered Quilt

A most fabulous event occurred yesterday in my family – a new granddaughter was born! She is perfect and healthy and blessed to have such wonderful parents, though she is as yet unnamed. Piper is her two-year-old sister, so Brad and Beth have been calling the baby P2 up till now. They said they have to look at her a while before they decide on the name. Fair enough.

My own name, to all my grandbabies, is “Oma” (not Grandma or Grammie or any other sweet name for grandmother). I love being Oma.

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I got it in my head some time ago to make a quilt for this little baby. I finished it and mailed it off yesterday, pleased with how it came out but at the same time kind of nervous. I chose the fabrics. I chose the colors. I know Beth is partial to purple and liked a simple green receiving blanket I had made for Piper. I found a friendly, happy daisy print that’s got purple, green and yellow and decided to build the rest of the quilt around that one.

But colors are funny. Think of the variety you see when you go to buy paint – how many different reds, greens, blues, etc. Colors can be warm and inviting or cold and off-putting. They can make you feel comfortable or give you the creeps. They can calm you down or make you want to want to run in the other direction. So how do you choose? Will they like what I have chosen?

Comfort came unexpectedly from my neighbor Tracy. “I have a quilt my grandmother made for me and I used it until it started falling apart,” she said. “I hope they love yours just as much.”

That’s when I flashed back to two quilts I made many years ago and gave to friends who had had babies. The images that came in my head were of meeting up randomly with both of these moms and their babies after some time had gone by, maybe a year, maybe two. Both quilts that I had so carefully sewn together were right there with each child and both were in tatters – I mean ragged edges and stuffing coming out. Can’t get rid of it, both moms told me in different ways. “She loves this quilt! This is the one she wants.”

A little bit like The Velveteen Rabbit learns from the Skin Horse, right?* I know I’ve referred to this story before, but it’s pertinent again.

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“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become REAL.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Sometimes.” For he was always truthful. “When you are real, you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up, or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or who have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

I don’t know if any of them – Brad or Beth or Piper (who has a dolly-size quilt to match) or especially the new baby – will like the colors and the pattern I’ve chosen. Hopefully they will not want to put it in a drawer under a bunch of other stuff! But Tracy’s words about the quilt her grandmother made gave me an image of the quilt I just made, only with its colors faded and its edges worn and its fibers super soft from use and time. By then the colors and the pattern are no longer important. What will matter, what I hope will override any other impression this quilt gives, is the love that went into it, the deep, inexpressible love in my heart. Nothing will make me happier than if it serves as the vehicle of that love, if it speaks to it and of it, and is someday worn, thin, tattered, Real.

Think what you will of the colors. These are the fabrics I chose.

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This is the pattern I chose.**

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First you make a plan to evenly distribute the three yellows, three purples and three greens, using the daisy print to tie them together. This was my plan. I messed it up by the third block, but was able to recover.

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Then you cut out all the squares with a rolling blade.

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You have to pay close attention during the first block or two. Before trimming, it looks like this, which throws you a bit.

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Same block after trimming (ah, that’s better):

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Then you make the other eight blocks and move them all around until you are happy with the balance and distribution of color. It’s never perfect. Lots of the corners are not perfectly joined. I did the best I could with the balance of colors.

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Then you add cross-pieces to hold it all together. I used the same purple (flannel) as the four triangular corners of each block. I hope Beth still likes purple!

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Then you add a middle layer of batting and a backing and you bind it all together. I found a soft green flannel for the backing. From the back it looks like this. Nothing fancy. I am no expert. But it will serve.

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I had enough leftover pieces to make a small dolly-size quilt and I thought Piper might like it.

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Can you imagine it years from now, faded and tattered? Stained maybe? Much used? Much enjoyed? I hope so!

 

*The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and illustrated by David Jorgensen, Alfred A Knopf Publishers, New York, 1985

** from 501 Quilt Blocks, Better Homes and Gardens, Meredith Corporation, Des Moines, Iowa, 1994