Sunday, May 18, 2008

Noelle's Quilt


When I was a young mother raising six children, all a year or two apart, I sewed most of their clothing. After years of collecting scraps from their many outfits, I decided to make quilts with the leftover material. At the time, with so many children, I was always short of blankets.

The first quilt was quickly claimed by my fifteen-year-old son, Dante, who still treasures his baby blanket. It was made of mostly denim squares, and was bright, warm and practical. Now thirty-four years-old, my son will not part with that quilt.

Twelve-year-old Noelle begged me to make her a similar quilt. Her quilt, howerer, was more whimisical, filled with squares from nightgrowns and tee-shirts to party dresses, reminding me of the biblical, "Joeseph's coat of many colors," and Noelle loved it. It covered her bed ever day, accompanied her to sleep-overs with friends and was a favorite possession until the day she was struck down by a drunk driver on a lovely summer day when she was fourteen-years-old. She died of massive spinal cord injuries, after lingering in a semi-coma for the ten longest days of our lives.
Her quilt was passed on to her closest sister, Kelly. who wrapped it arround herself in an effort to retain the closeness of Noelle. I lost all desire to sew another quilt.

Now nineteen years later, with the loss of Noelle still causing a soreness within our hearts, my daughters and I take out her quilt and reminisce her life.
"Mom, see that square ? It was from the skirt and vest that she wore constantly," her oldest sister Kimber says in a soft, awed tone.

"Look Mom, that piece was from her favorite nightgown," her sister Kelly adds, in an equally subdued voice. "You made one almost like it for me."
I run my hands lovingly across a red plaid square, a piece from matching Christmas outfits that I had made for my three youngest girls, and let my mind drift back in time.
"I can't remember any of these squares," says Nicole, who was only eleven when her sister died. "Except for this one, which you made into those awful jeans that only Noelle liked."
Some of my children were embarrassed, especially during their teenage years, to wear home-made clothes instead of name-brand clothing. But not Noelle. She loved the outfits I sewed and wore them proudly
My sons Michael and Dante do not share these times with us nor does my husband. The memories are too painful for them to recall. Women, and my daughters are all women now, seem to need tangible things to cling to in times of great loss.
As we contemplate the soft, colorful squares of her quilt, we are made poignantly aware that Noelle's quilt, though somewhat tattered with age, holds a rememberance of her life. And we find comfort in this. Noelle is gone from us, but her favorite blanket is quilted with memories of her love, her essence-fabrics woven forever in time.

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