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Posts Tagged ‘family’

Family Quilt

Just recently my mother-in-law gave me a very special gift.  A quilt, hand made by her, fabrics chosen with care to reflect things that I care about – fabric with letters because of my writing, with books because I love to read, with wine, well, because I like to drink wine, and with a cabin in the woods, to show where my heart is at peace.  There is a hand quilted border of hearts, stitched by the lovely ladies of a quilting society – average age of 90 I believe.  It is a beautiful piece of work that I was so honored to receive.  As I sat and looked at it the other day, I realized that while the pieces of the quilt are pretty, it is putting them all together that makes them beautiful.  It occurred to me that our family is like that too.  Our family is a quilt of many pieces that make up a beautiful whole.

There are different names for quilt patterns.  There is the bears paw, or the birds in the air.  There is the double square and grandmother’s cross.  There’s the wheel of fortune and the wedding knot.  While each pattern is beautiful on it’s own, they are just pretty squares of fabric until they are sewn together, backed with fabric, and quilted in place.  When I look at my family, I see us more as a crazy quilt – made up of irregular pieces, exotic fabrics and embellished in different ways.   Individually, we are all unique.   There is my sister, beautiful like my mother.  She is a teacher at heart, lover of all the things in the forest, at times insecure, at times fearless, always full of faith.  There is my younger brother, who creates masterpieces with his video camera, so assured and certain and the grin of a little boy.   There is my older brother, troubled, anxious, fearful but caring beyond words for all pieces of this quilt.  There is my brother-in-law, hardworking, with an engineer’s mind and logic, determined to provide safety and comfort for his family.  My sister-in-law is another creator – with her camera she shows the beauty of the world around us.   Three nephews – the warrior, the dreamer and the curious. Two grandchildren – the actress and the imp.  My sons, handsome and strong, one a scholar, one a man who creates with his hands.  My husband, loving and patient with us all.  We are all the pieces of this crazy quilt called family.  And the backing?  The stitching?  That would be my mother and my father.  The fabric and thread that holds us and binds us.

We are not a new quilt, fresh and clean like the one I just got.  We have been worn and torn, washed and mended.  At times the quilt seems too heavy, too warm, like a heavy wool blanket on a hot summer night.  We push it off, fold it down at the end of the bed.  At others, it is the warmth that is needed to sustain us through the cold and we reach for it with gratitude.

There is a label on the inside of my quilt, with a blessing.  It says:

“May green be the grass you walk on,

May blue be the sky above you,

May pure be the joy that surrounds you,

May true be the hearts that love you.”

Our grass has not always been green, nor have our skies always been blue.  We have not always been surrounded in joy, we have had our share of heartache, sadness and worry.  But the hearts that love us are true, and they are the warmth of our family quilt.

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To be 5

His face is bright and shining as he meets us at the door, blue eyes sparkling as he hops from one foot to the other in excitement.  Pizza with pineapple and Canadian bacon is on its way, Grandpa has gift bags in his  hands and Gramma has balloons.  One balloon has a monkey on it, one has Ninja turtles and one has a cake with candles.  Oh, birthdays are soooo exciting when you are 5!

“Gramma , Gramma, look at the cake!  I helped decorate it!  Can I open my presents now?  Can I?  Pleeeaase?  Look what Mommy and Daddy got me!  An airplane that drives on the ground with a remote!  And a bulldozer!  Look, it can pick up the Legos!  You brought root beer! I LOVE root beer!! ”  Hardly stopping to take a breath, he darts from one thing to another, proudly showing off what he can do with his new toys.

Laughing, Grandpa sets the gift bags on the table.  “EJ, let us get our coats off!  Happy birthday, buddy.  That’s a pretty cool airplane!”  “I picked it out all by myself.  See, it can go forward and it can turn.  Watch out for the propellers, Grandpa, they might hurt you.  Can I open my presents now?” “Ok, Ok.  let’s take them over here.  Let Gramma sit down by you.”

I sit cross legged on the floor next to the big gift bags decorated with Mickey Mouse.  Tissue paper starts flying.  Out of one comes a small train set.  Out of the other comes packages with more train cars.  There were circus cars, and flatbed cars carrying tanks, and passenger cars, and more engines.  Oh, and at the bottom of the bag a shirt and a pair of pants.  Those just get tossed to Mom.

“Open this, open this”, he hands each of us a set of train parts.  Sissy gets the circus train, Gramma gets the tracks.  Daddy gets the screwdriver so he can put the batteries in the engines.  Once the tracks are open, EJ grabs them from my hands and takes them to his Daddy.  Down on hands and knees, on the kitchen floor, the two of them start to build the track.  Dark heads together, deciding which piece goes where.  For a moment, I see two 5 year-olds.  They look almost exactly the same.  Same blue eyes, same long eyelashes, same dark hair, same infectious grin.  They could have been twins.  Then I blink my eyes and see that one is really almost 32 years old.  Sigh, somedays I wish he really was 5 again.

The track is together, batteries are in the engines and in the railroad crossing.  Excitement as the cars are hooked up and set on track.  Laughter as they derail.  Wait, wait!  A dragon has to be set up next to the tracks to guard them.  Wait, wait!  The bucket of the back hoe has to be filled with Legos to dump on the train.  Pizza, just put it there Mom.  I’m busy right now.

Finally, he wants cake.  White cake, with white frosting and sprinkles on top.  Mommy makes good cake.  The lights are dimmed, the candles lit and a chorus of Happy Birthday sung.  EJ's 5th birthdayMake a wish, blow out the candles.  Two bites of cake, and it’s back to the train.

It’s time for Gramma and Grandpa to go.  He reaches to be picked up.  Arms around my neck, a great big squeeze, and then, he lays his head on my shoulder.  I love you, monkey boy.  I love you too, Gramma.

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The arrival of Lobo

The big green travel crate sits on the grass in the back yard.  Dark curious eyes above a white snout peer out through the wire door.  Who are all these people they seem to say.  Hello, little guy Dad says as he cuts the plastic tabs off that act as a lock for the crate.  We open the door, and he sits in the doorway.  Dark head with a white muzzle and a white stripe between his eyes held high, he peers around at the five of us crowded around him. No, I don’t think I’ll come out.  It’s been a long day, I’ve had many strange adventures, and I think I will stay right here, thank you very much. He doesn’t move to the back of the crate, he isn’t afraid, he just observes those around him.  It’s alright, we tell him.  You’re home now.  Come on out.  Nope.  I’ll lay down right here in the doorway.  His dark head lowers to rest on white paws almost as big as my hand.  9 weeks old, and his paws are already that big.  Oh boy.  This beauty will be huge.  I try to entice him with a treat and get a stare in return.  We let Zeus the Westie out of the house, hoping he will come out to see another dog.  Ears up and bottle brush tail waving in the air, Zeus prances around the crate.  Come on, let’s play. No deal.  He’s not moving one inch outside the door.  Everybody go in the house, Dad says, maybe he’ll come out then.  Mom and the boys go inside but Dad and I sit down at the patio table to wait.  It really is alright little guy, I say.  There isn’t a better home that you could have come too.  I look over at the pine trees in the corner of the yard, at the freshly turned earth, a dark brown scar against the green, painful to see like the scar on our hearts is painful to feel.  No, there is no home you could have come to where you will be more loved than here.

As we wait, I think about the new life this little guy will have, and the joy he is bringing with him.  Dogs have always been a big part of our family.  They have been our companions, our friends, our guards, even our saviors.  Throughout the years there have been 18 furry members of our family.  Queenie, Missy, Token, Tonga, Lady, Sir, Brandy, Boss, Bear, Molly, Preacher, Katya, King, Lucky, Zeus, Cola and Katy.  And Maqua.  To us, they are never just dogs, but true members of our families.  Each was and is well-loved.  We worry about them, care for them,  as if they are our children.  To lose one is to lose a piece of ourselves.  A couple of weeks ago, we lost a huge part of us.  Dad’s gentle giant Maqua couldn’t go on anymore.  His hips were gone, he was in pain, and so with Mom and Dad at his side, he went to wait for us on the rainbow bridge.  His passing left a gaping hole in all our hearts.  Maqua was a Pyrenean Mastiff.  At close to 200 pounds he was the largest dog we’ve ever had.  He was also the gentlest. An ancient breed, Pyrenian Mastiff’s were bred to guard the flocks of sheep against bears and wolves in the Pyrenees Mountains.  They are fierce protectors and yet are extremely gentle with children, and anyone they consider part of their “flock.”  Although not technically a herding dog, Maqua never failed to use his massive head to gently push me wherever he wanted me.  He was Dad’s constant companion for the almost 11 years that he was with us.  Riding in the “dog car” – a Lincoln Aviator so named because it was full of dog hair and drool – the two of them would do everything from going to the grocery store to driving to the lake together.  They shared a couch in the family room, and in his younger days Maqua was not above climbing up and sitting on you if you were foolish enough to sit on his couch.  If you were lucky, occasionally he would bestow a kiss on you.  It always made your heart lighter if you got a Maqua kiss.  With him gone, what would we do?  What would Dad do?  Maqua and Dad

At 81, he had said there would be no more dogs, Maqua was his last.  But there was this awful, massive, empty space in the house, and in our hearts.  And so my brilliant mama convinced him that no, they were not to old for a puppy, yes, they could train another.  Out came the dog folder, the calls were made, and wouldn’t you know there was a litter of Pyrenian Mastiff puppies just ready to go to new homes.  Querida’s litter W, male number 2 looked out from the pictures as if to say “Well – what are you waiting for?”  and that was it.  A week later we were sitting at the airport, an hour early, waiting for the plane from California to arrive.

And so Dad and I sat at the patio table, waiting for male number 2 to venture out of his crate.  After a while, we decided waiting wasn’t working so we gently0815141849a tipped him out onto the grass.  I got down on his level, petting and talking softly to him.  Ah, a puppy kiss.  But he still stayed right next to the crate.  So we moved the crate closer to the table, and he followed.  About 10 minutes later, we moved it closer still.  He followed again and lay down next to it.  Slowly he worked his way nearer, Dad talking to him all the time.  And then he was sitting at Dad’s feet.  You could almost feel them bonding, see the connection being made.  Yes, Lobo was home.  He knew it, and we knew it.   He will never replace Maqua, but he will be just as loved.  And so we will endure chewed furniture and messes on the floor, torn skirts (Lobo has decided he likes to dance with my skirt in his mouth) and missing shoes, stolen sandwiches, sassy barks,  puppy kisses, ears soft as silk and dark eyes with a mischievous glint.  For in our eyes, there is no finer sight than a man and his dog, than this man and his dog.

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