Last September, my oldest son carried the last of his boxes to his car, hugged me goodbye and drove off to greet his future. He was moving across town, not across the country, but I was not fooled into thinking it was a minor move. He was launched and not likely to live with us again. I was proud, happy, and sad.
My husband, in a fit of cleaning and reorganizing our now-empty nest, brought a box of fabric down from the attic. Inside were remnants from the baby quilt I made our oldest along with the design I drew, and the calculations I made before cutting out the pieces. The pattern was simple: soft periwinkle blue and white cotton triangles joined to make rectangles with dark red grosgrain ribbon running diagonally along the seams where the triangles joined. The rectangles were set in a butter yellow border. I’d never made a quilt before and I didn’t know what I was doing—the top of the quilt turned out narrower than the bottom—but it didn’t matter. I did the best I could and learned as I went—like so much of mothering.
Three days before he was born, I was still stitching it. My back ached that dark winter morning, and every time I stood up and stretched over the dining room table to pin a piece, my water leaked a little but I didn’t recognize the signs of his impending arrival.
Twenty-three years later, I’m well aware of the signs of his arrival at adulthood, and I see the symmetry in the beginning and ending of this phase of active motherhood.
Fabric scraps and design notes from our youngest son’s baby quilt were also in the box. He had recently returned to college, a less permanent departure. One side of his quilt has pink, blue, lavender and gold birds flying across a field of aqua. I was immediately drawn to the fabric I found in Victoria, British Columbia while I lumbered around seven months pregnant during our last family vacation before my youngest arrived.
The other side of his quilt has a white center that’s bordered by strips of lavender and pink. I hand stitched the outlines of the imaginary birds and butterflies in colored threads against the white. I indulged in this artistic moment during a garage sale we held before moving to a house roomy enough for two boys—by then, I’d learned to enjoy the moments of grace that occasionally occur during the mundane—the essence of motherhood.
Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mommas out there.