This is the year the youngest turns 21. We’re in the midst of planning his birthday trip to celebrate. However, his girlfriend, who we love to pieces, beat him to that milestone. In fact, she kicked off this Labor Day weekend with birthday cookies and legal fun. When the realization set in that this was the year the children wouldn’t be children any longer (at least in terms of age), I knew it was important to mark the celebration with something out of the ordinary.
Combining her favorite elephants with the symbols of her sorority and her school colors, 21 Elephants came to life. She tells me she loves it.
In lieu of a poem, the label for this piece was used for a birthday message.
Next up: An experimental piece to practice technique.
The last of the Any Color series for my grandparents is complete.
Red for Basil. Green for Lucille. Purple for Neska. And Blue for Gene.
Spending the last few months creating these has been both pleasant and poignant, a time of joy-filled memories of visits with beloved grandparents but also a time tinged with the sadness that never, ever quite leaves after loss.
The process to create Blue went more smoothly than those before it. Not all that surprising, I suppose. Practice makes perfect (or close to it), after all. However, the knowledge that Blue, the last in this series, was in memory of the first grandparent I lost made me a little weepy. There are tears stitched to, and soaked into, the fabric.
A piece of my heart went with each grandparent when he or she died. But in return, a piece of each of them lives on in me.
Blue is for Grandpa Gene, who lives large and bold in my heart.
My Grandpa Gene was my favorite. Just as parents aren’t supposed to have favorite children, I suppose children shouldn’t have favorite grandparents. But I did.
I loved all my grandparents. I still do, very much, but Grandpa Gene is the one who I remember with the most clarity, the memories vibrant and vivid and bright.
Gene was a big man, with large hands and feet, and a gruff demeanor; a gentle giant with his tiny wife and daughter, and his two tinier grandchildren. He made large pots of chili, loved to fish and hunt and watch football. He smoked Parliaments and read dirty joke books in the bathroom off the kitchen. He managed a cold storage in our town, he served as a fireman and an alderman. He gave me a Jolly Green Giant doll he received from the Green Giant people.
I wish I still had that doll. It smelled like him.
This big man would allow my brother and I to climb in his lap. We would lay across the arms of the armchair in the den, and he would rub our backs with one large hand. No masseuse can compete with those back rubs.
When I was ten, he died. He had just turned seventy.
Grandpa Gene was one of six relatives we lost over the course of a year and a half. My Grandma Clark was another (see her quilt here). His was the first funeral I attended. The monsignor told funny stories in the eulogy. I sat with my parents and my Nonie in the front pew on the right side of the aisle in St. Patrick’s Church, awash in tears, baffled and offended that anyone could find anything funny about the loss of Grandpa Gene.
It has been almost forty years since Grandpa Gene left us and there is still nothing funny about this loss. I wept then. I weep today.
His color was blue. That seems fitting. My tears are blue too.
Is there someone you’ve lost for whom you still grieve, even though it’s been decades?
June was a crazy month. I had to travel for work three out of the four weeks, two days each week, which should have thrown off my whole schedule. And, to a degree, it did. But it also motivated me to work harder and longer in the available time I did have at home in my studio. As a result, I not only started Any Color’s All Right As Long As It’s Purple (for Neska) in June, I FINISHED it in the same month! It’s the small things, people. Those little accomplishments that make all the difference between continuing and giving up. Celebrate all the tiny victories.
I love the colors in this art quilt. Of course, my love of purple comes naturally. I dug through my jewelry box for the embellishments. Grandma Neska loved brooches; I was surprised to find I had a few that would have suited her. Please let me know what you think.
I’ve mentioned in previous posts for this series that, while working on Any Color’s All Right As Long As It’s Red, in honor of my Grandpa Clark, I realized Red (for Basil) was the first in a series for my grandparents.
This third honors my paternal grandmother, Neska, who loved purple. She wore it in dresses and hats, brooches and shoes. I believe she would have had purple carpets, drapes, and even walls if my Grandpa had been willing.
Neska passed away when I was 10 or 11, during a time when our family lost several loved ones. I wish my memories were stronger, but those I do have are of a woman who loved her children and grandchildren. She called each of us Pet and gave the best Grandma kisses. My grandfather adored her, this woman who worked as a nurse before they married in the ‘20s. She was strong and sweet and loving.
While working on this piece of art for her, I realized the memory, of how much she loved us all, is the only one I really need.
Quilting is underway. Check back in a week or two to see how Purple turns out.