Inspired by these quilts that I saw at a local museum and were once on first class stamps that I bought up when they were issued, I sat down to make something in a similar vein. I had sorted and stacked papers countless times this year, always hoping to reduce the pile, but never seeming to make much headway. I pulled the papers out again and this time took to them with a sharp cutting knife, a metal straightedge and not a single measured mark. I cut strips for several nights in a row, only once removing a bit of fingertip in the process. I joked that I should be wearing a thimble to do this kind of “sewing”, but just vowed to slow down a bit and not remove any additional skin along the way. Once I had piles upon piles of strips, short and long ones, I started gluing the vertical ones to a starter strip and then weaving in the horizontal ones. Each one required quite a bit of time, a lot of edge glue and a brief visit under a stack of heavy cookbooks to dry straight and flat.
Later, after stacking up a pile of ragged edged pieces, I trimmed them to size and made sure the edges were still affixed. Then I laid them out in front of me and watched the whole composition take shape.
Fueled by a lot of coffee and occasionally a bit of the stronger stuff, the table slowly filled and then spilled over.
I worked while the kids were sleeping, while my husband was on the second floor working on Christmas presents for the girls, while the radio played in the background and my thoughts spun in the foreground. I thought about the birthday invitations that had been made by these papers, the gifts, the birth announcements, previous Christmas cards and thank you notes. I thought about how quickly those birthdays stack up and blur together and how long ago the baby’s announcement seems, a July of another era, not just five short months ago. I thought about previous holiday cards and how I’ve been doing this tradition now for ten years and how I look forward to it as much as I do the annual tree. I thought about how I need to get back to starting this just after Halloween and not right before Thanksgiving amongst the baking powder and flour dusted December that we always seem to have. I thought about my grandmother and her countless piecing of fabrics, tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of shapes cut and arranged and stitched into place. How she can no longer sit at that table and quilt those endless squares but how the evidence of her talents surrounds us in our homes and our lives and courses through our veins and how unbelievably thankful I am for that. How I can see beauty and meaning and feel such joy in a line of icing or a stack of cards, and how content and at peace I am when lost in those tasks. How I lucked into sharing a life with three others that see it and appreciate it and love it (and tiptoe around it) as much as I do.