Patchwork Quilts


    In the small towns of Nova Scotia during the late 1950s and early 1960s, it was not particularly a time of wealth. In fact, what was perceived as middle class back in those days would no doubt be looked upon as poverty by today's standards. The majority of folks were hard-working people, factory workers, fishermen and miners. Pennies had to be pinched and a pay cheque had to stretch a long way. In most families though, love was the most valuable currency and most parents made many sacrifices to ensure the health and well-being of their children. My own parents were like that, always putting their children first and making certain we did not go without the necessities. In order to accomplish this they not only went without things they needed or wanted themselves, but they also sacrificed many hours of their time and energy.

    As children we rarely understand these sacrifices our parents make, but, as a parent of four myself now, I do think about everything my own parents did for my siblings and I. I remember, for instance, the countless hours my Dad spent cutting trees and later chopping them into firewood so that we children could all enjoy the warm house we took so much for granted. Often he had to do this after already working a long day and was tired to the bone before he even started chopping.

    One winter, when I was seven years old I was very ill. My tonsils were infected and the infection was really beginning to take hold of me. I had a fever that was spiking higher and higher. These were the days when doctors still made house calls, but on this particular night a blizzard was raging outside. A call to our family doctor confirmed that he wasn't able to make any house calls this night. The roads hadn't even been ploughed. My Dad bundled himself up in as many warm clothes as he could and without a thought for his own safety ventured out into the storm. He forged on through the snow and wind, walking three miles to get to the drugstore for the medicine I needed. It wasn't until I was grown that I fully understood that he risked his own safety for the sake of my well-being.

    Sometimes I am truly amazed at all my Mother accomplished when we were young. Raising six children on a limited budget and yet keeping us all well-fed, well-dressed and happy. At times she had three children in diapers all at once, long before the days of disposables. It seemed at times that the washing machine was always going, a constant swish-swish that was the background rythm of all we did.

    Through most of our childhood we had hand-sewn, patchwork quilts on our beds. I remember when these quilts were a work in progress. I can still see Mom, her long dark hair in a pony tail, whisps falling about her face, as she bent over her task. In the dim yellow light of a living room lamp she sewed each stitch, bringing the little pieces of our lives together into one large blanket. A remnant of Dad's old gabardine dress pants here, a square of my old blue Sunday School dress there and down in the corner a piece of Ricky's plaid shirt, the one he wore on his first day at school. Yes, there were a lot of memories in those old quilts, but what I really liked to think about as I looked at all those squares, was the love that went into the thousands of stitches that held them together, and the tireless, soft hands that worked long into the night to make them. Those quilts were our Mother's love, keeping us warm on cold winter nights.

    Perhaps what I'm most grateful for, is the sacrifice of my parent's time. The minutes, or hours they set aside just to be with us. Dad played his guitar and sang with us. Mom told us stories that captivated us. They would play "ring-around-a rosy" with us and fall down laughing. They took the time to clean our "boo-boos" and wipe away our tears, and to praise us when we made them proud. They even cared enough to decipline us when we needed it. There is no greater gift a parent can give their children than their time.

    I hope that one day my own children will remember fondly all the "patchwork quilts" we've given them. I hope they'll understand that despite the mistakes we've made, as do all parents, that love was behind every choice we made, right or wrong, good or bad. Most of all, I hope they remember the time we've given and the wonderful times we've had together as a family. There is no better legacy than that.

Copyright April 22, 2005 to present,
by Charmaine V.
All Rights Reserved.

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Copyright 1996 - Present by Charmaine V.
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