Karen Abbott

At The Fencepost: June 27, 2012

Karen Abbott

by Karen Abbott

I’ve been doing a lot of quilting lately and it feels great. I put it off, sometimes, even though I know I enjoy it once I get started.

I think it’s going to be tiring or hot or take energy I don’t have. It gives back, though, like all good hobbies do.

I just finished up a quilt for my older daughter’s graduation. I had made one for her sister, so it’s a bit of a tradition now.  With my second child leaving the nest, though, it feels a more bittersweet.

I now know what it feels like to hear about milestones many weeks after they occur. Stories about the new boyfriend, the big cantata, and the road trip with best friends sound different, like trying to hear the nuances of a loved one’s voice on speaker phone from the next room. You recognize the voice, but syllables are dropped here and there.

You’re not sure if you’re saying “Oh, that’s wonderful!” at the right time. The immediacy that gave living under the same roof all its drama also gave it charm and solidarity. We were family.

When I went to college, I moved in with my aunt and grandmother.  So it wasn’t such a distinct rite of passage for me. We lived just up the hill from where I’d visited my great-grandmother in my youth.

I find myself thinking about her a lot as I quilt. She was a quilter, though I didn’t know it until college. My aunt showed me a trunk that had some of her quilts in it, just like something from Little House on the Prairie.

I wasn’t a quilter at the time so the value and skill of her work was lost on me.

In those college years, my aunt and my grandmother and I would sit around the radio Sunday evenings, listening to Paul Harvey and eating popcorn and homemade fudge. Though great-grandma had died when I was in seventh grade, the folks were just getting comfortable talking about her.

Once I asked my aunt to tell me as much family history as she could remember. She scoffed.  “What’d you want to know that for?” Well, why wouldn’t I want to know? I was the daughter of a history teacher who taught me more about New York State than anyone I ever met. I was taking history classes in college — Russian history, Colonial history, European, history of the Reformation — I couldn’t get enough. Walking past Great-Grandma’s house on my way to classes, I was curious.  I wanted to know more.

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