Many women of my mother’s generation (she would have turned 98 this month) were avid quilters, wresting out opportunities in the midst of never-done housework, to get together and work on quilt tops, and, of course, enjoy the camaraderie of an afternoon (I was never present at one of those gatherings, but knowing my mother, there was a lot of ‘cackling’ – my mother’s signature laugh). Other times, the afternoon was organized to help a member of the group quilt a top (which meant adding the batting and the backing). Quilting is an ancient practice and there are a great many styles, from elaborate hangings of silken materials, to homespun, utilitarian fabrics made as blankets for warmth. A favorite of Mum and her cronies was the crazy quilt, made from random pieces of cloth in all colors, patterns, and shapes, stitched together to form a unique overall look (I seem to recall hearing about a lot of swapping of fabric pieces, more out of a sense of fun than necessity).
I mention the crazy quilt because I think it works as a picture of our lives. Whether we are planners or those who live more ‘organically,’ life serves up elements not included in the five-year plan and unforeseen in the laissez-faire approach. Another similarity is that, when looking at the emerging design of the unmatched pieces of cloth, you are made to smile at the ridiculous juxtapositions, the deliberate clashings of unlikes. It shouldn’t ‘work’ from an esthetic standpoint, yet, as it spreads itself out in unabashed vulnerability, it oozes a charm not felt in more curated quilts. Our lives, too, with their accumulation of quirks and peccadilloes and mash-ups, when presented openly, ooze an appealing aura of raw honesty. Sure, not all the elements are seamless, plenty are irregular, some pieces are like scars, some darker fabrics speak of stormy periods, but taken as a whole, there is an undeniable, if indefinable, beauty.
At this Advent Season, each of our ‘quilt tops’ is still being fashioned. The current pieces being added may be bright and cheerful or dark and gloomy. Considering this week’s emphasis on Joy, maybe each of us taking a look around at other areas of assembled strips of cloth on our ‘top’ may provide a broader perspective, a bird’s-eye view of the whole, a reminder of the many bright spots already added. Maybe this exercise will instill hope and peace and even return the first sizzle of a familiar joy. Then, when scanning any holiday crowd we are in, we’ll see evidence on many faces that the pieces currently being sewn in on their ‘quilt top’ are rife with unhappiness, bitterness, anger, sorrow, depression – and shame (and shame snuffs out joy as surely as a sudden gust of wind a candle’s flame). Since the Source of our joy is limitless, and His impact unstoppable, we may find ourselves oozing, in spite of ourselves. Who knows? A look-‘em-in-the-eyes smile may start the inrush of once-familiar joy for them, too. Sharing joy! What a novel concept in 2022! Do you think it could make a difference? PD