I remember being a very young little boy going to visit my Grandmother. Everybody called her Aunt May. It was always a trip I enjoyed because she had the most interesting things around her house. She had things I had never seen before, like an old washing machine on the back porch where you fed clothes through the wringer.
I got my hand caught in it one time; not a good feeling, lol. I also remember her wood stove and her outhouse. She didn’t have indoor plumbing at the time. When I would arrive there with my parents I would jump out of the car, run past the chickens, and up the old wooden steps into the old rundown 4 room house.
It looked to be leaning from the outside, and on the inside, there was newspaper stuffed in the cracks of the wall. I loved the faces on the black and white comics hanging out of the walls. It made my heart happy, but my hands would get slapped if I pulled them out, especially in the winter. I didn’t know that was the insulation.
The house had no heat. In the front room of the house there was this very old man in a bed. His skin was like bronze, and to my little boy eyes, it looked like a million wrinkles ran through it. When he would open his eyes, I’d see that they were grey and faint. His name was Papa Rod.
That’s all I knew about him until I was told that he was born a slave. Of course, I didn’t know what that meant at the time. I was too busy studying the quilt that was covering his body to pay attention, to tell you the truth. This quilt looked as if it had millions of colors and millions of patches to my little boy eyes.
I thought to myself, “that is an ugly quilt? Why didn’t my Grandmother go to Kent’s or TG&Y (if you know these stores you’re telling your age, lol) and get a good quilt like my mamma had? What is this raggedy thing?”
Later on that night, when we would go to bed, my Grandmother would bring lots of these homemade quilts that she had made from her old dresses and scraps and put them on the bed for us. I thought to myself, “all these quilts are ugly, they smell like mothballs, but my it sure is warm.”
When I was about 21 I decided to move away, and guess what, here came my mother giving me one of my Grandmother’s quilts. By then, I had an appreciation for the hard work that went into making it. So, I appreciated it, but I was still a bit embarrassed by it.
I took the quilt with me to Atlanta. I not only used that quilt to keep me warm at night, especially when I was sleeping in my car, but I used it when I had to get on the ground to work on my car. Now don’t get me wrong, it was special to me because my Grandmother had made it, but when you’re in a struggle nothing has much value.
So, I would use it for whatever and whenever I needed it. Most of the time it was thrown in the trunk for wrapping tools or thrown in the closet until I needed it.
Not long after I moved to Atlanta things got really bad. I remember coming home from work one day. I was behind on my rent, and the sheriff had evicted me and set all my things out on the street in the rain. I drove up shocked, and I got out of the car trying to get all the things of value that were left that my neighbors hadn’t picked through.
In my mind, they had taken everything of value, but there on the ground was my Grandmother’s quilt. I used it as a bag. I put as many of my clothes in it that I could and stuffed it into the car and left. I went to a storage company and put what few things I had left in storage and started trying to find a place to live.
Stay with me. I’m going somewhere with this. A few months later, I couldn’t afford to pay the storage bill. So, I just let it go, losing everything in storage including the quilt.
Now, let me take you to my deeper point. A few years ago, I saw a familiar looking quilt. It looked just like the ones that my Grandmother had handmade. It brought back so many memories. I knew it wasn’t the same quilt, but I also knew that somebody’s grandmother or great-grandmother had made that quilt and I was embarrassed that they had taken such good care of it.
As I was studying the lines and the stitching I got a lump in my throa