In the summer of 1995, my mom and I talked about making a quilt together with scrapes of material from the clothes I wore as a child. We decided to start this childhood quilt by sifting through the vast pile of old clothes mom packed in a large, dusty trunk in the attic. Some of the clothing fabrics we found were bright yellow and red and blue and every shade in between; others were printed with childhood characters from the late 60's, and some with psychedelic flowers of the early 70's; we also found a few dresses with Barbie dolls, stripes, and polka dots. The fabric piles we made became disorderly, requiring continual sorting, ripping, and discarding. We reminisced among the various outfits I wore, as we raised one dress next to another, asking if we remembered when I wore it. We became fluttering butterflies with bright wings, to see if there was enough material to cut squares for the quilt.
It took us two weeks to cut up the fabrics, hacking off sleeves, salvaging pockets, and ripping linings. Every stitch was by hand, fueled by memories and tears of my childhood. Mom's taste in color coordination was very strange, but when she finished the quilt it was truly a beautiful work of art. The quilt didn't resemble what you would see at an Amish craft show; instead, it looked like somebody real made it. Someone who worried about her children's lives and someone who has never had much money. Mom came from a generation where quilting was a necessity, using rags and torn clothes for lack of new ones. Mom put a lime green floral pattern with red Barbie doll figures, and it worked. When she asked what I thought of the two patterns, I never said "terrible," even if I thought it was. "Let's see how it looks," I said. But mom wanted me to be happy, she wanted my approval. "Absolutely no black prints, and definitely pink," I said. I wanted a quilt that showed my life unfolding. With each scrape of material used, I wanted it to tell a story, my story, one filled with my childhood bruises, disappointments, emotional roller coasters, highs, lows and everything in between.