Sunday, November 13, 2011

O.K. Corral

My husband likes to stretch a dollar. Some might even call him cheap or a tightwad.  For instance, when we travel, he likes to shop around for “budget” hotels.  Before a trip, he’ll get those hotel coupon magazines that you see in all the truck stops and scour them for amazing deals.  

He’s managed to traumatized all of our children with creepy hotels.  For instance there was the time when we were walking into a hotel and Lulu innocently asked here father why the two men were sitting on the curb drinking out of brown paper bags and he replied, “I’m sure they are very nice men.”  
Then there was the time when I was fast asleep but had this strange sensation that someone was staring at me.  I opened one eye to see Jennifer, Katie and Lulu standing over me all staring at my forehead.  Jennifer yelled, “Don’t move mom!”  
I ask you, what does one do when three children are standing over you while you’re sleeping and then one of them shouts, “Don’t move mom!”  
I didn’t just move, I screamed, bolted out of the bed and ran out of the room butt naked!
Apparently there was a cockroach the size of Godzilla crawling over my face and the girls were trying to figure out how to kill it without waking me!  
That wasn’t our only “critter” experience.  There was the close encounter with the rat running across the bed and some other incidents that were so traumatizing I think I’ve blocked them from memory.  But, there is one hotel hellhole that trumps all the others by far.  Let me say that I have not embellished this story one iota.  It is told exactly as it happened.
About five years ago, Bill was playing on a men’s tennis team and they made it to the finals which were being played on Longboat Key island about three hours from our house. Bill told me not to worry about a thing because he booked us a room at the “Cadillac Hotel”.  The Cadillac hotel sounded like a nice place to me.  Besides, it was on a resort island so I figured it had to be fine.  
What Bill failed to tell me was that the hotel wasn’t actually “on” the island.  It was “close” to the island.  The rest of the team and their wives (with the exception of one single guy) were staying “on” the island close to where the tournament was taking place.  
As we were getting close to the resort island, Bill handed me the page he tore from one of his coupon books.  
“You didn’t tell me the Cadillac Hotel was in the coupon book.”  I said as my red alert radar began to kick in.
“Oh, didn’t I?” He replied innocently.  “Just tell me the address.” 
I looked at torn page and found the postage stamp ad for the Cadillac hotel in the bottom left corner.   
“I need a magnifying glass to read this!” I complained.  I got out my high powered reading glasses.
“Oh, here’s the address under the beautiful picture of the concrete pool.”  I said as the sarcasm oozed from my voice, “1117 MLK Boulevard.”  
“Look, we’re only staying one night and Joe’s staying there too.”  He said as he turned off the road leading to the island and headed for downtown.
“That’s supposed to make me feel better!”  I retorted.  “Joe is so cheap he usually sleeps in the back of his truck in the hotel parking lots!”
“Well,” Bill said, “Aren’t we getting hoity-toity! Have you forgotten that we used to do the same thing when we were first married.”
Okay, maybe we did throw the mattress in the back of the pickup and stay in the Holiday Inn parking lot a few times, but that’s when we were broke and it was sort of romantic back then.  Now, we could afford to stay in a half way decent place, but I was tired and there were no other hotels in the area since this was the main tourist season.  So, I gave in and we found the Cadillac hotel in a rundown section of town just across the street from the Salvation Army thrift store (I don’t believe that was just a “coincidence”).  I’d be willing to bet that Bill did a google search for hotels within five miles of thrift stores.  We hardly checked in and he was out the door and on his way across the street.   
While he was gone, I decided to check out the concrete pool.  It was concrete alright - and empty!  I returned to the room and turned on the air conditioner which was loud enough to wake the dead. Things started looking up when I discovered that the t.v. worked, and even got four channels.  The highlight of the Cadillac hotel was the refrigerator in each room.  Our refrigerator even came stocked - with leftover Chinese food and half a beer.  
“It doesn’t get any better than this!” I said pointing the leftovers as Bill returned from his Salvation Army jaunt.  
“Look, let’s just sleep here tonight and we’ll find a different place in the morning.”  He said as he covered the bed with a blanket from our car.  
Luckily, Bill and I had brought our own pillows, so we slept fully clothed on top of the blanket from our car.  Surprisingly, we both slept soundly through the night.  I don’t know if it was the loud drone of the air conditioner or the mental exhaustion, but not even the sounds of the gunfight woke us up!
So, the next morning I woke up early and decided to take a stroll down MLK Blvd., but my walk was cut short when I opened my door to the crime scene tape stretched around the corner room of the Cadillac hotel.  
What in God’s name...

My eyes took in the scene.  I kid you not - sticking out of the corner room of the Cadillac hotel beyond the crime scene tape was a mangled Cadillac!  
We learned from the hotel clerk that, sometime during the night, the person who was involved in the high speed police chase down MLK Blvd. decided the check his Caddy into the Cadillac hotel and proceed on foot behind the hotel (right behind our room).  A gun fight ensued and the wounded perp tried to run back to his caddy (which would explain the blood stains all over the parking lot) apparently to try and make his getaway but the car wasn’t budging from its room and the guy was subsequently arrested.  
“So, will you be staying with us another night?” The clerk asked as we stood at the counter.  
“No.” I replied as I handed him my keys, “My husband booked us a room at the O.K. Corral for tonight.”  

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Honestly!

My daughter, Jennifer, teaches first graders.  I have the privilege of volunteering in her class whenever I can.  The first time I went into Jennifer’s class, she introduced me as her mother.  Of course, in the world of six-year-olds, teachers don’t have mothers.  They don’t have husbands or families and they live at school.  
Once they got over the shock of the realization that their teacher was a mere mortal with a mother and everything, they soon discovered that I held extraordinary power since I was the source of great knowledge about Jennifer.  This fact immediately elevated me to star status.  
The first time I met the group, they were all seated on the floor listening to Jennifer read a story.  Jennifer introduced me and I joined them.  The story officially ended when I pulled up my chair and they all began at once asking questions.  
“Are you Mrs. “P’s” mommy?”  “How old are you?”  “Was she a little girl?”  “When did she grow up?”  “Do you live at school too?”  “Where does Mrs. “P” sleep?”  “Are you a grandma because you look like a grandma?”  
“OKAY, that’s enough!”  I yelled.  (Well not really, but the grandma question was a bit over the top!)  
I told the children that they could each ask one question about Mrs. “P”.  We started with Jimmy who said, “I have a mommy too, and a dog named Stubs.”  
“That’s a statement, Jimmy.”  Jennifer said patiently, “Remember that we talked about what questions sound like.  Questions start with words like; who, what, where or when.  Why don’t you try again?”
“When I went home yesterday, stubs wet the floor.”  Jimmy said.
“Good try, Jimmy.”  Jennifer said, “Who has a ‘question’ to ask?”
Kinsley raised her hand.  “Mrs. ‘P’ is pretty, but you have those things on your eyes that make you look like a grandma but that’s okay because you’re old.”  
“Kinsley,” I said through clenched teeth, “I don’t think that was a question.”  
“Let’s try this again.”  Jennifer said quickly, “Who has a question?”
A shy little tow-headed boy in the back of the group barely raised his hand.  Jennifer cautiously called on him.  “Ryan, what is your question?”
“Your mommy is old, but you’re not.”  Ryan STATED.
“Well,” I said to the enthralled group.  “I think question time is over.”
Jennifer timidly asked me if I was staying to help after the question and answer segment.  
“Honestly, Jennifer,” I replied, “Do you really think that those ‘questions’ fazed me!”  
Then I felt a tugging on my blouse and I looked down to see a toothless child grinning up at me.  
“What do you need honey?” I asked.
“I have a question.”  She replied.  “Do you take your teeth out at night?”
“That’s it!”  I said to Jennifer, “I’m outta here!”  
Okay, maybe I stayed for a little while after that.  Actually, I stayed for a few hours and I even went back.  The thing about first graders is, you gotta love their honesty!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Hallelujah Acres

“To Dream the Impossible Dream” is my theme song.  I have a big audacious dream that has been a part of shaping my entire life - even when I didn’t realize it. What I thought were roadblocks or detours in my life’s map were not that at all.  They were God’s way of leading me to the place where my dream is within reach and, yet, I hesitate to step out of the dream catcher and into the dream light.  
The dream catcher snares the dream and incubates it.  Then, finally, in the dream light, there is joy.   Sometimes I wonder which will I choose: the catcher or the light?  There are people waiting for my dream to birth itself.  Now, the labor pains are seconds apart, and yet, I hesitate.  I’m leaving the safety of the catcher’s net and moving into the joy of the light - almost there.  I can almost touch it, taste it, believe it, give birth to it...and yet I hesitate.  
My dream started when I was eight and I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit telling me that I was destined to do something great.  I didn’t know what or how or when or why, I just knew.  I spent my whole life asking God, “What is it? What do I have to do?”  
Then, one day God answered.  “It is in the living that you are doing.  You are living the destiny I have planned for you.  Everyday is my gift to you and you must let people see Me through you.”  
Suddenly, I knew in my heart that God’s plan for my life doesn’t diminish my dream, it adds to it.  There are seasons in our lives when we must rest and then there are seasons in which we must act.  I know in my heart that it is time for me to harvest my dream.  
In the story of Rudolf the red nosed reindeer, he went to the island of misfit toys where he found refuge among the throwaway toys that no one wanted.  My dream is to take the throwaway misfits in our society and give them a place of their own.
I have a dream to provide a safe refuge where they will be loved and accepted and nourished; a place where they will flourish and grow and be.  Where they can just be.  Where no one says that they have to be anyone or anything that they are not.  Just as you are...come just as you are for this is where comfort and joy live. 
I have a dream that one day the broken misfits can come join with this broken misfit and together we will color our world with happiness.  We will color it smiling green, happy brown, splendid pink and rejoicing yellow.  Together, we will make the joy grow until is overflows into the world and people will see with new eyes.  They won’t pity the broken misfits.  (Frankly, aren’t we all broken misfits?) No, they will see productive citizens who cherish their work and produce lovely joy.
You see, joy comes in all flavors and is possible in all circumstances because it comes from within.  I know these misfits and I love their pure joy.  I want them to come and help me fulfill my dream.  I want them to come to the farm and grow with me.  I want them to come to the safety of a place where acceptance reigns.
The outside world sees misfits.  I see fits.  They fit here.  They will make my world complete.  I need them as much as they need me.  So, I will build my dream; my farm;  my “Hallelujah Acres” where God’s ways are my ways.  I have asked God to take over the reigns and guide me out of the dream catcher and into the dream light.   At Hallelujah Acres, hallelujah will be our motto because we will find joy in praising Him through our work.  
The world will come to know the contagious joy that will flourish at Hallelujah Acres.   We will amaze you because God will be showing up here every day!  
I have a dream.  I have a prayer.  I pray that, if it is God’s will, he will reach down his mighty hand and take over my simple dream and grow it into an audacious, outrageous dream that glorifies His work.  Even the misfits are His work.  I believe they are His best work and I believe He wants to use me to show the world how beautiful they are.  This is Hallelujah Acres where everyday is a hallelujah day!

Monday, October 24, 2011

See You on the Flip Side


I think she always wanted to be a mother.  For all I know, she may have been before she came into my life on that beautiful cool day about five years ago.  I was riding my bike with my friend, Karen and this scraggly mutt just started following us.  She stayed right with us for about three miles until we arrived at Karen’s house.  I bent to pet her and noticed an angry scar running the length of her left leg.  It was healed now, but it was obviously caused by a horrible encounter either with a wild animal or a sharp object.  
She seemed starved for attention and, frankly, starved in general.  Her wiry fur, bearded face, curled up tail and black speckled tongue were not going to win her first place in any dog beauty contest.  In fact, she would probably be a runner up in a bearded lady contest.  
When I opened my car door to leave Karen’s house, she just jumped in like she belonged there.  
How am I going to explain this to my husband?  Don’t do it!  You know that you have enough animals already!  

I looked at Karen who just shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well I guess she’s yours.”  
“Some friend you are.” I yelled as I backed down the driveway with the mangy dog riding shotgun next to me.
We arrived home and I quickly hid the evidence in the barn until I could muster up the courage to introduce her to the family (especially Bill who regularly admonishes me for my penchant for bringing home strays).  It never has cured me, though.  I still bring them home.
So, eventually, my family discovered why I was making stealth runs to the barn with dog food.  I guess the barking dog might have also given me away.  When they finally met her, they all said the same thing, “That is one ugly dog!”  The fact that she smelled didn’t help matters.  My son called her rat dog.  My other children never really called her anything.  It took my five-year-old to finally name her Lilo (after the alien cartoon character in Lilo and Stitch).  I have since learned the Stitch was the alien and Lilo the little girl, but that is neither here nor there.  The bottom line is that I think my daughter was trying to say our dog resembled an alien.  
Slowly, Lilo became a part of our family.  Even our Australian Shepard, Toby decided to befriend her.  In fact, they became best buddies.  They ran the pasture and the hundred acre orange grove together chasing horses, squirrels and raccoons.  Lilo was one tough broad.  Toby would come home scratched and dented from his encounters with raccoons, but Lilo would have the raccoons up the tree in about three seconds.  
Lilo also had a soft side to her.  She was always being dressed up in various ensembles by Lulu (try saying Lilo and Lulu five times fast).  I have to say that she looked almost beautiful in some of the frilly dresses Lulu found for her.  Maybe beauty is in the eyes of the beholder when it came to Lilo, but I found her beautiful.
She was my dog from the day I brought her home.  Wherever I was, Lilo was never far away.  Sometimes, she’d just come into the room and stare at me and I’d ask her what’s up.  She’d cock her head to one side as if she were thinking of an answer and then she’d almost look like she were smiling.   I’d often wonder what was running through her head.  Was she remembering back to the day she followed my bike home or thinking about something funny that happened recently.  
I loved that little rat dog.  I loved her spirit.  I loved the way she so patiently put up with Lulu’s attempts to pretty her up.  I loved the way she mothered the orphaned kitten we brought home and had to bottle feed.  She kept a vigil by that kitten night and day.  She also mothered the rabbit we brought home.  She mothered the chickens, too.  Okay, maybe my husband is right - I do bring home a lot of strays!  But, there has never been a stray that has touched my heart like Lilo did.
Lilo had recently become ill with a persistent urinary tract infection.  I had taken her to the vet three times, but she still wasn’t cured.  I didn’t have the money to take her again.  I knew she needed to go back, but I was waiting until we could afford it.  Until then, I just got up at 4:00 a.m. every morning to let her out because she couldn’t wait until we got up around 6:00 a.m.  She was having accidents in the carpeted rooms, causing us to have to rip up two carpets already.  Needless to say, getting her to the vet was becoming a top priority for her health and our sanity.
Yesterday, I got up as usual and let her out the door.  I knew that she’d be barking at the door in about an hour, but I went back to bed because I was really tired.  At 6:00, I got a call from my neighbor, Joe, who asked me if Lilo was home.  I realized, then, that she hadn’t barked at the door.  
“Why?” I asked Joe as I was beginning to think the unthinkable.
“Well,” he said, “Patty just called me on her way to work and said she thought there was a coyote in the road.  When she looked closer, she thought it might have been a dog and it might be Lilo.”  
Patty was our other neighbor who left for work at around 5:00 in the morning.  She didn’t have our phone number, so she called Joe and asked him to call us. We live on a road that has little traffic - especially at 5:00 in the morning, so I was hopeful that Patty was wrong.  
Bill and I drove down the road and within about 100 yards from our house, saw the little body of our beloved dog.  When I arrived at her side, she lifted her head and, always the fighter, made a valiant effort to stand.  It was clear, however that the impact of the car had paralyzed her hind quarters.
How do I put into words all the emotions that followed our discovery?  How do I communicate the dreadful heartache of seeing her lying there so helpless and scared?  How do I say how guilty I felt for letting her out and for not getting her to the vet sooner? I can’t put these emotions into words, but anyone who has ever lost a beloved pet knows that all the woulda, coulda, shouldas aren’t going to bring that pet back.  
We carried Lilo home and made her comfortable.  Toby came in and stood vigil.  I knew he knew that something was terribly wrong when he came over to me and put his face in my lap as if he were crying. We didn’t expect Lilo to hold on for very long, but her bright eyes never dulled and every time a family member entered the room, she perked up.  Again, her fighting spirit was with her till the end.  It became clear, however, that she was suffering and it was time to end the anguish.  So, Bill and I made the harrowing trip to the vet to put her out of her misery.  

The vet confirmed that she had most likely broken her back and that there was no chance of saving her.  I quietly spoke into her ear and told her how much I loved her and that is was time for her to go chase the squirrels in heaven.  Then, Bill and I kissed her goodbye and left the room to wait for her body.  For some God only knows reason, the vet would have charged us an extra $40.00 to stay with her.  I don’t know the stupidity behind that and I don’t know why I didn’t insist I stay with her, but again all the woulda, coulda, shouldas aren’t doing me any good.  She knows I loved her, that’s all that matters.
For the funeral, Lulu gathered Lilo’s favorite food and her leash for burial.   Then, she read a letter she wrote:
Dear Lilo,
You are amazing, different, outgoing and smart.  I remember you were a mother to any animal that we got.  You licked the bunny, ate with the chickens and loved the cats.  I never hated you.  I only got mad when you peed in my room.  I used to dress you all the time and you would be so cute.  Since you peed on my carpet, I’m going to call you Peecarpet from now on - like Peehay.  I love you.
As for me all I can say is, “Goodbye my faithful companion, loyal friend, good buddy...beloved pet.  I’ll see you on the flip side.”    

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Playground Hell

She stands in the barrenness of alone thoughts wondering what it would be like to run and jump and play with friends.  Her white knee-high socks are shining beacons calling out to the playground bullies; broadcasting the stupidness of her wardrobe.  
She hides in the shadows of the protective bricks where loneliness is her friend and tears mix with the nose snot dripping over her sad quivering lips; quivering from the awfulness deep inside.  The tearing tears blood-shoot her eyes until they are red and seeping.  Tearing her heart; her soul; her being into shreds that she leaves on the playground everyday until there is nothing left of her: Nothing but an empty shell singing the mournful song from the depths of her ocean soul.  
Friends are for the lovely green-socked girls whose perfect dresses are perfectly creased by laughing mothers who sing hopeful songs and leave lipstick marks on foreheads. Her wrinkled dress matches her wrinkled life where there is no laughing mother, hopeful songs or lipstick foreheads.  
She melts into the wall of sorrow hoping that soon the ring of the bell will rescue her from her playground hell.  For a moment she loses herself in the imagined bear hug bosom of a laughing mother.  
Suddenly, her daydream is interrupted by a wary eye peeking into her private thoughts.  RED ALERT!  Her body screams knowing all too well the coming blows.  She waits...and then the boy with the curly popcorn hair dares to invade her shadowed world.  
“What do you want?” She spits at the popcorn head.  
“I jjjjust wwwwwanted.....”  The boy squeaks; his downcast eyes concealing his fear. “I...I....I... dddddid..n...t kkkknow.” 
“What is wrong with you!”  She screeches at the timid, stammering idiot.  
He looks away hoping she won’t smell his fear; hoping she won’t drop kick him from the protective shadows.  He doesn’t leave.  She wonders if he is dumber than he looks.  
At least he didn’t beat me up. She thinks as she eyes him suspiciously.  
His crooked smile almost catches her off guard.  
Her brain screams, run away! 
Still, she stays and contemplates this peculiar kid.  The bell rings.  
“See you tomorrow?” She asks.  
“Ssssure.” He replies as they slowly emerge from their hiding place.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Quilt's Life

I was imagined on a spring day when my lady, Margaret, was tending her flowers.  She plucked a red rose from a bush and took it inside where she kept all her material.  It didn’t take her long to find the piece of cloth that matched the rose color perfectly.  That is when I was conceived.  Margaret took out her sewing kit and my first block was created.  Each day a new color and design were added.  By months end, I was looking quite magnificent!  
Then, one day without warning, I was placed in a plastic bag and Margaret’s husband, Joe, put me on the top shelf of a dark closet.  It was a sad and lonely time for me.  One day blended into the next and I lost track of the number of days that passed.  
Every time Margaret entered the closet, I felt a surge of excitement.  
Maybe today she will reach for me. I thought hopefully, Maybe today she’ll pluck another rose from the garden and be inspired to unwrap me. 

Yet, so many days passed without her even looking my way that I finally stopped hoping.  
I could hear all the sounds of the home as Margaret and Joe went through their days together: Joe talking about his day at work; Margaret talking about her beloved rose garden.  I often heard the fluttering of sheets as Margaret made her bed and my heart ached with longing to be spread out on her bed as the centerpiece of the room.  
Soon, a new sound entered the home.  It was unfamiliar to me - like a screeching cry of some sort.  When I first heard it, I shook from fright and almost fell off the shelf.  I expected to hear the screeching of an ambulance siren soon after as I thought someone, maybe Margaret, had been gravely injured.  But, no ambulance came and the cry soon stopped.  I think the crying happened every day and every night (it was hard to distinguish night from day in the closet).  All I know is it happened a lot!  Margaret and Joe seemed very happy about the crying, so I was happy too.
Then, one day something magnificent happened.  Margaret came into the closet like she always did looking for a lost shoe or a fancy blouse, but this day she reached high over her head.
Could it be! I waited with anticipation, Is she really reaching for me?
Out of the small hole in my bag, I watched her as she stood on tippy toes trying to snatch something from the top shelf.  She left the closet and I almost cried (but I didn’t want to stain myself).  I waited.  Soon, she returned with a step ladder and, this time, she grabbed me off the shelf!  
Before long, I was breathing the fresh air of spring and I was cloaked in the bright sunshine streaming through the window of the little bedroom.  Margaret had decorated the room with a rocking chair, stuffed animals, white clouds and pink curtains.  In the corner of the room was a strange wooden crate with bars on it.  Inside the crate was a tiny sleeping person.  Next to the rocking chair was Margaret’s sewing box and many floral swaths of fabric that must have taken her months and months to find.  Each one was cut perfectly and ready to become part of my tapestry.  I couldn’t wait to see what was in store for me.
The quilting needle felt wonderful as it sewed new life into me.  I was growing bigger everyday.  Margaret would rock in the rocking chair singing soft lullabies as she sewed while the little person slept in the crate.  I hadn’t grown as big as I needed to be for Margaret’s bed when, strangely, she began sewing my edging with a pretty pink ruffle.  
I’m not done yet, am I? I pondered this strange turn of events.  
The next day, after my last ruffle was sewn, Margaret carefully laid me over the little sleeping person.  At first, I was terrified that I would smother this tiny being (I think her name must be “baby” because I always hear Joe asking about the “baby”).  I felt baby’s warmth under my batting and my fear was transformed into a wonderful knowing that it was my job to protect her.  I instantly fell in love with baby.  
My baby grew very fast!  I learned that her real name was Audrey.  We became best friends.  Soon, Audrey was trying to walk.  She would drag me around with her so I could cushion her fall.  She fell a lot at first, but it wasn’t long before she just dragged me around behind her wherever she went; the store, the playground, the back yard, the neighbors and even grandma’s house.  She was always on the go!  Some days, she wore me out.  I was getting dirty and tattered, but I didn’t care.  If I wasn’t with Audrey, I knew that she would soon find me.  Margaret, whose name became “Mommy,” would always ask Audrey where her blanky (that’s me) was before she got in the car.  Sometimes, Joe would come back in the house after they left and snatch me off the floor in a huff (that’s when I knew that Audrey was crying and really needed me).  
As Audrey grew bigger, I grew smaller.  My edges wore away and my once beautiful rose colored patches were smudged with years of tears, ice cream, playgrounds and dirty back yards.  Soon, Audrey didn’t cry for me anymore.  Sometimes, many days passed before Audrey remembered that I was stuffed under her bed or stuck between the couch cushions.  When Audrey turned eight, I wasn’t at her party, I was at the bottom of her laundry basket.  How I longed to see her blow out her candles and be dragged behind her as she played with her friends!   Later that day, I was washed and dried and then, as I half expected, Mommy put me in a garbage bag.  I thought that I was going to be placed out on the curb with the rest of the trash, but, thankfully, I was placed back in the closet.  
I never thought I would be thankful to feel the old shelf under me, but I was hopeful that this meant I would one day be revived and reborn.  I rested on my shelf and I listened to the sounds of Audrey growing up.  I knew she played soccer because she was always yelling, “Mom, have you seen my soccer ball?”  She played the tuba, too.  I remember hearing a godawful sound followed by Mommy yelling at her to take her tuba in her bedroom.  It made me smile to think of Audrey and, yet, it made me sad as I wished I could be a part of her growing up.  
Years passed.  I knew this because Audrey’s voice grew older and she argued with Mommy about everything!  Then, one day, Audrey packed up all her stuff (not me though) and she left for a place called college.  I heard Mommy crying that night as Joe comforted her.  I cried too! It didn’t matter this time if I stained myself - I was already stained!  I cried because I would no longer have even a little glimpse into Audrey’s life.  
Shortly after Audrey left, I heard Mommy tell one of her friends that she wanted to start a quilting club to keep herself busy.  “I’d love to learn how to quilt!”  I heard her friend’s reply and my heart jumped.  
Does this mean...I was thinking as I heard Mommy say, “I packed Audrey’s old quilt away in the closet.  I think I’ll get it down and see what I can do with it.”  
The next day Mommy fetched me and placed me on the couch in the living room.  I glanced around at all the pictures of Audrey; Audrey in her soccer uniform, Audrey in the marching band, Audrey on a horse, Audrey standing next to a car holding up car keys, Audrey in a graduation cap and gown...she had a beautiful smile and brilliant blue eyes; just as I had imagined her.  
Mommy lifted me and began to cut away at the few stray threads of ruffle that remained from Audrey’s childhood.  I felt sad and happy at the same time.  I knew that Mommy would not cut away every memory from my fabric.  I also knew, because she was cutting, it meant that something new was about to take place.  
A few days later, Mommy, whose name mysteriously turned back to Margaret, called all her friends.  Soon, the room was filled with women and their quilting tools.  Everyone marveled at me.  I felt proud as they all talked about how they remembered me and Audrey.  One lady commented that it must have taken Margaret a long time to get me clean again.  It did!  I was sprayed and washed and tumbled so many times I thought I would disintegrate, but Margaret made me strong and I was shining brightly again.
This time Margaret did not make me small.  She used many many pieces of fabric that she gathered over the years.  I knew this because she told her friends about the pieces as she sewed them into my canvas.  
“This is a piece of Audrey’s soccer shirt,” she’d say, as she prepared the swath for sewing. “I can’t believe how quickly the years have passed!”  
“I remember that dress!” I heard Sue chuckle. 
“Those were bridesmaids dresses from hell!” Ellen howled with laughter.  “I can’t believe that Joan made us wear those godawful things!”
“Well, at least the color was beautiful.”  Joan interjected as Margaret sewed the wedding date into the piece of silk fabric.  
Each piece was a memory patiently collected, cut and placed in a box just for me.  One piece made Margaret cry so hard that everyone stopped and hugged her.  I learned that it was once her sister’s blouse.  I knew, from my perch in the closet, that Margaret’s sister had died from cancer a few years ago.  
As my tapestry grew, I knew that Margaret was planning a very special place for me in her home.  Joe was even building something in the garage for me to hang on, although I would have preferred their bed.   
By fall, I had become a splendid quilt filled with brilliant colors.  I was Margaret’s masterpiece.  She was so proud of me!  All the ladies oohed and aahed over me as my finishing touches were completed.  I puffed up my batting with pride as Margaret carried me into her bedroom and lovingly placed me on her bed.  
Finally, I thought, I have taken my rightful place as the centerpiece of Margaret’s life.  Even Audrey came home from time to time and laid on me as she told her mom about college life and some boy named Joshua.  Once, Audrey placed her hand over my center and said, with a faraway look in her eyes, “God, I loved my blanky!  I’m so glad you made it a part of this quilt, mom.”   It was so good to hear Audrey say how much she loved me.  
One day, when Audrey was helping her mom clean the bedroom, I heard Margaret say, “This quilt will be yours someday, Audrey.”  She was rubbing her arthritic hand over me.  “I wish I could make another one, but my fingers just can’t quilt like they used to.”
“I’ll treasure it, Mom.”  Audrey said.
I was looking forward to the day when I would cover Audrey once again, but that day never came.  I don’t know what happened to Audrey.  It seemed that she just disappeared from my life as quickly as she did when she went away to college.  Only, this time was different.  The sadness that enveloped the house was as thick as a dark rain cloud.  It felt like all the joy that had filled the home had suddenly and irrevocably been sucked out of every room.  Both Margaret and Joe soaked me with salty tears as they talked about how much the loved and missed Audrey.  
Not long after the joy left, I was taken off the bed while Margaret cried.  She folded me in a way that prepared me for hanging over the stand that Joe had built so many years ago.   It was as if she couldn’t bear to be covered by the remnants of Audrey’s blanky or all the pieces of Audrey’s life-fabric that were so much a part of me.  
As I hung on my stand, I watched Margaret and Joe grow old.  Laughter returned to their home when they held parties or when they danced together late at night, but the laughter was always missing something as if it needed Audrey’s voice to complete it.  
From time to time, a guest would wander into the master bedroom and comment about how beautiful I was.  “That is a magnificent quilt!”  They’d say and I would become hopeful that I would once again cover the bed.
I never made it back on the bed, though.  Joe went away, too and, Margaret spent most of her lonely days in her garden with her roses that seemed to bring her comfort. Then, one day I heard Margaret’s niece come into the house calling Margaret’s name.  Margaret didn’t answer and I knew it was bad.  Margaret had fallen while tending her roses.  Her niece called the ambulance which took Margaret away and I didn’t see her for a very long time.
Today, a lady I had never seen before entered the master bedroom and pinned a tag on me that said $75.00.  

What does that mean? I wondered as a bunch of people filed into the room.

“Wow!” one woman said as she ran her hand over me admiring my tapestry, “What a gorgeous quilt!”
Several of the other people joined her and commented on my brilliance.  
Who are all these people? I was wondering.
Then, I felt a surge of joy as I heard the familiar clickety clack of Margaret’s walker coming toward the bedroom.  
She’s coming for me! I would have screamed if I had a mouth.  She hasn’t forgotten me!

Margaret’s frail body stood in the doorframe and her eyes misted as she began to speak to the woman who was inspecting my intricate needlework. “That quilt was meant for my daughter, Audrey.”  She said, tears streaking her face.  “She was killed in a tragic car accident years ago.  She was only twenty-five and engaged to be married.  There’re a lot of memories in that quilt.” 
The lady picked me up and admired me some more.  “You know,” she said to Margaret, “my daughter just loves old quilts.  I’m going to buy this for her and keep it for when she has a baby.  It will be perfect for a baby’s room.”  
A baby! I couldn’t believe my ears!  
The lady lovingly picked me up and hugged Margaret while they both cried for a few minutes.  The last thing I saw were Margaret’s smiling eyes as she helped the lady lovingly wrap me in a plastic bag.  
“My daughter will treasure this quilt.”  I heard the lady say right before the twist tie darkened my world.