Some of us grow up with talented mothers that are beautiful, unpredictable, and not so hot in the emotional growth department. If you have a mother like that, and I did, the real gift you get if you’re lucky is an aunt. In my case, she was my mum’s youngest sister; a precious gem no matter which way you cut it. She provided me with steady assurance throughout my life – a welcome relief from the quicksand of home – and her ability to anticipate what I might need from a distance of 1000 kilometers was uncanny. She was the light at the end of a long tunnel and I wanted to make a home for my family and me like she did.
In the year before my daughter died, this past year, I spent a lot of time with my aunt. My daughter lived closer to her than to me. I’d stop in on my way, have a good cry on her shoulder, and arrive at my daughter’s bedside with a full tank of resolve at my disposal. This is in spite of the fact that my aunt was dying, too. She was 79, she said. She’d had a long, happy life, she said. Hug her for me, I said.
When I’d come home, counting the 20 or so days until the next trip back, I’d crawl into bed and under a double ring quilt my aunt made many years ago. The tiny cutouts of cotton fabric, culled from remnants of dresses sewn for her daughters and granddaughters, comfort me now in ways I wouldn’t have thought possible. Now that they are both gone, and my bedside table is graced with a photograph of my daughter sleeping under the same quilt as a teenager (well, refusing to sleep on Christmas Eve, actually), I lay my head down each night and imagine that the pair of them embrace me until sleep comes. Sometimes that takes awhile.
I told my aunt how much I loved the quilt and she launched into a stylistic self-critique of her early quilting skills (or lack thereof, according to her). I’d never noticed imperfections of any kind on it but once she made me look, I had to admit they were there. Still, each stitch is hers, as opposed to the machine-made ones sold at Sears. Does the imperfection make it perfect? Is that the same as us?
As a child, her home was the only place I felt safe, the down-filled Danish bedding some kind of wonderful I’d never seen before. Her home was, like her quilt, imperfect. It was also real and I soaked it up. She was passionate about her life, her kids and their kids, and she was still madly in love with the man she’d made it all happen with. She reminded me, after my daughter’s death, and before her own, that I’d done it, too. I’d married for love, built a life that was full and continue to follow my dreams. But it all went so terribly wrong, I said. Yes, it did. And there it is, I guess. Even when your eyes are on the prize; even when you tread a careful path; even when you love as fiercely as you can, the challenges you encounter can be insurmountable.
It’s true; my daughter is no longer in this world. I may not know exactly where she is, but at least I’m sure who stands beside her. They are together, much like the double rings on the quilt that comforts me nightly. And like each imperfect stitch upon it, I am reminded to remember what I already know. It is perfect in its imperfection. It is the same as us.
© Kim Reynolds 2012