|Auction quilt for Hearst Elementary School, May 2011|
And a close-up showing some of the memories the children wanted to me include on their road through elementary school:
|detail from 2011 auction quilt|
There is more to this quilt, however. Seven years ago, when my daughter was in pre-kindergarten, I had been making quilts for only two years. With the encouragement of my husband and parents, I volunteered to make a quilt with the children for inclusion as their class project in that year's auction. It was the first time that I showed my work to people who were not related to me. I was certain that I would be exposed as a fraud, a pretender. Surely, someone who had more experience would point out all of the flaws in my work. But no, the parents and teachers thought I knew what I was doing.
The encouragement I got from the school community was both unexpected and precious. And along the way, I made new friends -- other moms who I could go to lunch with or press into service as needed for cutting and ironing on these soon-to-be-annual school projects.
One mother in particular, a friend since our daughters were in that pre-K class together, offered to help assemble the quilt top this year, the last one for this group of kids at this school. She was my sounding board for the quilt's concept and I relied on her input. She was sick, though, newly diagnosed with an aggressive and rare form of cancer. I kept her updated, especially since getting together to work on the quilt became...complex. She was the first person (who didn't live in my house) that I showed it to when I was done, and I was rewarded with her radiant smile.
I didn't know then that the night of the auction would be the last time I saw her. I didn't know then that the doctors had determined that there was nothing more they could do for her. I didn't know then that, less than three weeks after the auction, she would be gone.
What started out as a chronicle of elementary school for the children became, for me, the story of a friendship forged on field trips, at bake sales and potlucks, and over countless cups of coffee. I am grateful for that friendship, and miss her terribly. I couldn't have done it without her.