When I became a grandparent, it was only about ten months after the death of my mother. Grief was thick in my heart and brain, but I wasn’t really cognizant of its effects. Of course I was, grieving? How did I not realize that I was grieving? Well, I didn’t, because, you know – life. So, when my oldest daughter told me she was pregnant, it was not a joyful experience as much as it was another burden to throw on the pile of detritus in the wagon I was already pulling.
But through the grief there was joy in expecting a baby in the house. Being the optimist I am (which is probably why I didn’t let myself recognize my grief), I looked for ways to celebrate, and attempted to bring some joy into the situation. One of my favorite ways to do that is to get my hands busy. Gardening is a stress reliever for me, and I have a whole space in my sun porch dedicated to making art and crafts. Note to self: I need to indulge in more making/stress-relieving, given my recent hormone and rapid heart rate episodes.
So, in the middle of grieving my mother, and my daughter’s struggle to complete high school, and my second child’s decision to live with her father, (it was a tough year) I decided that a new grandchild needed a quilt and matching crib skirt for her bed. I got the bedskirt made before she was born. The quilt… uhhh, not so much. P.S. I had never made a quilt before.
As a seven-year-old, my granddaughter is not sleeping in a crib anymore, but she’s getting a crib-sized quilt for Christmas anyway! As I pulled all the pieces out of the bag they’ve lived in since 2010 and started taking stock of what I had left to do, I made an important discovery: I have no idea what the original quilt design looks like.
Thankfully, I’d already made all the blocks, I just don’t remember exactly how they were joined together. I had some strips of yellow and of a lilac fabric with yellow roses already cut out that I decided to use to join the blocks together into long panels, but I am pretty sure I’m making it up as I go at this point.
In addition to being forced to reinvent the design, I found that some of the blocks were not the same size as others, so when I stitched the connecting strips to the panels, there were spots where fabric didn’t catch in the seam. But hey, I love a good applique. I’ll create some kind of patch for the half-dozen or so spots that need help, and it will just be an added feature.
What if we re-frame all unexpected occurrences in life as “added features”? The death of my mother was, and still is, traumatic on many levels. But the addition of a grandchild? Definitely an added feature. The heart stuff I’m dealing with and hormone levels I’m trying to get figured out are frustrating, but getting to know some of my friends better as we discuss our common challenges in this new area of self-care is a very welcome added feature.
I hope you can all look back at 2017 and spot the added features you have picked up along the way. I don’t advocate for ignoring or dismissing the painful experiences you’ve had, but I do encourage you to look at them through a new lens. Focus on finding the good things that came along because of, or in spite of, those challenges. They might be small things – not necessarily a grandchild – but they’re there.
Also published on Medium.