Writers Without Borders

Entry by: KMaidmarion

4th March 2016
The Patchwork Quilt

The quilt had always covered the bed in my grandmother’s spare room. The queen swamped by the heavy fabric. It was ancient, even older than my grandmother. As a child I had tried to count the square patches, but my knowledge of numbers had run out long before I had reached the second row. I remember hiding beneath it when playing “hunt the cousin”. Its weight had drowned me as I had lain, flat and barely breathing, hoping to be the last one to be found.

I figured it had once been pure white and not the melancholic grey it had become, by the time I was able to read some of the names and dates, which had been embroidered into each square patch. And as I had grown, my grandmother had shown me how to stitch, still more patches, as each new birth was added to the family record. Each patch neatly stitched – border to border.

And those borders had joined each member to one another, whilst still representing our true lineage - mother, father, child and child. Until one day, those borders had been straddled. I had no words for this invasion and the borders had hemmed me in - silencing me. Instead, my confusion had found me anxiously pulling at the silken threads, until stitch by stitch, Trevor’s name and dates, were merely symbols, if not meaningless.

Soon after, my grandmother had nudged her way into the room, a vase of violets in her hand. She had seen what I was about and had dropped the vase and violets onto the varnished floorboards.

‘What on earth are doing?’ She had screeched so bitterly. ‘There’s years of work gone into that quilt, young lady.’

She had brought me her sewing kit then, and made me stitch his name back into the fabric. Each penetration of the needle had sickened me, as I was forced to acknowledge his existence once more.

Today in the drift of sunshine that filters through the gloom of my grandmother’s funeral day, I sit cross-legged on that same bed, on that same quilt. Anxiety needles me, and my fingers find the threads I had worked on so long ago, and I begin to pluck.
One by one the secrets are pulled away in a whisper of thread through fabric. Even now I can hear by grandmother’s voice.

‘What on earth are you doing girl? What’s your Uncle Trevor going to think of you, unpicking his name like that?’

Five and thirty years have passed between this date and that. Since the quilt had covered up secrets, muffled screams and swaddled fighting limbs. It had been a silent observer, despite its wordiness. Borders had been breached, borders that should never be put asunder. I still cannot put voice to the images that haunt me - but now the quilt has been willed to me, neither it, or myself, need carry the burdens any longer.

At long last, as each stitch slips away, I can write Uncle Trevor out of history.