Sometimes I feel misunderstood by my husband.
That's shocking, I know. Certainly no one else feels this way.
It seems, however, that he cannot understand most of the things I am passionate about. Keeping a journal and blogging? Reading for pleasure? Scrapbooking? Quilting? Writing poems that no one reads? None of those things are worthy of my time in his eyes.
But this isn't a husband-bashing post. Honestly, plenty of the things he's passionate about are sort of eyeball-glazing in my perspective. Spotless house? Checkbook always current? Squeaky clean car? I just don't get it. Luckily, we do have plenty of stuff we're both passionate about together. But I do wish that he could understand my things just a little bit, so I could do them without feeling guilty.
Last Halloween (yes, last Halloween; I am getting around to writing this blog post only ten months or so later), my neighbor decided to take my kids out trick-or-treating with her kids. So I stayed home to hand out candy. Passing out the loot to trick-or-treaters is fun, but it's sort of frustrating. You can't really read in between knocks on the door, because you just get into the story and then are yanked right out again. You definitely can't watch TV, at least not if you don't have a TV near your front door. So, to keep myself occupied, I sat in the semi-dark room and worked on clipping the seams on my fall rag quilt:
I love this quilt. This year it was THE first fall-ish thing I pulled out of my storage bins. I couldn't wait to use it. It took me more than a year to find all the autumn-hued flannels, because non-babyfied flannel is hard to find. All the shopping paid off, especially that cream-colored paisley tonal; without it, there wouldn't have been enough contrast. I put an extra layer of flannel as batting, so the quilt is heavy and warm and soft and comforting. It might be my favorite quilt...well, I can't say ever. But I do love it so very much.
That Halloween, while I sat and snipped the seams, Kendell walked by the front room. He was grumpy for some reason I've forgotten, so I was sort of avoiding him anyway. "When did you turn into the quilting chick?" he asked me. "Why do you like it so much?" I didn't really answer him then (he was grumpy, remember? and this is an old and often-repeated query) but I continued to think about his question while snipping seams and passing out candy.
I sort-of answered this question later, but I left something out. An enormous reason for why I am a quilter right now in my life (as opposed to the mostly-older women I see in the fabric stores) is that I didn't get to have a second daughter. During the years between Nathan and Kaleb, I gave the best new baby gifts. I considered it a sort of calling to find sweet little newborn nightgowns, or delicate crocheted sweaters, or perfect pastel dresses. If I was shopping for a girlbaby, and I found a great deal, I'd buy two: one for the new mom, one for the other daughter I was certain I'd have one day. Those bought-on-clearance baby clothes, and the shopping itself, became a sort of inspiration for me, a way of keeping real while I waited to conceive the second daughter I thought---knew---I would have.
After I found out Kaleb was a boy, I gathered up everything I could still return to Gymboree (whose return policy was, then, six months) and, bawling the entire time, returned all that pink stuff. I had a great big credit to spend, so I took a deep breath and turned towards the blue side of the store. And I never looked at pink things again. I couldn't allow myself to even see anything pink, so I shuttered off that part of me, which was harder than it sounds. And was also a problem, because I couldn't bring myself to buy anything pink, not even for friends having girls.
That's when my baby rag quilts were born.
I'd never made one for anyone. I'd never planned one for my never-to-be-born second daughter. So there wasn't anything painful attached to them. They weren't a symbol of heartache. I could buy pink flannel; I even managed to enjoy buying pink flannel. And I've loved making every single one I've made, for boys and girls. I discovered that by making the quilts I felt a little bit more attached to the babies they'd be wrapping up. A sort of surrogacy, I suppose. That's why I keep making them, even though I have just very recently managed to buy something little and pink and impossibly soft from Gymboree: because even though I won't ever get to have one of my own babies again, the recipient would, and it brought me a silly sense of comfort to know that someone I loved would get to have their own baby moments. By making and giving the quilts I get to experience that, just a little tiny bit.
The unborn daughter is a topic Kendell and I never discuss. She is a sore spot we avoid. None of this has anything to do with me wishing Kaleb had been a girl. He is himself, my caboose-baby who I love with every bit of myself. It is about me wishing that I could have had her, too. About the feeling I continue to have that I've lost someone. In a real sense, I had to mourn for the daughter I didn't have. I didn't know what to do with the years of hoping, planning, and dreaming I'd done in her behalf. The realization that she wasn't ever coming to me didn't happen at my sonogram with Kaleb, or on the day he was born, or at any other specific moment. It was a gradual gathering of reality, a long, slow dying of the hopes, plans, and dreams. Probably that death isn't over yet. Maybe part of me will always grieve some. Even though I have the knowledge: you don't get to be her mother, I still dream about her sometimes.
Looking back at the thoughts I've written about quilting, I realized that I'm nearly always trying to defend my creative impulse to Kendell. Yet, in a sense, the quilts---which, obviously, have become more than just baby gifts, but are my newest hobby---continue to be about her. At least connected to her. I can't use my body's creativity anymore, but I can still use my spirit's. Something about quilting, about the making of a functional and pretty item by cutting and reassembling, makes me feel better. It is a realization, every quilt: I thought that not having her would leave me forever numb, without the ability to make anything, but that is not so. Look! I am making something. Limping or no, I'm moving forward. Reassembled.
And maybe that's why I'm still thinking about Kendell's question, ten months later. And why, even though his non-understanding continues to bother me, I continue to make quilts. Whether I give them away or keep them for me, they are a source of creativity that brings me a comfort I need.