Wednesday, July 13, 2011

When is too much not enough?

It’s all my mother’s fault – she started it!   She was a quilting pimp – she made it seem so fulfilling and exciting, showing me all the beautiful colors and letting me finger her fabrics, offering to share with me, taking me to quilt shows until I, too, began to collect my own stash, make my own quilts, and now  - well, there is no turning back! 
It turns out quilters are very co-dependent.  We had so much fun quilting together; we shared everything, and we constantly egged each other on… 
“It’s alright,” we would tell each other, “Go ahead and start on another quilt even though you already have >twenty unfinished projects languishing on the UFO (unfinished objects) shelf…it’s okay, everybody does it!” 
“Of course you have to buy that beautiful fabric even though you have no plan for it, it won’t be around forever!”
“Hey, there’s a fabric sale at --- they have such great stuff and usually it’s so expensive.  Maybe that stuff you looked at last time is on sale – we should go look, at least.” 
“You should try that pattern, you can do it!” 
Alas, my wonderful mother is no more.  She has moved beyond the physical world into the metaphysical realm, to a place of infinite beauty and love, which is, of course, a good thing…for her.  I miss her terribly.   She was my biggest cheerleader, not just in quilting, but in life, the kind of mother that not only pushes you to be the best you can be, but helps you get there, too. 
But my mother is still supporting me, even after her death.  No she doesn’t communicate with me from beyond the grave - I inherited her stash!
Mother’s quilting story is a pretty typical “empty nester” tale.  She started quilting about the time her last child, my youngest sister Erika, got into high school.  Liberated by the fact that now most of her children were out of her hair, she looked around and saw that she needed a new hobby to on which to focus her boundless energy.   
It really surprised all of us when she took up quilting because although she was always busy and creative when we were growing up, she was usually in a really BAD mood whenever she sewed, leading all of to believe she didn’t, in fact, enjoy it.  I don’t know exactly what put the notion of making a quilt into her head (possibly menopause – I blame a lot of otherwise inexplicable behavior on that) but in true Eleanor Ottmers fashion, she took the bull by the horns, attempting one of the toughest patterns on her first try.   Naturally, it was beautiful, and she was hooked. 
So began her descent into the “quilting vortex.”   You know the dark tale.  It begins with one innocent trip to the fabric store and ends with an entire room being added onto a home in order to house the enormous stash of fabrics, books, rulers, machines, design walls, threads, tools …did I say fabrics?
In all honesty, mother was a little over-the-top in her pursuit of quilting (as she tended in every other aspect of her life – it was part of her charm, actually).  She never met a piece of fabric she didn’t like, or saw a technique she didn’t want to try.   She loved it all, and she wanted to make it all.  And she had the fabric (and eventually, the space added on) to do it!
Unfortunately, she ran out of time.  She quilted up to the very end, though.  It was really the only thing she could muster any energy for when she was so sick– it was a little crazy; she literally couldn’t keep her eyes open, but I would say “Mother, you want to quilt a little bit?” and her face would light up.  She would drag herself to the quilting room, where she would sit, “resting her eyes” while I would thread the needle, pin the squares or pieces together, and hand them to her.  She would open her eyes, sew furiously to the end, and then her eyes would close again, a Mona Lisa smile of contentment on her face.   
Yes, Mother is gone, but her stash lives on, now in my quilt room.  Even though I told myself to be ruthless when going through her things so as not to end up in the quilting vortex myself, I found that like her, I wanted to try this or that technique or utilize that cool new gadget too!  Remembering my goal of being “Zen,”  I panicked for a moment, but suddenly I saw my mother’s twinkling eyes and I realized it was not an obsession with material objects that was triggered by those silly things – it was the endless possibilities, the unparalleled joys of creation, the act of being  itself , something that my mother was so gifted at, that was arising in me, now, too.
So now my quilting “stuff” has doubled, tripled, or maybe even quadrupled because in the end, I was unable to part with most of the things in her quilt room.  But I have a goal in mind - to honor my incredible mother and the art by using every bit of talent and energy to turn those scraps of material into something beautiful, something that will communicate the joy of creation, of being, to others.
I believe it is her way of continuing to support and push me even from her new shiny place in the universe, reminding me there is always another quilt to be made, another idea to try.