Tuesday, January 12, 2010

For my brother John

It's way too easy to forget that the menfolk deserve to be honored with the work of our creative hands and minds; I rarely find myself thinking, as I'm making a quilt or other fabric piece, "Oh, my brother (or father, husband, son, etc.) would love to have a bright, festive, handmade objet d'art , made just for him, by me, with love in every stitch!" I don't think I'm much of a sexist, but I usually think more along the lines of something useful as a gift for the menfolk, with a function beyond mere visual delight or - god forbid! - sentimental value. I guess a part of me places both fabric and sentiment squarely in the realm of women - wrong again, I know...

But here it is, a small art quilt made just for my brother. (A very badly photographed one, in this case - you gotta trust me, this baby is rich and beautiful in the flesh!) The photo transfer in the center is an old B&W shot of me, the big sister on the left, and my little brother John, the dazed-looking little guy in the muddy snowsuit. Probably around 1957 or so. I remember the day this was taken, and I can still feel the weight of responsibility that settled like that navy-and-white houndstooth checked scarf over my head as I was "in charge" of my dopey little brother, probably for all of 5 minutes or so while my mother wrestled the stroller in or out of the front hall. I can still smell the faintly animal must of wet wool snowpants as they dried later, draped over the radiator, and taste the icy slush I sucked from my wet woollen mittens. Remember that chapped red ring you'd get around your wrist, where no matter how well mittened and cuffed you were when your mother wrapped you up & sent you out to play the cold snow would seep in anyway? Clearly, I grew up long before the days of polarfleece, goretex, or moisture-wicking long-johns! Our snow gear was wool, our boots were rubber, our underlayers were cotton, our skin was inevitably cold and wet and chapped, and we didn't care a hoot - we assumed that playing in the snow was fun, and so it was!

I hope John won't be offended by the rather saggy, droopy depiction of him in this photo - it wasn't his fault that his baby-green snowsuit (hand-me-down, of course) was filthy - he was still at the wallowing on the belly stage of life. Hell, I had probably dragged him up & down the patchy front yard on his stomach and told him it was a special treat - I was just that kind of big sister!

I love this picture, because to me it captures something true and touching about our childhood. This little quilt is embellished all over its surface with bright metallic threads, stitching, and beads, but none of that shows up well. Much of the fabric is my own hand-dyed and -printed cloth, which I am trying to learn to actually cut up and use in my work, instead of just hoarding it in ever-more-glorious heaps and piles. I hope that John will like it, because I dearly love him, even though we like to pretend we're all gown up now. (Well, in the reality of my family, we don't actually try too hard to be grown-ups - and we're all the happier for it.) I will give it to him this weekend, when "all of us" - me, my sister, and brother, and my parents - will gather to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday. Which is a whole 'nother blog posting, one I will no doubt be too lazy to write.
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