Mashed potatoes. I told my friend Susan, who is bringing Salmon for Thanksgiving dinner, that I’d make mashed potatoes and vegetables to go along with it.
Yet every time I though of making mashed potatoes, an old, feeling came over me. I haven’t made mashed potatoes in over ten years. When we were making plans for dinner it seemed like a good idea. Now it paralyzed me, threw me back into another time. It zapped my creativity and curiosity, made me doubt my simplest decision.
I couldn’t figure out what was going on.
The holidays always bring me down, but this was different. I recognized what I was feeling, the way I used to feel most of the time. I was pulling in, shutting down, making myself smaller and smaller.
The day before, I was thinking about what to get my mother for Christmas and a question popped into my head. If I made my mother a quilt, what would it look like? In my mind I scanned the fabric on the shelves in my studio, but I couldn’t imagine anything about the quilt, not a color, not a pattern.
The next day, feeling panic and darkness descending on me, I went into my studio knowing that if I did some work, I’d begin to feel better. The question of the quilt was in the back of my mind.
I found the piece of fabric that the quilt I was beginning would center around. It’s shape and design suggested to me a baroque kind of vulva. It was a spider, an octopus, a heart with a lions face in it. It was an ornate jar, the kind the ancient Egyptians put the organs of their dead in.
I took my feelings about the holidays, mashed potatoes and my mother and emptied them into the quilt.I picked up fabric after piece of fabric, looked at the color and patterns and asked myself if it was what I was feeling.
I sewed the red, woven placemats I bought after I got divorced next to a worn and stained synthetic dress from the 1950’s. The red velvet curtain bordered the cotton fabric swatch and the striped linen dish towel. I didn’t think of where the fabric came from, while I was making the quilt, I was only feeling what was right, what worked.
Then, this morning, after deciding to make roasted potatoes instead of mashed, it came to me. I understood what I was feeling and why.
I used to use food to fill the emotional emptiness inside of me.
I was alway loneliest at family dinners and the holidays. It was then I most craved the richest food. Lots of cheeses, sauces and gravies. Mashed potatoes, baked in their own skin topped with butter and Romano cheese, was my favorite.
I don’t use food that way anymore. I’m not lonely or emotionally craving, the way I used to be. I’m fulfilled in my work and in my relationship with Jon and the community of people I surround myself with.
This morning I looked at the quilt laying on my studio floor and knew it was done. I was trying to make it bigger, but there was nothing more to add to it. It was complete.
I also knew that this is what the quilt, that I made for my mother, would look like. I had done it without being conscious of it. I can’t explain it anymore than I already have. The quilt says what I can’t.
8 thoughts on “What The Quilt I Made For My Mother Looks Like”
Wow, Maria. Such an honest piece, though all of your pieces are so honest. Holidays for those of us who had (have) dysfunctional families can be so hard. They can ping thoughts and feelings buried within us, and take us right back to that table, that place, those feelings. I can feel like my 7 year old self in a second. Scared, uncomfortable, wanting to run or crawl under something – those are my family holiday memories. No wonder I dislike holidays. Forced familiarity. My Hubs and I are in Texas, spending the holiday with our son, who’s in the Air Force here. We had a wonderful day with him, and one of his Air Force buddies, having Texas cuisine in the nice, relaxed atmosphere of his home. It’s great to be able to choose where we spend our time, rather than feeling obligated to spend it with other family. Emotional emptiness – I don’t have it as much now, as I used to, because I, too, have found the things that fill it up for me. Thank you, Maria.
For me the kind of thing you’re talking about and doing Karla is just what I’m trying to do and accept in my own life. Forced Familiarity, is just what it is. That’s a new term for me, one to remember.
Wow. I hope you feel as proud of yourself as I do. It takes a lot (energy, work, courage) to delve into those old feelings and patterns. You used your creativity to do it, your art – and that’s beautiful.
It does feel good now Tricia. My art has always helped me to know myself better.
Good Morning Maria, this quilt is beautiful…I think my favorite. Your explanation of your process of creating it adds another wonderful layer to it. Forced Familiarity! Bingo!
Thank you Karen, It’s so good to know that I’ve made this kind of connection with you.
Hi Maria, again the connection! This quilt just talks! You could have made this quilt for my Mother. Everything you put into your recipe to bring it to this obvious completion could have been for my Mother.Your feelings and truths of your Mother are very similar to mine. The Holidays are getting less dreaded each year for me also.
Ah Thank you Cindy. And it does get less and less doesn’t it.