When Carli went full time in July one of the first things she did was empty her closet of all the boys clothes, other than a couple of androgynous shirts she has to wear on occasion for a handful of people who have yet to fully accept her for who she is. (That’s a story for another day.) I remember the relief on her face as she packed away the remnants of that person she never really was, filling her closet instead with pretty blouses, skirts, and feminine pieces that fit her personality and style much better! Boxes and boxes of clothes were piled in a spare room, waiting to be donated to local charities. As we went through them months later we realized that many of the shirts were just old work shirts or casual shirts with lots of wear on them. They simply weren’t in good enough shape to donate. The only reason Carli had kept most of them for so long was because she simply hated shopping for new boy clothes. They never felt comfortable to her so she avoided purchasing anything new unless she absolutely had to. So, what to do with a bunch of worn XL men’s shirts?
Make a quilt, of course! A coming out quilt! A way to pay homage to a beautiful person who doesn’t have to hide anymore, but who did the very best she could while hiding. It’s not done yet; this project is time consuming, frustrating, and there is no guarantee the quilt will turn out anything like the picture I have in my mind. I was meticulous with my measurements, cut every tiny piece with precision, and still ended up with pieces that aren’t perfect. I sew them together and sometimes have to rip them apart and try again.
Seems a lot like life in general. You take what you are given, piece it all together, and hope that it turns out okay. Sometimes things go a little sideways and you have to make adjustments before you can move on. You learn to overlook small flaws, accepting that it’s okay to be less than perfect.
Less than perfect definitely describes my quilting ability. I’ve only put together a couple of quilts before, nothing fancy or special. But this one is very special. I am transforming Carli’s old boy clothes from something she hated to touch into an heirloom we can cherish. The pieces of material she was required to wear because of our flawed concept of gender are assembled into a functional, beautiful quilt that will last a lifetime. The quilt also has tiny pieces of new pink material stitched alongside the old blue stripes, denims, and plaids, blending old with new. Carli’s previous life in hiding is being acknowledged, hopefully in such a way so she knows I loved her then, even though I didn’t know she was in hiding. And I love her now. The best parts of the old Carli blending beautifully with the new Carli.
I’m using Carli’s grandmother’s antique Singer sewing machine to piece the tiny two inch squares together, deliberately forcing a needle to make tiny holes in the fabric so it can be stitched back together with fresh white thread. I have an intense sense of nostalgia using this particular sewing machine. It’s almost like I can feel extra love being channeled into every stitch. Call that goofy, I don’t mind, but remember I also use Carli’s grandmother’s antique stove to do all of our canning. I swear it makes the food taste better! Using this sewing machine and stove reminds me that we can still be connected to our past while we continue to move forward. We take pieces of our lives apart that aren’t working anymore and put them back together in a way that makes more sense, more beautiful, more useful, more authentic. Sometimes other people or circumstances force the pieces apart and it’s not always what we wanted, but we still pick up the pieces and put them back together our way.
It’s not done yet but the quilt will eventually be finished. When do you suppose people are “done?” Do we get to a point in our lives where we think we are done, we have nothing to learn or change, no room for growth? What about our country? Did we think our country was “done”; that we shouldn’t expect big changes to happen anymore, good or bad?
Nope, not done yet. I think we’ve only just begun.