Sunday, December 17, 2006

Winter:In All of Her Twisting and Turning Variations


Winter storms are hitting Oregon now, continually endangering attempts to find the three missing climbers on Mt. Hood and forcing the rest of us to cozy down in our homes to keep warm and wait it all out. Our thoughts and our hearts go out to the families of the missing men. Our minds and our hands need to keep busy. No Christmas shopping, no traveling to lighted house displays in surrounding areas, my blogger has refused to upload photos all week...it was just plain time to quilt.

So, one of my quilts in progress is now finished. The fabric from the 'father basket'-cut out, pieced, backed, pinned and re-pinned three times, then quilted, frog quilted, re-quilted. I figure if it's worth doing once, why not try again...and again...and again. My father will be celebrating his 90th birthday in mid-January. So,I am making him a 'Turning 90' quilt in a WW 2 theme.

My Alaskan grandparents were a 'five star star' family. That meant that they 'gave' five sons to the war effort. Five sons in different branches, all sent out to defend American honor,integrity and territory. One son, my dad's brother, was shot down in his airplane in the Pacific Ocean, near Japan..never to return home. Four others, including my father, served in various capacities and did return safely home. The loss of one,rededicated the intent of the giving of the others. So, take that patriotism, that pride and then see it as a much greater gift with deepened significance.

My dad was a Warrant Officer on a ship in the Aleutian Islands. He never saw combat but still he and his fellow officers patrolled the frozen waters off Alaska and transported goods to different bases. He served with great pride and sees it as an important chapter in his life. He met and married his Louisianan pen pal, my Cajun French mother near the end of the war, by traveling the more than five thousand miles, by car, to meet her, fall in love, and marry her. The whole decade of the 1940's changed his life in many ways, forever. It set a course in destiny for him and for our family, than cannot be over emphasized.

So, his quilt is a WW 2 patriotic one, very simply designed, bold but with softened colors and with large photo transfers of himself, his family and my mother. The photos are super sized because my mother is legally blind and can only see things when they are enlarged with high contrast, and then with a magnifying glass for the details. Several of the photos are of her,which I know they both will love.

I used a variation I worked out from the idea of a 'Turning Twenty' pattern. Instead of 20 blocks, I used nine (wasn't up to piecing 90!) But they are turned and twisted to be an original version. The turning and the twisting is symbolic, I think, of conflict of any kind, but especially conflict that leads to change. Life and death are major aspects of such change, but in a way birthdays are as well.

Each birthday marks a mile point and acts as a catalyst, but ones which come on the cusp of a decade, are somehow even more notable. We mark and honor the milestones in our lives, there is history and meaning and even a search for reason in the meaning of all them. So, as my dad is 'Turning 90', so this quilt will commemorate a major time of change in his own life. I honor those memories and the strong, determined and steadfast man he was then and remains yet, today.

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.