Encapsulating memories

My grandfather passed away in February and it has been a rough time for my family. My grandmother set about cleaning out the closet almost immediately. I think it was a form of catharsis for her. I asked for Poppy's shirts so I can make a quilt out of them. A Poppy shirt is easily recognizeable because it is always plaid and always in mild colors, typically blue, some grey, tan, olive green and a few burgundy. At one point in his life it became the only thing that we could get him, because really, what do you give the man who has a whole Morton building full of stuff?

Going through the shirts and cutting them into neat piles of fabric reminded me of his ethics. My grandparents did not throw anything away, and part of that is a bit of a hoarder mentality, but also a keen sense of reusing things, fixing things and making do. My mom told me yesterday that currently the furnace is 'jury rigged'. Yesterday I had a flat tire and I ended up at the Gomez service station at the corner of Division and Damen and the gentleman took my tire, figured out where the leak was coming from, patched me up and sent me on my way. He reminded me a lot of my grandfather.

From the wear of his shirts I could tell which were his favorites. Some of them had minuscule holes at the seams where the thread ran through. Yet, the shirt was washed, cleaned and ironed and hung back for another wear. The bolder burgundy shirt that someone must have bought him for Christmas was still stiff as if it was worn once for the gift giver and then hung back up in the closet. The shirts he liked and wore often were as soft and fine as any Liberty Tana Lawn. Those were the shirts that made me pause and hold them for a moment more. I could almost smell the scent of sunshine and oil, a very unique Poppy smell.

For now the shirts are currently sitting in piles as I contemplate what quilting pattern would best serve them. I know when this quilt is done that it will be a functional quilt, not one of beauty, but someone will run their hands over the top of it and pause on that one very worn piece of fabric and remember the man who once wore that shirt.



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