A reader asked me where I got my talents for quilting and writing and drawing. From a very early age, I was always drawing. I remember drawing with mud when I was making dandelion pies. I would draw my own paper dolls and all of their clothes, sometimes with a sooty finger because I didn’t have a pencil.
I would suspect that I got most of my talent from mama. Anything else, is a gift, I suppose.
When I was in school, art was mandatory for the first few years but I never wanted to do what the teacher wanted us to do. I guess that was the only rebellious part of me that surfaced. I knew how to shade an apple and a box. I wanted to draw beautiful things, like people and trees. When I got older, my art teacher let me continue to draw what I wanted but by the end of the year, she was tired of my resistance, I guess. When I turned in my picture, she gave me an “F.” She didn’t hesitate to tell me that it was a beautiful rendering but it wasn’t the assignment. She gave me the chance to do the required work, which I ultimately did.
One of our neighbors was a pair of Mormon preachers. They saw something I had drawn and asked me to come to their house and paint something on the fireplace that had been enclosed. They bought the brushes and oil paint.
I painted a charging bull set against a fire-engine red background with a visible, full yellow moon. They loved it and word got around. Why I chose to paint a bull, I don’t know.
One of my sisters’ friends’ mother heard about my painting and asked me to come paint pictures of her children on the basement wall. I painted them and got the usual praise but I was never paid one thin dime for any of my artwork.
I got brave and painted a picture for mama. I took it over to her and presented my masterpiece. She looked at it and said “this is perfect. Nothing is perfect” and tossed it on the chair. It ended up in her attic and I never saw it again. Who knows what happened to it?
Just about every boy in school had one of my drawings of a beautiful woman taped inside their lockers. I would sketch somebodys’ portrait now and then, and it would be hung in the main office.
After I got out of school, I started putting peoples’ lives on a piece of poster board. I could reproduce anything. They would supply me with a ton of information about themselves and I would draw it for them in collage style.
Two of my friends had asked me to make one for them. I knew a lot about them…when and where they met, what kind of cigarettes they smoked, what kind of beer they drank, and M***** had confided in me about one of their “escapades” when they were moving. They pulled off the road in their U-Haul truck and….well, you can guess.
Several months later, E*** was at work and had an accident. He was literally crushed between the back of a truck and a brick wall. It was touch and go for a long time and he never really did fully recover.
I decided to make their picture for them, hoping it would make him feel better. The center of the picture was a U-Haul truck. I thought it would be an inside joke between the three of us. Imagine my horror when M***** told me it was a U-Haul truck that almost killed him. It didn’t matter to them. They had it framed and as far as I know, it still hangs in their house, almost forty-three years later.
I always made my own cards for people, complete with poems and illustrations. People would howl when they read them. On the back, I would put at the bottom, “a S******* creation is always original.” They would often say “I’ll be damned if that’s not so.”
I made cards using hieroglyphics. Three years ago, I found one that I had made for Loser during the early years of our
marriage…business. For some reason, I couldn’t decipher it. I scanned it and sent it to K**** and E*. They were successful. I had it out when he came to see me one time and he took it. I imagine it has been destroyed or conveniently “lost” by now…depending on how soon the attachment found it.
I was still painting when I met Loser but after he got mad and threw my paints across the room, I put my brushes down.
I would still draw a bit now and then but I guess I remembered the anger that was associated with my artwork and we couldn’t afford paper or brushes or paint anyway.
We were so poor in the beginning. We would walk down the street and I would look at the clothes in the department store window like an addict looking at a fix. I said something about wishing that I was able to afford clothes like that and Loser said “why don’t you make them?” I said that I could never make anything like that and he said “where do you think these came from? Somebody made them.”
I was never interested in learning how to sew. Mama was always trying to teach P**** but she never tried to teach me. I had to take “home economics” in school and I despised it. Everything we had to do, I hated! I hated to cook and I hated to sew. I wonder now if wasn’t subliminal defiance against what mama did and did well.
After my car wreck, things changed when Loser bought me that first sewing machine.
I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t know how to read a pattern or fiddle with a sewing machine….but I suffered with that famous “I can do anything” mentality. Loser was so supportive and wore the pitiful things I made. Neither one of us had much choice because we had so few clothes and so little money.
Losers’ mama knew how to sew but never offered any help. I don’t think she wanted there to be a chance that I would surpass her. Too bad. I overtook her in no time and she knew it but she never said one word about anything I made. The suits I made for Loser were top-notch and nobody ever guessed that they were homemade but she never said anything about them. Instead, she bragged about the red pants she had made for his daddy and how “everybody said they were just wonderful.” (He hated them but wore them to keep from pissing her off.)
I would be willing to almost bet that Loser never remembers those seventeen suits I made him for Christmas in 1977.
I have been through so many phases of things. I made the porcelain dolls and the china dishes. I figured out how to reupholster furniture. It just made sense to me.
I made cases for all the trophies from soccer. I went to a store and looked around, bought the wood, made them and they looked exactly like the ones in the store. They weren’t the press board crap you see now. I knew how to route the edges of the shelves and dovetail the joints. I knew how to stain and seal them. They were beautiful. The children noticed but Loser didn’t.
I started making drapes and bedspreads but I’m not sure at what point I started making quilts. I do know that I was gently forced into it regularly when P**** retired and decided she wanted to learn how to make a quilt. I hadn’t heard from her in years until she called me and asked me for help. It became a regular thing.
I kept having to remind my daughters that P****, D**** and I didn’t grow up like they did. P**** and I were only now becoming friendly. D**** and I have never been and will never be friends.
P**** caught on eventually. She was “all about those quilts” and literally jumped in with all sixteen feet.
I made mama a quilt about the seven days of the week….Monday, you wash clothes….Tuesday, you iron….so on and so forth. Sunday, was church-going day so I reproduced mamas’ own piano, complete with every single key. I designed every block and drew the patterns. It was one of a kind, like many of my quilts.
She looked at it and her comment was…”Thank you for teaching P**** how to sew. She makes the most beautiful quilts.”
I never made her another one. After she died, I took that quilt, folded it up and put it out of sight.
I loved making quilts and Loser never gave me any trouble about having to walk through mounds of scraps of fabric but he did make some noise when he got thread wrapped around his toes.
He wasn’t very vocal as far as an overabundance of praise. I think I understand that. My children made good grades when they were in school, so there wasn’t much standing on ceremony. It was just expected. It was only a surprise when they didn’t excel.
I can only remember one time when Loser said that a block I had made “wasn’t up to my usual standards.” He was right. My philosophy was…”if it’s not perfect, it’s not worth it.” I would never give away a quilt that I wouldn’t proudly display somewhere in my home.
As far as writing, I am not a writer. Loser was the writer in the family. One of his first gifts to me was a dictionary. I loved to look up words. I still do. I don’t rely on “Google.” It used to aggravate my children when they would ask me what something meant. I would tell them to go look it up and they would remember it. I was tested once and something emerged about my “smooth verbal skills.”
I don’t know where I learned to do what writing I do. Loser told me I am a “really good writer.” Two of my daughters told me that I’m a really good writer. I certainly didn’t learn it from Loser.
I was just a dirt poor, little Southern girl who wanted desperately not to sound like the people I went to school with. I didn’t want to sound ignorant. One of the best friends I ever had was a college graduate. When she asked me where I went to school, I told her I hadn’t gone to college. Instead of looking at me like I was now worthless, she said “but you come across as a highly intelligent, highly educated person.”
I wonder why Loser and all his cohorts never saw that? Oh, that’s right. I wasn’t worth talking to because I refused to drink.
Maybe I traded painting pictures for trying to paint words. I love to write something and hope that whoever is reading it can literally feel it or see it or feel like they can almost touch it.
I’ll write but I will not read a book. It’s almost (but not quite) distasteful to me. There has to be a reason but I don’t know what it is. My mama read. My daddy loved to read. P**** reads. All four of my children read. My grandma and grandpa read. Loser is a voracious reader. Everybody I have ever known or know now, reads.
If the reason is some deep, dark, horrible event, I don’t want to know.
I’ve decided to put Losers’ quilt on here. He will never read my blog nor will three of my children.
I also started making dolls about this time. I loved those “Buyers’ Choice” dolls but they were so expensive. I decided that I could make my own. I made a whole “town.” I made all the toys that they held. I sculpted their faces, made the armatures and dressed them. I had a good time making them. I also showed P**** how to make them. I made all the faces for her and she did the rest. These were simply for my own pleasure. I have since given it up.
I have always wanted to put my life on a quilt but would I draw a black eye on a six-year-old child? Would I draw a broken bone or a tear-stained face? Would I draw an anatomically correct heart with a knife piercing the center?
How would I portray an abusive drunken mother-in-law sitting in front of my silent, spineless husband, spewing out venom like a fire hydrant?
Maybe I could do it “tongue-in-cheek.” Maybe I could draw her riding in on her broom. Maybe I could draw Loser in bed with one of his other women, giving me a thumbs up. Maybe I could draw my children waving good-bye to me with a smile on their faces. Maybe…maybe…maybe.