Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Sun Bonnet Sue Quilt

With a new school year just beginning, I am doing what many teenagers are forced to do at the end of the summer, cleaning up my room and getting rid of old school notes that are no longer needed. (Not nearly as fun as organizing fabrics!) In my travels around my old school essays I came across a short story I wrote in high school for an English class. I read it today and realized how much I enjoyed writing it. I decided to share it, but please note that the story is fictitious and was solely written for school purposes. The title of the story is "The Sun Bonnet Sue Quilt".

" The winter wind was cold on my bare hands as I attempted to create what I had hoped to be, a beautiful flower arrangement for my wife and daughter's grave. My wife, Susan, died of cancer eight years ago. When she died, I thought that would be the end of my life. Little did I know, that is where it truly began.

She left me with our beautiful little girl, Marion. She was nine when her Mom died. Susan was a quilting enthusiast and Marion adored and cherished everything her Mother made for her. I believe that is what hurt her the most, to see her Mom's sewing room unused. Since Marion was very young and had no one to show her how to properly use her Mother's equipment, she accepted that no one would ever finish her Mom's current project, a beautiful Sun Bonnet Sue quilt for Marion. It broke my heart to see her mourn for her Mother and to understand that she would never get to cuddle with her Sun Bonnet Sue quilt; but I just did not have the time to learn to sew as I had so many other responsibilities.

Two years later Marion was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The Doctor said she had one year to live. I never felt so much anger towards life. The world felt so cold. Losing my wife left me feeling alone and angry, at least I had others to comfort me. Losing two family members felt like sitting in the bottom of a dark, cold empty hole with no one to ease my pain. On our drive home from the hospital she said, "Daddy, I want to see my quilt finished before I die". I did not respond to her request, I wanted her to see it completed also. I did not know what to say, her statement had brought tears to my eyes. I had no idea who could finish it for her. I pondered over the situation until the next day, when I suddenly realized how much it would mean to her if she could have the quilt with her to hold at every Doctor's visit and medical procedure. I vowed to finish that quilt.

I went to the library. I read many books on the operation of sewing machines and quilting. I even attended a work shop at the local Quilt Guild that Susan had once belonged to. Many of the women had been friendly with Susan and were very helpful and answered all of my questions about how to properly sew the tiny pieces together to form adorable Sun Bonnet dolls. It took me an entire month to complete all twenty quilt blocks, sew them together with the sashing and add the borders, I remembered that my wife usually preferred to hand quilt the top, batting and backing of the quilt together rather than have it machine quilted. So I rummaged through her supplies and found her quilting frame and thimble. I practiced hand quilting until I was pleased with the spacing and length of my delicate stitches. I layered and basted my quilt together and fastened it firmly to the inside of the frame. After kissing Marion good night, I began to quilt around each doll. I thought of Susan while I worked and I imagined her laughing at my attempt to match her highly skilled work. The feeling of her presence made me feel relaxed and before I knew it, I had quilted through the entire night. Sunlight filled the room as I finished my last line of quilting, I expertly tied the knot and snipped the thread. The quilting was complete. After I drove Marion to school, I completed the binding. When Marion came home from school I presented it to her, I had never experienced a feeling of so much accomplishment and pride. Marion shrieked excitedly and jumped into my arms. "Oh, thank you Daddy! It is so beautiful! But who finished it?" I explained to her how I had done a lot of research and hard work to finish it and keep it a surprise for her. "You did a wonderful job Daddy, I absolutely love it!". She kissed my cheek and held her quilt tightly in her arms. She looked up at me, with a big smile and lovely sparkling eyes and said, "Mom would have been so proud of you". I smiled back at her and said, "yes, I think so too".

I still believe that it was the power, warmth and comfort of that quilt that provided my sweet daughter with enough strength to live on much longer than the Doctors had expected. Eventually, the cancer spread and the pain became too much for her small body to fight. I was so impressed with her maturity and her strength; I believe I cried more than she had. Marion inspired me to continue quilting; it brought her much joy to see the progress I made in my quilts. It also helped occupy our worried minds, even up to the last day of her life. We talked about quilt designs and brainstormed different ideas. When she passed away at the age of thirteen, I was determined to help put an end to the horrible disease that had taken the life of my wife and daughter. Finally I came up with a plan, but I needed some help in order to put my plan into action. Immediately I contacted the Quilt Guild.

We formed a program at the guild called "Sewing Against Cancer". Thirty quilters joined our program. Our intentions were to each make a quilt and host an auction to raise money for cancer. Our first auction was a huge success; every quilt raised slightly over six hundred dollars. All together our guild raised twenty thousand dollars for cancer research. We now have auctions every year and each year we raise more money. Our program has grown with time and now quilters from around the world send us quilts for the auction and participate in our battle against cancer.

Sometimes I still feel Susan's presence in my sewing studio. This brings me pleasure while I am designing or working on a quilt. The memories of Susan and Marion continue to touch my heart and bless me with inspiring ideas."

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