A year ago this November, my Uncle Chuck died very suddenly and unexpectedly. He was just a few years older than my Mom. The two were close growing up much like my brother Nick and I. It was sort of eerie that I had been thinking about my Uncle Chuck on the day he died, before I even knew he was sick. I had been walking in the upper meadow when I came across a severed garter snake laying belly up. I stopped to consider it and thought of how my Uncle Chuck used to throw garter snakes at my Mom to tease her when they were kids. After a bit, I continued my walk. I didn't know that at that time he was being admitted to the hospital for emergency surgery.
As my Uncle Chuck was letting go of life, I was letting go of a job and of control over my professional life. It was the beginning of a transition to self-employment for me, and my Mom wanted to support me by giving me work. After Uncle Chuck passed, she commissioned memory quilts made from his clothes for my cousins, Chuck's two daughters. My Aunt Sharon gathered shirts, ties, p.j.'s, his hospital scrubs, fishing shirts, hankies, and old scouting scarves. After sorting them, I realized that they were so colorful! This surprised me. It shouldn't have because my Uncle Chuck was such a big personality who would be the first to break into song or tell a joke at a party. He loved his family and lived a full life. In fact, Uncle Chuck was so full of life that he embodied Santa Claus' spirit and would play him for family parties during the holiday season. He'd bring generosity and joy with him wherever he went.
Years and years ago, after I was first diagnosed with Thyroid disease and feeling sluggish, tired, and depressed. He invited Pat and I to his cottage in Williams Bay, Wisconsin. He made me soup and told me that it was OK to be depressed and sick. He'd gone through it himself and fought his way out of it. He told me that I would get better, too. It meant a lot to me to have him reach out to me when I felt so isolated and like a failure. I have thought of that moment a lot through my life, and every time that I hesitate in following my instincts or get stuck in the sludge of depression, I think of how Uncle Chuck worked his way out of illness to live a life on Lake Geneva as an expert fishing guide.
So, I chose a log cabin pattern to reflect this sense of family and home that I think Uncle Chuck embodied. The log cabin pattern features a central square with strips encircling it to make a larger square. I chose to make my central square larger than traditional to emphasize his big heart, and I pieced the squares by color: red, yellow, green, blue, and neutrals. The backings are pieced from his scouting bandannas, which date from the mid-sixties.
I have to say while piecing these quilts, I had this overwhelming sense of joy and well-being. I felt connected to Uncle Chuck on his lake --especially while cutting up his fishing shirts. And I felt that the joy of doing something I love, quilting, mirrored his joy of fishing. My Mom gifted these quilts to my cousins yesterday, and I hope they can be sources of comfort for them. I sewed them into textile versions of an embrace to wrap around them whenever they need a hug from their Dad. I am so grateful to my Mom for this commission, to my Aunt Sharon for trusting me with Uncle Chuck's clothes, and to Uncle Chuck for accompanying me on my creative journey. I love you and miss you Godfather!!!
Anna Lentz, artist and writer, blogs about making a creative life connected with nature at Spring Bird.