This I Believe

William - Decatur, Georgia
Entered on November 8, 2006

A Father’s Quilt

I believe in the legacy of character, passed from parent to child, that forms the moral “backing” for each generation. When I was in college, my Mom presented me with a quilt one Christmas. She would often make us something for Christmas and this one, 30 years ago, was no exception. It was a colorful quilt, a welcomed addition to the dreary, drab décor of my college dormitory room and designed to keep me warm during those cold, Wisconsin winters. I remember being struck by the odd assortment of swatches from which this patchwork quilt was made. All were corduroy, some of deep, rich red, some blue, green and brown, others of soft warm pink and pale blue, some patterned, some plain. Some looked vaguely familiar. Some were of unknown origin. Carefully stitched together, placed atop a warm piling, backed, and edged with a green border. All in all, a handsome quilt, in an eclectic, functional sort of way. You see, the materials for the quilt were bits and pieces of cloth saved as scraps from the many sewing projects my Mom had undertaken through the years.

I came across that quilt a while back and was struck by the thought that her quilt, crafted by loving hands, represented a compendium of family memories and a metaphor for her approach to life and the legacy she and my father passed on. The traditions and values of her family provided her the support to place the patches of her life as a musician, student, nurse, missionary, wife, mother and grandmother on a durable backing, which when viewed in total, became a rich and warm collection of experiences and memories. Diligence, loyalty, tolerance and honesty were characteristics passed down through the genetic code and her code of conduct. These characteristics provided the backing upon which the experiences, or patches, of her children’s lives could each be laid, patches which bear her mark and our uniquely our own. I believe that genetics delivers a child with a unique personality, a blend of mother and father, ready to absorb the events and experiences which will serve to shape the core. We as parents, nurture that nature while they are young, guide as they begin to get older, advise as they move towards independence, and rejoice in the people they become.

My two oldest children are preparing to go off to college next year. Mom once told me, there was a time when a parent could no longer tell their child what to do, but could only advise them and allow them to make their own decisions, create their own patches, if you will. I believe my wife and I, and our children, have reached that point. I cannot sew a stitch, and could never reproduce the quilt I was given so long ago. However, I hope that we have provided a few family patches, some stout stitching, and the moral backing for the “quilts” our kids are becoming, just as my parents did many years ago.