Silver and Gold
The Toni Jones Quilt
finished December 2013
Toni Jones moved into the house up the cul-de-sac from mine, a welcome addition to our neighborhood. With her six children to my four, our houses were jumping when we got together, and we did that a lot. Her mother lived with them, and the three of us women got along famously. One late summer day, Toni gave me a jar of her homemade pickles, made from her mother’s recipe and which used grape leaves as the secret ingredient. As a pickle lover, I thought I was in heaven and still have her recipe in my file, although I have never made them (grape leaves are not easy to come by).
We because close friends very quickly, as we tried to sort out the three main things that concern young mothers: will our children grow up to be good citizens? how do we manage our marriages? and how can I lose this weight? The first is a universal, the second was harder for me, and the third was harder for her. Too soon, my husband took another job and moved us to California, where the marriage finally cracked apart, and we divorced. Toni moved to a town further south of our Texas meeting place, got a job driving a bus to help out with finances and our letters and phone calls still resonated with the three questions, occasionally adding in a few more thorny conundrums, such as: will I ever marry again (mine), will we ever feel happy inside (both of ours), and can I clone myself to get everything done?
Then I fell in love, married and moved to Southern California. She and her husband, mother and family moved back to the Midwest from where they’d first moved. That fall I received a lovely letter from Toni. She was noticeably slimmer, posed in a family portrait with her husband and children surrounding her like bright satellites. She was all heart, that girl. Her letter glowed with satisfaction: she loved the Midwest, happy to be “home” again, and everyone was doing well. And yes, she’d canned some pickles and wished she could share.
I sent off my Christmas card in 2004, adding a scrawled a note and busied myself with preparations. Shortly after the holiday, instead of her usual Christmas card, I received a letter from her husband. He wrote that just before Christmas, Toni and her mother had been killed in a head-on collision on an icy road. By the time the accident was discovered, they were both gone. The news was stark, severe, sucking the breath right out of me.
Toni was the first woman close to me that had left too soon, and I resolved to capture all my friends, those who were close relatives, women who had mentored me. I decided to make a quilt with everyone’s signature, my own memorial to Toni and to my friendships.
So many lived far away, so I ironed fabric to freezer paper, enclosed a letter giving instructions to sign the square in pencil, and included a self-addressed stamped envelope so I’d get them back. Most did. Other times, I carted my squares with me to family reunions, to church, to a therapist’s office, to quilt group, as I had made a list of women I needed and began checking off the names as the squares grew. Not all of my close friends are included, as I decided to limit it to a time frame, otherwise I’d never be done.
I gathered up all my granddaughters’ names this fall, and made them squares.
My mother, Barbara, and my daughter, named for my mother, are kitty-corner from each other.
I took the quilt to my quilter a week before Christmas and she turned it around quickly, so I could show my granddaughters when they came to visit. Emilee, the oldest daughter of my son, beamed brightly when I showed her the square with her name on it. Brooke, the four-year-old, wanted to sign another one, but I’ve left two blank in case my last son has daughters.
I had purchased the backing when I bought all the fabrics for the quilt, so it came together quickly. I felt some urgency to finish it off, as this Christmas we celebrated my 60th birthday (it’s really not until January, but all the children were in town, so we did it early). I hesitate to say the number, because I remember being thirty and thinking that sixty was the kind of number where people were shipped off to Old Folks’ Homes, fitted with canes, walkers and rocking chairs and consigned to a life of reminiscence. But I am young in my mind (although sometimes the body doesn’t get the memo) and want to celebrate what I’ve learned and the people who have touched my life, providing instruction, guidance and a listening ear at critical junctures in my life.
So, with this quilt, I remember Toni.
With this quilt, I celebrate a lifetime of women.
This is Quilt #126 on my 200 Quilts List.
It is also a quilt from the 2013 FAL Quarter 4, hosted by Leanne, of She Can Quilt.
21 thoughts on “Silver and Gold Friendship Quilt”
A beautiful quilt and a touching story. It brought back memories of sending off a letter only to have it returned by the bank because the whole family had perished in a fire. I can identify with the starkness.
The realization that our time is becoming limited is a strange one. At least 60 (and up) have a variety of ways to look and be that can obliterate our stereotypes.
Ahhh . . . another beautiful story from you Elizabeth. Such a wonderful idea. Got me thinking what a nice thing to make as a family heirloom. Only wish my parents and their sibs were still with us. I also chuckled at your statement of the body not always cooperating with us and our mental age. That’s exactly how I’ve felt the last couple of months and I DO NOT like it at all!! Happy New Year.
Another beautiful story, so eloquently told. Toni and her mother would be so proud to be part of this very, very special quilt, just as your granddaughters are! Thank you again Elizabeth for sharing a small part of your life and so enriching ours!
Don’t think about the number (60) – it only becomes better when you are, say, 80. DO think about Toni and her mother and that sweet time in your lives and thank you for sharing the story. I’d like to think that throughout my life I’ve been mindful of the daily fragility, for all of us; but I do know that as I get older it is a constant. And it’s good and something I wish I could help those younger remember.
This story is beautifully written and a reminder to cherish friends and family
Thank you for honoring these women and sharing your story with us. As I wrap myself in the quilt you made me, I appreciate again the power of a quilt to comfort us.
What a tender tribute. I am sure this beautiful quilt will be one of your favorites of the many quilts you have created.
Such a touching and heart warming project! Truly a quilt full of love.
What a beautiful story and a touching tribute to great friends!!!
I love this quilt! Thanks for sharing the story behind the making of this. The women in our lives are so special, and your friendship quilt is a testament to this. Happy early 60th birthday and happy new year!
So wonderful! #128? Wow
What a wonderful post about your lovely friend and her Mom. I adore the quilt and it became more gorgeous as I read your story. Thanks for sharing.
Such an amazing story…and told so beautifully! It truly is a treasure!
What an amazing story. What a wonderful gift to yourself. Your quilt is a true tribute to those you love. Thank you so much for sharing this personal story with all of us.
You are a gifted story teller, Elizabeth! Thank you for sharing your quilt and maybe planting some seeds for future quilts among the rest of us. Happy Birthday!
So beautiful. The quilt as well as the story. I am brought to tears.
Now you have made me all teary, what a lovely quilt. It is wonderful to have had such a good friend, and all the other friends and family too. I am glad you finished this quilt.
I love your quilt, and your story is so well told. What a wonderful reminder about the treasures we have in friendships, in life.
Beautiful! I read your blog mostly on an RSS feed and there was a picture of a photograph quilt along with this. How did you add the photos to your quilt? Is it a special fabric or process? I would love to make something like that for my mother…Thanks for the information! email@example.com