Friday, April 10, 2009

i know it's not your birthday, but i brought you this dead lizard

Isn't it hard to come back to a place when you've been gone so long? I'd still be thinking wistfully of what to post and when if it wasn't for Natalie. She says my presence here matters, and that it's good for me, so here I am.

A day in a life is difficult to summarize, so I'm not going to attempt nearly two months. I'll pick up from where I am now, which isn't too far from where I was. It's still me and Mira, down here in the wilderness of Houston. Mira spends most of her time chasing anything that moves, including dogs and other cats, outside. I was in the habit of leaving the door cracked so she could come in and out at will, until yesterday. That's when she came galloping in as usual, then lay on the floor and started batting something around. At first I thought it was a leaf, then a voice said, Look again. By that time she'd laid the thing at my feet. It was a lizard, a dead one. It looked like a rubber toy. Do I need to remind anyone how I feel about lizards? Didn't think so.

Yet again, I ran like my hair was on fire. I called Natalie, then Schmin, so as not to be alone with the thing. Mira had already brought it closer to where I was, then ran back outside for more fun. I threw an old towel over it, and a huge flattened box because I didn't want Mira to pull the towel off. I broke camp first chance I got, and didn't return until I thought my neighbor's kids would be home. Thank God for my new hero, Jack, my neighbor's six-year-old. When his mom asked him if he'd pick up the lizard for me, he shrugged, like, Why not? What's the big deal? and I offered to sweeten the pot with 5 bucks. The whole time he was picking it up, I was jumping around hollering Don't let me see it! Don't let me see it! It probably crossed Jack's mind that I'm nuts, but little kids meet you where you live. Today when I saw him, he didn't avoid me, so he hasn't written me off, probably because of the money.

Aside from hiring children to save me from the wilds, I'm doing a bit of knitting, and dreaming of making a quilt. My last quilt, which I pieced donkey years ago, is the only thing I've sewed since I've been here. The one night I spent quilting it was one of my least favorite sewing experiences, and I haven't picked it up since. I like to sew, not break up wrestling matches. My machine and this quilt gots no love for each other. I will complete it, because it's for somebody special (whose mom will get me if I don't cough it up -- Hi, Mo!).

But, you know, inspiration strikes and you want to do other things. I've wanted to hand quilt for a long, long time, since way before I started knitting. Because I'll burst if I don't get to do it soon, I got the Gee's Bend books from the library. I have a big project that's overdue at work, and I've told myself that as a reward for finishing it I can buy whatever I want to make the quilt.

All was well with this plan, until I woke up sweating underneath my down comforter the other morning, with the Gee's Bend books in bed right next to me, and got to wondering what would be the harm in making one quick, simple project by machine, because I'm never going to find a summer bed covering that I'll like as much. Since I couldn't argue myself out of this, I went to Ross today and got some sheets and pillowcases for fabric. I don't want to spend a bunch of money on this one, and I'm not feeling up to torturing myself with too many choices in a fabric store, so the sheets seemed like the best alternative. I'm not going to use any filling, since it'll be hot as tarnation down here in a minute anyway.

At Ross you can't stop at what you go in to buy. This orange delight jumped out at me while I was innocently strolling by, so I bought it, too.

Well. Hello. I'm back. I won't be such a stranger, and I hope you won't either. I'll leave you with some quotes from the great ladies of Gee's Bend. If I try to say why you should pick up these books, if you haven't already, I'll start to cry. The women of Gee's Bend, and their incredible quilts, are just the whole of life.

I never did like the book patterns some people had. Those things had too many little bitty blocks. I like big pieces and long strips. However I get them, that's how I used them. I like to sew them however they be. I work it out, study the way to make it, get it to be right, kind of like working a puzzle.... My husband, Lucius Young, and me had nine head of children -- six boys and three girls. He got killed in a car wreck in 1970. We didn't get along so good anyway. He treated me bad with other women. -- Annie Mae Young (b. 1928), whose quilt is featured on the cover of The Quilts of Gee's Bend.

I always loved sewing. I made all my children's clothes. Didn't need a pattern. Same with quilts. If I seen a dress or a quilt or something I liked, I can make it. I just draw it out the way I want it. In the quilting bee time, I started using patterns, but I shouldn't have did it. It broke the ideas I had in my head. I should have stayed with my own ideas. I kept making quilts all the way up to last year. I still got the feeling every now and then to sew, but I just don't have the mind to do it now. My hands are good, but I ain't quite got the spirit. -- not like before, when I'm always ready, day and night. Age got me. -- Nettie Young (b. 1917)

What I first did, I showed it to my daddy, and he was amazed over me making it.... Whatever we did, my daddy always just carry it up, you know, and that made us do better. He wouldn't never say That ain't right or You didn't fix it like this or like that. He always made much of it. That made us feel good, you know: "Pa said it's alright." -- Amelia Bennett (1914-2002)

I worked for two, three families. I worked long as I could afford satisfaction. When they start to complain, I might go someplace else. The last job I had, I worked for her for thirty-one years down in Gastonburg. Ora Laird. They say she was a mean lady, but I could get along with anybody once I found out their ways. I enjoyed working for her because she didn't ever tell me what to do. Not even what to cook for dinner. She say, "I ain't no cook. I eat. You the cook; cook what you want to." I never think I'm a good cook, but everywhere I work they said I was a good cook. I hate cooking." -- Polly Bennett (b. 1922)


Elbee said...

Feeling sad tonight. These just made me sadder. But I'm Polly. I hate cooking too. Welcome back. Missed you.

carlita dee said...

Oh no! I see so much triumph (and even humor) in them. I guess it helps to read the whole interviews, and see the quilts.

I'm sorry you're feeling sad. :(

Ellen Bloom said...

Welcome back, Carlita! We've been missin' you!!!

Natalie told us the lizard story the other night at the WeHo SnB. She had us all laughing like crazy. Hopefully, little Jack will be around a lot to help you out with the crazy critters!

Can't wait to see your progress on the summer quilt! Happy Easter, Sweetie.

carlita dee said...

Thank you, Ellen! It's good to be back.

Just watching Jack ride his Big Wheel up the block makes me feel more secure.

woolanthropy said...

YAY! I am glad you are back too. Even though I talk to you all the time I missed the little corner of conversation.

Those Lady's of Gee's Bend really tickle me. So matter of fact and my god those quilts!

woolanthropy said...

PS. That cat may truly be possessed. Look at those glowing green eyes!!1

carlita dee said...

I know! LOL. I'm pretty sure she's the debbil. At least most of the time.

golden star said...

I have been here

And, now my prayers are answered.

PV reigns.

carlita dee said...

golden star! Thank you, thank you, for sharing my space, and for the lovely welcome back. :)

MmmYarn said...

I completely understand the lizard situation. For me, it was tarantulas, and I always had to call my little brother or a neighbor kid to bail me out when one of those critters got in our garage.

I saw the Gee's Bend quilts when they were in the De Young museum in San Francisco. They were fabulous; actually, I went to see them 3 times, I liked them so much. I can't wait to see what you do with those pieces as your inspiration!

AllyB said...

I missed you. The Gee's Bend quilts are fabulous aren't they? I'm off to the library to look at those books again, thanks for the reminder. Glad you're well.

ani said...

I'm with Golden Star! I've been checking back here like some kind of stalker! LOL! Glad to see you back again!

Stacy said...

So so glad you are back. You were missed!

Lisa R-R said...

Welcome back!
Lisa in Toronto

Deborah said...

well you know I can't sew but for a time i was tracing the history of quilts in early america. here is an interesting web site that talks about the history of some popular motifs and the underground railroad. I'm sure you know of this book too:

Great post!