I’m down south for a few days to do some quilt research.
The gift of learning about the history of quilts in America is that I get to learn about America’s history in an indelible, singular way. In high school, I didn’t care much about history. This was partly because I was sixteen but mostly because I had no entry point. There was no angle. There was just a textbook, fat with facts regarding the whole of American history starting at Roanoke. How are you supposed to approach something like that? You just try to pass the test. Then you forget — and forgetting is a kind of robbery. It happens to a lot of us.
But when you’re a quilter who wants to know where she came from, you are lucky. Because you have this glorious lens through which to view history. Quilts become a portal. As I’ve been looking into the tale of Tennessee, for example, I’m looking at it vis a vis the quilts that have been made here, the people who have made them, the eras in which they were produced. Therefore, all Tennessee’s political changes, the wars, the prominent citizens who lived here, the state’s various regions, the economy, the generations — heck, even the weather — it all come into focus in full color, so vivid I can hardly believe my brain is able to fire like this.
But the reason is simple: I have context. I have a connection. As a quilter, I’m part of the story — so I care more about the story. That’s human nature — and honey, I’m as human as she gets. That’s why history comes alive for me now: I’m not outside of it, now. The longer I go along in this life, the more interested I am in anything that happened before I was born. Lucky for me, there’s a lot of material. And I get to fly in on my magic carpet quilt.