“What’s that yellow thing behind you?” asked a book club friend on our shared zoom call. I turned to look behind me at a pair of quilts that are draped over the rocking chair in my bedroom. Made up of squares from the long-outgrown clothes of my children, these quilts are in the background of many of my zoom calls these days, but it had been a while since I looked closely at these two tapestries that represent such a huge chunk of my life and the lives of my kids. There’s a bright yellow square from an ‘I’m going to Kindergarten!’ t-shirt, the green and blue plaid overalls my four-month old son wore when he rolled a bouncy ball to my Dad in the yard for the first time, the navy flannel plaid shirt that made my eight year old son look suddenly older to me, a square of penguin fleece feety pajamas my two year old daughter used to wear while we sat on the living room floor and I dried her long hair with a hairdryer on winter nights, a piece of the cranberry a-line dress which I loved and she begrudgingly accepted for a Christmas card photo shoot, the navy blue hooded sweatshirt she wore all through third grade in Mrs. Aveni’s class. So many memories.
There’s not a person in the world, my husband included, who can recognize the origin of each of those squares, but I can. Like Mary, I treasure it all in my heart. Each square brings me back to a memory of a cuddle, a quirk, or a smile, a particular age and stage of my son or daughter that I hold dear. It’s important to note how challenging it was to choose each item of clothing that went into the quilts, the many dozens of saved items that quite literally didn’t make the cut. In the keeping and in the letting go, I was intentional about the story I was telling, the narrative that is evident in each quilt, at least to me.
These grids are in the background of many of my zoom calls these days, like a comic book telling a story only I can read. And as I sit in my rocking chair, I see yet another grid in front of my eyes, made up of the faces on my laptop screen. The patchwork from our zoom calls and other technological interactions in this time of pandemic are telling a story too. It’s a story about the people we miss so much that we have to find extraordinary ways to see their faces and hear their voices. The people who are worth the planning and the technological mishaps. The ones who make the cut. In the time we’ve been home so far during this social distancing season, I’ve been on zoom calls with my preschool music students, my family, my college friends, my book club, and more. In each square on my screen, there’s a story about how we first connected, and what we mean to each other today. And it’s not the same as being together, of course, but when I see these faces there’s something in me that exhales, something I didn’t know I was holding. It’s the relief of connection. It’s my soul’s recognition of someone essential in my life. We’re all finding ways to do this, in texts and across-the-street walks, in check-ins from the backs of our cars, in birthday parades, in Face-time and phone calls, on Marco Polo, and in letters and messages. And each time we connect with another human in this weird time, we’re telling a story about what matters. And of course, it’s the people.
Our governor recently said he believes we’re in the third or fourth quarter of the current crisis, and those words gave me a focus about how I want to live through these days, and about who I want to be on the other side. Because things won’t be the same after this, we know that and so we have some choices to make and some work to do.
You alone get to write the narrative of your life in this time out of the pieces you hold onto. Will it be a story of loss, frustration, or fear? Of nostalgia, gratitude, service or connection? Will we gather up the pieces around us to tell a story we’d want people to read years from now? That we’ll want to read? Every day, every interaction, every choice is a square in a quilt we’re making with our own intentions and habits, so let’s choose wisely and bring the beautiful stuff forward. Let’s make something good.