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 Category:  General Non-Fiction
  Posted: June 22, 2019      Views: 102

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 ABOUT
RACHELLE ALLEN 

My life is filled with the two most delightful commodities on the planet: music and children. I have seventy-three students, ages five to seventy-five, whose houses I visit each week for voice, flute, and/or piano lessons. And before this wonderful c - more...

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Bonds of friendship form through a quilting project
"Coming Together at the Seams" by Rachelle Allen



As our forty-year high school reunion hovered six months in the distance, eight of us --only three of whom had been friends in school and none of us had socialized much since Graduation--- discovered what women have been passing down for generations: that sewing binds more than just fabric.

It had been fifteen years since anyone had stepped forward for the task of organizing a class reunion. But thanks to the power of social media, a brave few answered the call, and the rest cheered in relief and volunteered to help as needed.

We were poor, our class, and by "poor" I mean "completely broke." Job One was to devise ways to fatten up our coffers.

Among our class of 200 ---now dwindled by deaths to 180--- was a professional and well-regarded watercolor artist, a museum curator/published author of historical tomes, a calligrapher, a jewelry designer, a Virginia campground owner, and a self-published romance novelist, all of whom donated items in their areas of talent and expertise for a silent auction.

But then someone suggested we make a class quilt to raffle off, as well, and life was never the same.

We gathered at a place called "The Upstairs Inn," a sprawling yet cozy home away from home about ninety minutes east of our alma mater. It was housed above a quilt shop owned by a classmate and hosted three abundant bedrooms (and twelve beds), two full bathrooms, a huge living room/dining room, and an abundantly stocked kitchen. As if all this weren't enough, every room was adorned with elaborate quilts of various sizes.

Completing the perfection was a cavernous, sun-drenched room with long windows, more than a dozen banquet-sized metal tables, and limitless electrical outlets. And finally, rounding out the tableau were two big felt display boards and several ironing boards with an array of high-quality irons.

It was a quilter's dream-come-true work area. We all swooned as soon as we crossed its threshold.

While the majority of us lived within two hours of this heavenly weekend retreat, two from the group trekked in from neighboring states. In the area of sewing prowess, two classmates had never quilted before, and another was an experienced crafter and garment-maker but an avante garde quilter. She'd made dozens of quilts but never used a pattern and knew nothing about the mandatory nature of creating "perfect points." (When corners match perfectly, they create "perfect points." Experienced quilters accept nothing less in their finished products.) One classmate was an intermediate quilter, three were experienced quilters, and the store owner was an expert.

We set up our machines, and the magic began. Once given directions on what squares to pattern together --there were 144 in all, cut from eight different bolts a month earlier by two of the participants-- the conversation slipped away from the fabrics at hand to the fabric of our lives.

We talked about who we had married (and why), the many places we'd lived, when we'd had children, how they'd turned out, who they'd married (and why), where they were working, and how much we adored our grandchildren. Woven into our personal biographies were the threads of our collective high school memories, fastened together by the surprises and delights that unfolded as we learned the realities that lay beneath our misguided teenage perceptions of everyone else's lives. We laughed and joked as if the forty years had not elapsed and as if we'd always been this close.

By dinner time, there was a collective gasp as we realized that the top of the quilt was finished, yet no one could recall even brief moments of how that had come to pass.

We changed clothes and walked to a lively bar/restaurant by the water, and as the wine flowed while we waited for a table, we shared the darker times that had created the women we'd become --an excruciatingly new widowhood, some failed marriages, a few health scares, and countless family crises. By the time we returned to The Upstairs Inn, we were no longer eight individuals but rather one solid unit.

We pinned the batting and binding that night and finished it off the next morning after a languorous, laugh-infused breakfast. Then we created tri-fold display boards that would be showcased at the Reunion --one for those in our class who'd served in the Armed Forces, another that highlighted who lived in which states, and a third with the Senior pictures of the twenty classmates we'd lost. The next several hours were spent shopping in the quilt store downstairs.

A second dinner on the town brought forth a toast for what we'd produced that weekend with not only our sewing machines but, far more importantly, what we'd created with our hearts: a thread that would bind us together in friendship at a time in our lives when we better understood its value and could commit to not allowing it to unravel.

Our quilt raffle brought in over $500 for the class, and the lucky ticket-holder --no one from the sewing circle-- reiterated for days after the Reunion how thrilled and appreciative she was of her new "treasure."

We've gotten together many times now since the Reunion --for lunches and dinners, for
our grandchildren's swim meets, our children's household-products parties, for town concerts, student piano recitals, and, sadly, even for the wake of yet another classmate. And every time, it feels like a rekindling of that quilting weekend. We discovered that, with fabric and effort and a patchwork of shared memories from our youth, we could stitch our life stories together and create a vivid tapestry that would warm us for all the years to come.


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