Moving house is always hard work, but doing it during the first year after losing a loved one is heartbreaking, something my husband always counseled grieving widows never to do. Most painful of all, though, has been packing up my possessions with renovations happening all around, filling every inch of the house with dust, din and fumes.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not complaining. I had a choice, and consenting to this necessary work was a way for me to show my gratitude to St Mark’s for the extra time I’ve been allowed to stay on in a house where I’ve felt hugged and secure, and still so close to Boak.
With every spare moment I slowly sift through four decades of married life, eleven years in this beautiful stone house, and generations of family history, childhood memorabilia and photos. I have wonderful friends who have offered to help but I’m doing this part on my own because, well, I’m basically the only one who can decide what to keep and what to donate, toss or sell on eBay. Only when I’ve culled can I wrap and pack the rest in the waiting boxes.
I won’t pretend. Some days I host my own pity party for one and wonder how I’m ever going to keep trudging up this mountain. Other days I look at the removal boxes I’ve filled and feel encouraged at what I’ve managed to achieve with those small, staggering steps.
Occasionally I come across a treasure, not a real treasure but something special to me, like a quilt, and I want to turn to someone and say “Look at this!” Chester always tries to look interested, the dear boy, but sometimes I get the feeling he’s thinking “Not another quilt!”
So I thought I’d share a few of these with you, my readers, beginning today with my 2003 Year Quilt.
A year quilt, in case the concept is new to you, is basically a record, in fabrics, of any particular year in your life. You add a piece a day, or a week, to your chosen design, and over the course of the year it grows, often in a gloriously random and colourful manner, into a lasting collage of the good, bad, and sometimes downright ugly things that have happened.
At the beginning of 2003 I joined an online group, a spin-off of Southern Cross Quilters, co-ordinated by Blue Mountains quilter Ruth Buchanan, and decided that my quilt would be a bookshelf to which I would applique a book a day.
At the end of each month I simply added an upright divider to my bookshelf, then started again on the other side of the divider with the first day of the following month.
My books were placed in stacks, upright, sloped, or leaning against others in higgledy piggledy fashion, and just for fun I added pieces of china and even a cat sitting on the shelf. Each book only needed a tiny scrap of fabric and Ruth organised swaps of 6 inch squares among the quilters so It wasn’t too difficult to have the right fabric on hand for each day.
Here are just a few of the events, and the “books” I added to my shelf. Some were of national importance, like our first troop ships leaving to fight in Iraq.
Others were cause for celebration within our own family, such as Boak being awarded the Order of Australia in June. We celebrated with lunch at our local sailing club, thus the sailing boat.
The Governor of NSW, Professor Marie Bashir, has been a wonderful support to us, both at St Andrew’s Cathedral when Boak was the Dean of Sydney, and here at St Mark’s. Choosing a fabric to go with this the evening she and her husband, Sir Nicholas Shehadie came to dinner was easy. He’s a former international rugby player for Australia. Thus the football.
This elephant was perfect for the dinner my animal geneticist daughter Sarah attended where she was introduced to Sir David Attenborough.
My sister-in-law Sheridan married the love of her life in a hot air balloon over Alice Springs, and we were there in the basket for the ceremony. Lucky I had some balloon fabric!
I was particularly pleased with myself the day I had my ‘flu vaccination and found this scrap in my stash. Ouch!
Even on a very ordinary day I took the view that nothing was too mundane to be included – even the weather
Using the quilt-as-you-go method meant that once I had added by final book on 31st December 2003 I was almost finished, and not long after Boak hung it in our entrance hall where it’s been ever since. I took it down a few weeks ago, gave it a good wash and now it’s safely packed away in its box, along with many more memories.
Memories are so precious, aren’t they.