The Memory Quilt


When I bought my first home oh-so-many-years-ago, the first people I met were my neighbor Doug’s parents. They didn’t live with Doug but apparently had their own keys. We met in the parking lot of the new townhouses.

Doug’s father seemed like a genuinely nice person, but he didn’t say much. That’s because his wife rarely stopped talking, or more accurately, expressing opinions. And she had many, many opinions–enough opinions to send most possible daughters-in-law running for their lives.

When she discovered that I was single, she said, “Have I got a guy for you,” and began telling me what a wonderful person her son was. On that point, I agree with her. Doug is a very kind and thoughtful man but he always defers to his mother’s demands.

She didn’t like a picture he had hanging in his home and nagged him until he finally took it down. It wasn’t anything racy; just a nice landscape. She didn’t like his new coat or his living room furniture. (Again, all perfectly fine choices.) He didn’t return them, so she just kept complaining about them. Doug just kept saying what a wonderful mother she was.

He has never married; I’m not sure he’s ever dated. I draw no conclusions. Seriously.

Since I moved to another state, Doug and I still exchange Christmas cards and when I’m back in town, we sometimes get together for dinner.

A few years ago, I told Doug I would be in town for a few days and he invited me to his house for dinner. Since he barely cooks, he ordered pizza and left me alone while he went off to pick it up. Before he left, Doug handed me a CD.

“You have to listen to this,” he said. “My family put it together for my mother’s 80th birthday. It’s a Memory Quilt.”

I was not familiar with the term, so Doug explained.

“We had everyone in the family record a tribute to my mother: memories, funny stories, that sort of thing. Then we put all the stories together on this CD. They call it a memory quilt because it’s like a patchwork quilt of memories.”

That seemed like a nice idea, plus I was curious to hear what Doug’s family had to say about his mother.

It started out lukewarm: Doug’s sisters recalled what a good cook their mother is; someone else commented on how she kept her house so clean. Nothing very interesting, to be honest.

Then Doug’s niece began her tribute.

“Hey, Grandma! Happy Birthday! I just wanted to tell you that I love you and I hope you have a great birthday. They asked us to talk about our memories of you and I guess I’d have to say that when I think of you I think of your funny little zingers.

“I remember last year when we all met at the restaurant for Mother’s Day. I was wearing my new dress and when I walked in to give you a kiss you said, ‘Couldn’t you find something better to wear?’ Grandma, I bought that dress just for that day. I’m sorry you didn’t like it.

“Then last month at Wendy’s graduation. We all sat together in the high school auditorium. When you saw me you said, ‘Couldn’t you do something with your hair?’  Grandma, I spent a lot of time trying to make my hair look good, but my hair just never looks good. I do try, though.”

As sad as this girl’s memories were, Doug never heard the pain in her voice. He only heard a CD full of tributes to his mother.

Is it just me or did you hear something else, too? Just asking

10 thoughts on “The Memory Quilt

  1. I hear pain… Seems like what we say to people really matters.

    A “memory quilt” seems like an interesting idea though! Makes you think about what poeple would say in your memory quilt haha kinda scary


  2. I’ve been reading your comments here after your post…and I agree with your readers. It is verbal abuse…and I do indeed hear the disappointment and hut in the granddaughters voice. She only wanted approval…I do hope for her sake she gets far away from her grandmother and can start to heal from it all.


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