I am keeping track and can now count on one hand the number of days until my next surgery. I am like a kid waiting for Christmas…well, almost like that. This will be reconstructive surgery number two and it’s where things come together, so to speak. I am very excited to be on the other side of it; excited to meet the next rendition of my body, the one that will be mine to inhabit as the new normal going forward. Having been through two body altering surgeries already this year, I know that re-entry can be a bit rocky. Those surgeries have been spaced apart by months, each marked by a period of convalescence and limitation, bumped up against my increasing efforts to recover a functional physical comfort level. My desperation agitates me. I want to be the Lisa who slings a bag of feed over her shoulder, runs with the dogs and, like this weekend, wrestles with the grandkids in wild abandon. Those are my measures of recovery and, damn it, it takes time.
I was terrified of having cancer, in the beginning. I was almost as terrified of being in surgically imposed “downtime”. Think what you will about that. I am not so terrified of cancer anymore, not on a daily basis, anyway, and I have made peace with the down time part. It’s called quilting.
My neighbor, Mary Anne nudged me into quilting, hinting at its therapeutic effects with the hope that I would capitalize on that promise as a path of recovery after my mastectomy. She nudged. I took the bait like a hungry shark. My first quilt was from a kit, thoughtfully chosen for its title, “After the Storm” and because it was not beginner easy. At this point, why would I do easy? I drank from the fire hose on that one, assimilating as best I could vast oceans of YouTube videos and random blog posts, seeking the secret tips relevant to the project at hand. I can laugh about that now. Besides, I think it turned out pretty well. Molly thinks so, too.
And you know what? Mary Anne was right: making that quilt was therapeutic. It drew my focus to the space between my hands. It calmed me and, as it progressed, mesmerized me at the beauty of taking small pieces of fabric and stitching them together into a new whole. A finished quilt represents hours and hours of work; work that is steady and rhythmic and demanding of precision. I lost myself in the craft of it during a time when losing myself was a welcome reprieve.
Finishing that first quilt carried me through the hardest part of the healing process. I was not going into my second surgery without another project under needle! In fact, maybe two projects would be better! That thinking is what gave rise to the Simon and Clara quilts. The twins are too young now to appreciate this, but I figure the quilts will be around for a long time. Some day, when they think of visits to their Grandpa Gordy and Grandma Lisa’s farm in Florida, they will conjure up images of their room here. With the quilts.
Clara and Simon have a new brother, Henry Gordon, who was born just over two weeks ago. Conveniently, babies bake for nine months or so, which gave me the time I needed to make a blanket for him the old-fashioned way: I knitted it. I worked through the summer, knitting on car rides and in waiting rooms, creating little scenes from life here on the farm and when I was done I put it together like a quilt, so now I think of it as that — a quilt, not a blanket.
I have two new projects in motion. One is a foundation-pieced hunk of gorgeousness, my first effort at an “artistic” quilt. Foundation piecing uses paper templates as guides for sewing pieces of fabric together, enabling creation of designs that are “outside” the box of standard quilting. It is intensive work and, after a good while at it, I found I needed to return to the quiet rhythm of square-pieced quilting for a bit. This unfinished specter hangs behind me though and I know soon, I will need to return to it.
My second project is a massive sized quilt for the guest room. I found a vintage pattern from the late 1800’s that had been reworked to take into account contemporary quilting tools and techniques.
Did I mention it is massive? I was still right-arm encumbered when I began this one, so Gordy did a great deal of the fabric cutting for it and helped me with the math to adapt the pattern to the color combination I wanted. There are more than a thousand separate fabric pieces in this baby. I figure that should be just about right to get me through this next surgery. Pieces are swimming everywhere! I corral them in baggies and line them up in some fashion, but I haven’t quite found the rhythm yet for pre-assembly, so usually chaos reigns.
Maybe I will have help. I have a steady stream of loving and kind family members taking weekly “shifts” at being my companion during recovery. Perhaps I can nudge them, like Mary Anne nudged me. Perhaps, we can become partners in stitching pieces of fabric together to bring new beauty into the world. Or perhaps it will take their full-on energies to support the stitching of me back together. But, no worries! Just in case either or both of those agendas is not enough to occupy us, I’ve been collecting more fabric. Quilting anyone?