Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose. ~Kevin Arnold
You know it’s funny how time flies. It might sound cliché, but it’s so very true. I can’t believe Kyle will be twelve years old in seven days, July 30, 2001! I was there when he was born and I pushed his dad out of the way to let me hold my perfect little nephew. True story. I really wanted to hold the baby and Ryan said, “I want to hold him.” Followed by me working the bundle into my arms and Ryan giving me his ornery grin. I think it was more of joy and happiness than irritation, but Ryan gave in to let me hang with my future buddy.
Over the years, even long before the birth or our little man “stuff” seems to get collected. Sometimes you’re not sure why you have all this “stuff” and sometimes you know very well why it’s kept, for simple sentimental reasons. Regardless, that “stuff” does carry a bit of history with it and me being a history buff, I love to preserve history.
Ryan passed away on October 23, 2001. Naturally, his “stuff” was kind of pushed into closets and stacked in corners. No one really wanted to deal with it at the moment, or even months later. Some of the piles included Ryan’s cloths, mostly his T-shirts and flannels, the staple of his wardrobe.
The majority of his attire was purchased by yours truly as gifts for Ryan. Every time he changed the oil in my car, rotated the tires, cut the rotors, changed the windshield wipers, (the list goes on and on), I would repay him with cloths, since Ryan never accepted money from me. Never! It was a win win because Ryan didn’t really purchase himself cloths,. So I took it upon myself to dress him in exchange for all is work. He would graciously accept the articles of clothing, especially the jeans.
You see Ryan was a tall lean beanpole, a strong one at that, still thin. His jeans, which had to be Levi’s, needed to measure 29 x 34. Do you know how hard it was to find those? So every time I was in the store, I would raid the men’s jeans department in search for Ryan’s jeans. This saved him the trouble of trying to find them himself, a real scavenger hunt!
Yes, so all my shopping for Ryan, eventually made their way to untouched sad piles of fabric with an unknown future. No matter how simple it may sound, those pieces of clothing showed their history and was a part of Ryan, every stain, every tear, every wrinkle, every shirt logo. I mean, the shirts literally showed Ryan’s likes and interests, almost like they were a living ghost of Ryan laid before our eyes. Some of the T-shirts were so worn out you could tell they were his favorites. Now what? What do I do those these simple treasures?
Over the months of healing after Ryan’s passing, I held onto these small memories, which I had no idea what to do with. I mean, I wasn’t going to wear them, but on the other hand it would have broken my heart to give them away or worse, trash them. What to do? What to do? Then, my friend Christina, yes the same one I would run around like a bee and press cloths with our bums, (Gotta Dance!) came to me and presented the best idea I have EVER heard! She said, “I know what you can do with your brothers cloths! Turn them into a quilt!” Brilliant!! Sincerely, the presented solution was like gold to my ears and for a brief moment, I remembered how to be happy. Joy filled me and I couldn’t wait to share this revelation with my family. I knew they were going to love the idea as much as I did. And you know what? They DID!
At the time, I don’t think Christina knew what that idea meant to me and my family. Being in a state of loss, confusion and grief, any small ray of light was most welcome and needed! Now, where to begin? You see I never made a quilt before. In fact, at the time I didn’t even have a sewing machine.
Problem solved. That Christmas my family bought me a sewing machine. Like I said, they were excited about the future quilt. Now I have the equipment, what do I do with it?
Over the years, I’ve sewn Halloween costumes, hemmed pants, and such, but never a blanket and certainly not a quilt. Well, me being me, I decided to take on the challenge and make it my spring project. It was now a mission to complete it and give it to Kyle for his first birthday.
It took me months to cut everything out. On a side note, to actually begin cutting into these priceless T-shirts almost made me sick, but it needed to be done to get to the final goal. Yet, it was hard. Once I decide how I wanted the T-shirts laid out and how I wanted to incorporate the flannel shirts, then I painstakingly sowed each piece to the next to create smaller shapes. Then, those smaller shapes turned into larger shapes until it started resembling a quilt.
All along the way I will admit, it became very therapeutic. Sitting there by myself sewing for hours, holding onto pieces of Ryan actually made me feel better. I’m not sure if it’s because I had such an intimate relationship with some of those shirts beforehand, or I was able to put my self in a different mindset, but the hard work gave me hope that things will be fine. Never better, just different and manageable, and more importantly Ryan would never be forgotten. Similar to writing in my blog. Still neither are like holding Ryan’s son, the closest most dearest part of Ryan we still have.
Unbeknownst to me at the time, this perceived small project turned into a king size quilt! Yes I didn’t have the heart to omit certain T-shirts, they were all so dear to Ryan. To be honest, the final quit was actually larger than a king size. On another note, I didn’t know that until I was pretty much done. I kind of kept going and going, deep in thought until I reached the final edges of the quilt.
Throughout the process, many of my friends helped me with the assembly of the quilt and supplied their opinions and advice, especially my friend Holly (Holsters). Ironically, she now sews quilts, specializing in T-shirt quilts, as a side job. Her quilts are far more superior than my creation. Maybe I should have let her help more with my project. She really has a talent with quilting, check her creations out on Facebook Quilts by Reese. Her quilts are even sold internationally!
The quilt was by all means not perfect, not in the slightest, but that blanket was made with all my LOVE! It was made to give a piece of my brother to his son for his first birthday. It was made to preserve Ryan in a visual piece for the entire family to appreciate.
During the duration of the assembly, my place looked like a sweat shop. Literally! Sitting on a stool in front of my sewing machine for hours upon hours, trying to get all the puzzle pieces together to resemble a bed covering, while maintaining the integrity of the fabric, was not an easy task. I had stacks upon stacks of cut fabric and piles of miscellaneous remnants. What drove me? Kyle’s birthday deadline.
To give me an extra challenge, the end of May that year, I went on a cruise with a bunch of friends and than two weeks before Kyle’s birthday, I was in Korea. Yes, I was competing in the World Haidong Gumdo Championships (samurai sword). As part of my very memorable trip, I also trained and toured sections of the peninsula. Great experience, even though I was completely off the grid and missing my little man so much!
Unfortunately, because of the timing of my Korean trip, I couldn’t give the long anticipated gift to Kyle on his actual birthday. Believe it or not, that broke my heart, even though I know he would never know or care. If I’m recalling correctly, I think I got home the day after his official birthday, but as soon as I got off of the plane and mom picked me up, we took a detour to head straight to see Kyle before heading home. Even before I stopped to get some American food back in my system, we made a beeline to see my little man, who was already a year old. Officially I gave him the quilt that weekend.
Kyle’s very first birthday gift from me was a homemade king sized quit, made from my very own fingers from his dad’s wardrobe. I guess in a way, the blanket was from his dad too!
I’m really blessed to have gone through this exercise of making a quilt. I’ve never made one since and I never plan on it. After all, I have Quilts by Reese to do that! But I certainly do cherish the work I put into it and appreciate the opportunity to clear my mind. Plus, I hope one day, Kyle will realize just how much he meant to me from day one, for me go through all that trouble and effort to make him a quilt straight from his dad, for his very first birthday. In a way, that blanket started the tradition of giving Kyle unconventional gifts!