I cut out fabric to make pajamas for the kids this morning: flannels so soft I wished I’d bought a few yards for myself and two cotton prints Filibuster had conned me into buying. One was bright red with the word Republican printed upon it in a variety of fonts. Occasionally, a red and blue elephant bearing three white stars upon its rounded back walked across. And there were several white circles with a red R stamped in the centers. This fabric was to be the right leg.
The other fabric, of course, was its opposite; the word Democrat written all over it; a donkey, also with three stars, a blue D stamped upon white circles. The left leg.
By the time I’d finished, the dining room floor was littered with balled-up tissue and thin strips of fabric. I folded the big scraps and put them in a bag in the garage, intending to give them to a local thrift shop next time I was out that way.
I am not a saver.
But my grandmother, now, she was a saver. She saved rubber bands. She kept those green twist ties. She rinsed out ZipLoc bags and set them upside down upon the counter to dry. She had lengths of old string in a kitchen drawer. My grandmother even saved fabric scraps and old clothing, stitching up the discarded remnants of our lives into patchwork quilts for her grandchildren.
I loved my quilt. I loved studying each piece of fabric and trying to remember the outfit that it had come from: The white fabric with the blue lines…the checked fabric, red and yellow… the pink half moon that that grew thinner and thinner each year so that eventually I could put my finger through it and feel the cotton batting within. Grandma had stitched my name and the year along the edge of the quilt, white thread upon a white border, and I always felt a tinge of surprise whenever I rediscovered it hidden there.
* * *
After lunch, I had to head to the grocery store to pick up junk food for Filibuster. She and her classmates are throwing a surprise birthday party for one of their teachers just to—let’s face it—kill a bit of class time. She also needed a case of water bottles and three bags of snack food for another school function.
At the register, I snapped open my change purse and began counting out quarters.
“Nineteen seventy-eight,” the kid at the register said.
I handed him my change. “I think this is five dollars.”
He began counting it slowly.
I pulled crumpled bills from my wallet. One five and six ones.
“Yep. Five dollars.”
I handed him the bills.
A woman with one item in her hand got in line behind me. She looked at me. Frowned.
I returned to my wallet. “Sorry. Trying to swear off my debit card.” I counted out the remaining quarters then began on the dimes and the nickels.
The woman began tapping her foot.
I was down to pennies. I counted faster, from time to time accidentally dropping pennies back into my change purse and losing count. “Seventy-six, seventy-seven, seventy-eight. There!” I smiled, relieved. “One penny left over!”
The cashier counted slowly.
The woman glared.
“Are you sure this is right?” The cahier looked at me.
“Yes, I think so.”
The woman left for another line.
The cashier counted again. He sorted the change into great piles upon the conveyor belt—here quarters, there nickels, there dimes and over there an impossibly large stack of pennies. Another person entered the line and then, seeing the piles of change—left, no doubt feeling sorry for the poor slouch who couldn’t scrape up enough change for her nachos and cookies and bottled water; no doubt wondering why I didn’t spend my money on healthier food.
The cashier picked up a few pennies. “If you take this part out, you’re at nineteen dollars even.”
Darn. I opened my wallet, scrounged around for another crumpled bill, found nothing but old debit card receipts. “Can I put seventy-eight cents on my debit card?”
“Lady, I’ve seen people put ten cents on their debit cards. Go for it.”
I swiped my card, depressed by this setback. All week, I’d gotten by on cash. As I loaded up the trunk, it occurred to me: I’d become one of those women who pays with change at the grocery store; one of those women people try to avoid in line; one of those women who walks around with her reading glasses on top of her head and then turns her purse inside out looking for them.
I save quart baskets. I save rubber bands from my library reserves and return them with my books. What will I be saving next, I thought, slamming my trunk and getting into the car, glass mayonnaise jars? Pretty soon I’ll find myself saving my fabric scraps to make a quilt.
And you know?
I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing.
I sat up straighter in the driver’s seat; put on my directional and headed home.
Labels: grandmothers, Growing up, quilts