Kitchens and backyards of relatives fill the corners of my summer memories. More than a dozen cousins played in the houses, banging doors and peeking through drawers. Aunts chatted and uncles prattled on while grandmas fiddled around with the food and grandpas smoked the pipe or sat in their stuffy chairs and watched the buzz with a proud grin. Sunsets of the hot days brought out jars for catching fireflies and sleeping bags thrown anywhere for the best slumber parties ever.
Then the cousins grew out of those overnight days and the aunts still yearned for family times. They let the young ones go to the boyfriends and ball games and all things ‘better’ than what was. They put their hands to work, busy stitching thread into fabric as they spoke of the fabrics of their lives all stitched together through time.
Those same hands I see at the ends of my arms. I see the creases of my Aunt Joyce and I remember brownies, chili and the voice of a patient teacher. I note the curve of the nails of my Aunt Kristy and I remember the rebellious hair stylist giving me my first perm. My Aunt Linda, the mother of my childhood best friend, was the wife of the sisters’ brother. Though her hands are not a part of me by blood I watch my hands care for children and I remember the summer she dug a bloody piece of glass out of my knee after a bicycle spill. Then I turn my hands over and around and see the smooth skin is never still and I remember my mom. She taught me to keep my hands moving, working on projects or puzzles. The dent on the ring finger of my left hand is nearly identical to the one she has. That dent that speaks of the heritage of marriage, a value worth more than gold passed on to me.
These woman watched their babies grow and a magic idea came about during one of those chatty spells. A cover would be fashioned for each cousin to be thrown over them as them stepped away. That cover would spread over the stretching out limbs of their little ones as they made new lives. Theses woman foresaw families being created under the care of these covers. With each meticulous stitch their hearts were sown into the life fabric of the cousins.
My day came. All excited and bold thinking I knew everything I pledged to marry my love. The cover was chosen and wrapped up for us. Wrapped with the pain that only the mothers of children who have outgrown the reach of their arms but not the reach of their hearts could know. Wrapped in the joy of a job well done mixed with the sorrow of a season ending. Wrapped up and released into the anticipated unknown of a starry-eyed bride and her beau.
I hugged that cover knowing little what it meant. Now it has laid over my love and me for almost a decade and a half. The fabric of the cover displays the frays of a life fully lived. The tears tell of tears both happy and sad. The broken threads tell of relationships come and gone. The colors fading tell of youth left lingering yet soon to give way to the soft pale years to come.
Their cover making season drew to a close and now the care of the cousins rests in the hands of my sisters and me. With what shall we cover this branch of the tree sprouting out in about a dozen directions? What shall our hands fashion to throw over our children as they begin to step away? I wonder if my aunts would suggest the quilts. I wonder if the other cousins love their covers as much as we love ours. Like the much desired final chapter of a book you don’t really want to ever stop reading we are turning the page. I wonder what happens next.