Monday, August 4, 2008

My Wheel of Mystery

Wheel of Mystery -- one of the names given to this quilt pattern of interlocking circles. I pieced my quilt by hand, some years ago, working at it on the days when I was helping to care for a friend whose mind was slipping into dementia. She still enjoyed quilting and we would sit companionably, talking of this and that as she quilted simple projects I had prepared for her and I hand- pieced these curving bits of blue and white. During those quiet moments, it was almost as if nothing had changed.

My friend is gone now but I think of her often. Every time I look at the quilt I realize how our lives were somehow interlocked, just like this pattern.

We met in 1960 during our freshman year of college at Emory University. She lived across the hall from me in our dorm and we were drawn together by the fact that we were both named Vicki (though hers was spelled with a y) and we both had boy friends (whom we desperately missed) at other colleges.

Her name, in all its glory, was Victoria Felicia Thorogood -- a lot of name for a little person who barely came up to my shoulder. (Mine was only Vicki Lane -- no Victoria, no middle name. I felt cheated.)

I transferred to the University of Florida the next year, to be with that boyfriend of mine. She stayed at Emory another year, then married her boyfriend (I caught the bouquet), and the two of them went to France to study. In 1963 I married my boyfriend and the Marines and graduate school and teaching took us various places. But through all of this, Vicki and Vicky stayed in touch by letters.

When in 1973 my husband and I with our year-old son set out to find a new place to live -- Canada or upper New York state were options -- I wanted to stop and visit my friend as we made our way north. She and her husband and their little boy had moved the year before to a farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

We came; we saw; we fell in love with the mountains. Before a month had gone by we had bought the farm that is the inspiration for Elizabeth's Full Circle Farm. It was Vicky who introduced me to a little old lady called Miss Birdie; it was Vicky's husband who told me the story that inspired the Little Sylvie story. Our sons went to school together, our husbands butchered pigs together, Vicky and I swapped work with gardens and canning and quilting.

We should have become old ladies together.

I look at the quilt up close -- looking for meaning. All the bits and pieces fit together into an ever-expanding, always linked pattern. It shifts as I look at it -- constantly changing but always remaining the same.

Wheel of Mystery.

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Pat in TN said...

What a beautiful quilt, but what an absolutely beautiful story of friendship. IMO not many folks experience a friendship like that, and I'm sad that you lost your friend, but happy you have such wonderful memories.

By the way, I am Patti, not Patricia/not Patty, and have had to battle my whole life with that spelling ... how about you being a Vicki, not Victoria/not Vicky?

Vicki Lane said...

Well, I'd say that, along with the matching lamp, confirms our suspicions- twins with different parents.

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Vicki, this is a beautiful post. I'm so glad I found you and your blog. As for names, I always felt cheated by not having a middle name. I liked Kathryn ok, but everybody called me Kay, which I hated. I would have preferred Kate--more romantic sounding. I'd never heard of a Kay before. Now I have the requisity 3 names, although I was told by a well-known poet years ago that they made me sound like a fat middle-aged Victorian poet. That I should drop either Stripling or Byer. But I like my names and I'm gonna keep em.
I wasn't familiar with this quilt pattern. It's haunting. I'll have to use it in a poem!

Vicki Lane said...

Thank you, Kay. ( I typed Kate and Kathryn but they didn't feel right.) I have to say, however, that the first time I heard your name -- all three of them -- I thought it was perfect for a poet. Especially Stripling which, for some reason, makes me think of graceful white birches -- not that fat middle-aged Victorian relic - (Sophronisba Biddle Butterworth).

I look forward to reading your poem -- there's wonderful poetry in quilt names. Another name for this pattern is Winding Ways.

More quilt names I love: Delectable Mountains, Missouri Puzzle, Flying Geese, Trip Around the World, Shoo Fly, Crazy Ann, Hearts and Gizzards, Devil's Claws, Jacob's Ladder, Job's Tears, Burgoyne Surrounded, Wandering Foot, World Without End, Feather Star . . . all the beauty and poetry that bubbled up out of women who'd likely already put in a day of hard work.

phyllis w. said...

I didn't realize that you two went back that far. I'm sorry you lost such a dear friend. I always thought she had the sweetest smile I'd ever seen. And I'm so glad she led you here!

Vicki Lane said...

Hey, Phyllis -- Watching Vicky disappear into dementia was one of the saddest things I've seen. But the way her family cared for her at the end was truly inspiring -- she was surrounded by love and by then all the fear and confusion was gone; she seemed to be truly at peace during the last months of her life.

Susan M. Bell said...

I have a middle name, Marie, but I always hated that my name was so plain. I knew way too many Susans growing up, and Marie seemed to be the most common middle name. Found out my mother named me for my great-grandmother, my dad's grandmother. Mom said she was the sweetest person and was real nice to her. Until I got married, I had her first, middle and last name. (Didn't mind trading Meemken for Bell.) I'm glad I have her name. Still a bit simple, but what the heck.

Tammy said...

Thanks for sharing this story of friendship. The quilt is a lovely reminder of what you shared with your friend. Watching dementia take over a loved ones is a very, very difficult thing. On a lighter note, Hearts and Gizzards? What a hoot, to name a quilt that. I would love to see a picture of a quilt with that pattern. I wouldn't tell anyone my middle name as a child. (It's Dad's idea) I thought it was so weird. I couldn't even pronounce it when I was really little--I thought they had named me after floor covering (Linoleum....). :-) I can handle it now though. ha

Vicki Lane said...

Hey Tammy Winona, (girl, you shoulda been a country music star)- here's a link to see a Hearts and Gizzards (you have to scroll down a bit.)