It’s been over a year now since the Obenchain fire ripped through my son’s property in Eagle Point, Oregon. A year since the fire took down his shop, the chicken coop, the water pump, the power lines. A year since a couple of very kind strangers arrived with two livestock trailers, herded the goats into one, the llamas into the other, then wrangled thirteen chickens, clucking and squawking, into Deanna’s defunct Subaru and out of harm’s way. A year since Farmer Greg in Sam’s Valley welcomed their goats and llamas to graze on his land as long as they wished. A year since their friends posted a GoFundMe to which so many generous people –including a friend from the World Bank, the father of sons, who I hadn’t seen in over twenty years–contributed.
Now, a year later, the water pump and pipes have been replaced, power restored, and with thanks to help from his older brother Christian and a few of his friends, Adam has a brand-new shop.
Two weeks ago, Adam called. “Mom, I just got back from the Post Office. There was a package for us from your friend at the World Bank, Jacomina. She heard about the fire and the destruction of our property on your Facebook page. And the one thing she could think to do was make a quilt for us. Just as you made a quilt for her daughter Elena, who was born six weeks after I was. Do you remember that?”
Of course I remembered the little yellow baby quilt I stitched together for Elena almost forty years earlier, back when Jacomina and I were both new, first-time mothers of new-borns, home on maternity leave from the World Bank. I’d always loved quilts and tried making them myself – big ones that would cover a double bed – but with little success. While I was pregnant with Adam, though, I made a baby quilt for the first time. Bright, cheerful and much more manageable—it made me so happy to make one for my new baby, and Jacomina’s new baby too. A quilt that would fit perfectly into the baskets Jacomina had brought home from Haiti – one for Elena and one for Adam. I remember, too, how surprised Jacomina was by my quilt, when she said she couldn’t remember having seen one before.
“So, Mom,” Adam continued, “Jacomina explained in her note that in 2001, whent her husband died,her friends asked her to join their quilting group, and that this quilt she sent us is the same one she started back then. It took twenty years to make and she sent it to us. Can you believe it?”
I could. Although as working mothers, Jacomina and I didn’t have a lot of time to see each other as our kids grew up,, the friendship between first-time mothers of new-borns is a powerful thing. Jacomina would have been the first to understand what it meant to be the mother of a child — even a grownup child — in danger.
“ She says she named the quilt “Hope and Light” because that’s what quilting became for her. It gave her positive energy in dark times. When I wrote back to thank her, I said that didn’t remember having a security blanket when I was little, but I was very glad to have one now.”
I couldn’t have asked for a more generous gift for my kids. A quilt to keep them warm, and give them hope and light in dark times.”