My grandma was a quilter. Each stitch by hand. Thousands of tiny stitches, each piece of thread weaving a story into the blanket. Passed down from parent to child. Gifts at graduations, weddings. Newborn babies wrapped in the warm embrace of the colorful patches. If you have multiple colors in a quilt, one of the colors must be yellow—Grandma taught me, passing on her secrets, her wisdom. Her quilts are warm with memories. They smell like homemade oatmeal cookies. They sound like Grandpa singing “Gobble Gobble Turkey.” Taste like the first snow of winter. Feel like Home.
I think Home is more of a feeling than a place. However, for me that feeling is most prevalent within the walls of my childhood home, or rather, the gates of the cemetery in which I grew up. I feel it in the magnolia tree in the front yard with low thick branches perfect for climbing. The one that puffs out with giant pink blooms in spring. And the catalpa tree out back with massive green green leaves perfect for making Peter Pan and Robin Hood hats. The hidden pumpkin patch back behind the tall grass. The enormous sledding hills with divots at the bottom that can break plastic yellow sleds. Hiking trails where we would dress in camouflage and go on secret missions. Lakes that freeze enough every few winters so I can ice skate. Hours gliding along the black glassy ice in Bo’s old hockey skates. Hopping over the ridges and avoiding the uneven parts. Gazing at the little bubbles under the ice. The bell tower that doesn’t work anymore because the rope is broken. The clubhouse that Maddie and I slept out in. The garage that slants to one side. The chapel for the annual community Christmas plays. Where I once got locked back in the cold part where they used to store the bodies during winter and I had to bang on the door in the middle of the performance so someone could let me out. The Jesus statue with the little stone sheep that I used to sit and ride on. Across from the mausoleum. Where I can sit and say Hi to Kevin. His name staring back at me from the marble. My house. The magic that took place within. The thousands of twinkling Christmas lights. The attic full of old drawings from elementary school and toys that will someday belong to my children. The massive trunk filled to the brim with Mom’s photo albums. My first ballet slippers hanging on the wall of my old bedroom and Bo’s first hockey skates hanging on his. Dad’s drawer of birthday cards I’ve made him over the years and letters Bo has written. Grandma’s quilts adorning every bed.
I wonder what it would feel like to have it all stripped away. To be forced to leave my home. Or watch it burn. To have to leave the familiar paths of my cemetery knowing I could never return. I try to imagine the pain in my mother’s eyes as she has to decide which one of her thousands of precious pictures she can take with her. And she would put on a brave smile, but I would hear her heart break as she walked away from the memory keepers she held so dear. I would see her trying to remember each funny look she had captured of us as toddlers, the way my dad looked with a mustache, her grandmother’s smile. I try to imagine the laughter leaving my father’s eyes as he has to abandon Home. Security. Safety. I try to imagine being wrapped in a crinkly silver and gold emergency blanket. Far from anything Home or familiar. How the gold would smell of fear and the silver of uncertainty. How the metallic taste would flood my mouth. How the crinkling sound would drown out Grandpa singing “Gobble Gobble Turkey.” How I would miss Grandma’s homemade quilts. The red one or the purple one or the multicolored one. The way they fit around me perfectly. The way they made me feel safe even when the world felt big and scary. The way they felt like Home.
The truth is I can’t imagine it. I don’t think any of us truly can—save those who have experienced or are experiencing that horror. I wonder what my eyes would say if I lost my home. If I had to leave into the unknown. I wonder if anyone would give me a second glance. Or would they look on past? Too wrapped up in their own lives to see me.