The Warmth of Community

A week or two ago, we were tricked into thinking that Autumn was on its way. The lows were dipping into the 50s, and we started to get chilly at night, sleeping with our windows open. We even broke out a quilt, still packed away from last winter. I know. We were fooled.

It’s now quite toasty again and last night, even with the fan, it never really cooled off upstairs. But the quilt is still on the bed, because we refuse to acknowledge that it’s late September and rather unpleasant outside.

Every morning, we pull up our covers (yes, Mom, we do), and we spend a few seconds musing about our quilt. Every evening, as we get ready for bed, we spend a few more seconds musing about it. When I happen to wander through the room at other moments during a given day, I muse.

What the heck could we be musing about?

I thought you’d never ask.

This quilt is an artifact of community. My students are writing about communities for their second papers, and they have to select an “artifact” of the community as a way of analyzing the community’s values, so I’ve been thinking in terms of artifacts a lot lately.

It’s the quilt my mom put together after our wedding. She cut out large 12×12 pieces of material before the wedding and then set up a table at the reception where guests could write us a message with fabric markers. Then she turned it into a quilt, a big one, big enough to cover our king-sized bed.

On the whole, it’s a fun idea, and we ended up with a diverse array of messages–congratulations, of course, and recollections of shared memories, Bible verses and prayers, beautiful calligraphy right next to chicken scratch and poor penmanship, and drawings of all sorts–including one of a dinosaur eating another dinosaur, complete with blood, thanks to a young cousin. It’s lovely and fun and we get a kick out of the oddness of our loved ones. (Yes, you.)

But it’s an interesting artifact for reasons other than the particular, often quirky messages we reread to each other each day. As the years go by, I imagine it will become even more dear. Already it is a witness to people who have passed out of our lives, especially family members who have gotten ill and died, but also friends we haven’t spoken to in years. With sadness, we look at it and mourn broken relationships, yet we also see it as an account of joy, a celebration of new births and recent marriages, as we notice who is missing from the quilt. It is an account of our history up until June 19, 2004, a smattering of different nicknames, different groups of friends, different churches, close family members, long-far-off family members I couldn’t pick out of a crowd.

Of particular significance is  the medium of the message, the more I think about it. These messages are on a quilt, which is not just an artifact, really. It’s a blanket, a comfort-er. It keeps us warm when we’re chilly.

So thanks, Momma.

And thanks to you, community, for the warmth you give us.