I was reading some old journal entries today and came upon these notes I jotted down nearly twenty years ago. Several of us had decided to form a small quilting group and met on a regular basis at each other's homes. Here's the conversation from one such meeting as near as I could record it. There's actually more, but due to space, decided to omit about half the evening.
She had been talking and telling stories. She was a natural story-teller. The others could not keep from laughing as she spun the words, rolled her eyes, waved her hands.
"They sent his ashes home to me." She was talking about her deceased brother-in-law.
"Did they send them UPS?"
"No, Federal Express."
"Did they insure them?"
"No, but I had to sign for them. And they wanted me to sprinkle them around the tree in the yard where they used to live." She made a circle with her hand around an imaginary tree.
They were laughing and couldn't stop.
"But I didn't want to go down and ask the people who live there now. They'd think I was crazy."
"And I didn't want to go down in the middle of the night and sprinkle them like that."
Remarks and laughter.
"I told my sister I didn't think it was even legal. And I could just hear Jess if he was alive gettin' after me. He'd do that, you know, and just go on and on about it. And I wouldn't be able to sleep for days when he did that."
"So I told my sister, I said, why don't I just take them out to Blue Lake. It's nice out there. He'd like it out there. But she said, no, she didn't want him out at Blue Lake. So I said, well, what about the Loess Hills. It's really nice out there with all those trees and things. But my sister didn't want that, either."
The others were rolling with laughter. Everytime she said something new, they laughed. She couldn't even finish a sentence before they were laughing afresh.
"So, finally, my brother came and we took the ashes out to the Missouri River. And that's what we ended up doing. He's probably spread over several states by now."
They laughed and someone asked, "Tell us about the Aztec casket."
"Well, I was down there (in Mexico for the winter) with my sister when her husband died. He was six foot six. He was a retired federal judge. And she and I were putting him into this casket."
"He died in Mexico?"
"Yes, and they wouldn't let her bring him back. We were putting him in this casket and it was too small for him. Everytime we would get his head in place so the lid would go on, his feet would stick up. And everytime we would get his feet down in place, well, then his head would go up. And we were having a terrible time. And he was beginning to get stiff."
She stretched out the story.
"And finally I crossed his legs like this." She stuck her legs out in front of the chair and crossed them at the ankles and flexed her knees slightly.
"And my sister was already upset at me. We'd been going round and round already. And I had made her put on his socks. But I said, 'Well, what else can we do?' And so we finally got him in there in just such a way that we could close the lid.
"And we were standing there with the lid shut and my sister said, 'Well I just don't like it. Not with his legs like that. It's just not right.' And I said, 'Well, he's not going to a dance you know.' And we both just busted out laughing."
Someone else spoke. "I didn't know we were going to spend the evening talking about death."
They were all laughing. Except the one at the end of the table. She was trying. But you could tell she didn't think this was as funny as the rest of them thought.
"She doesn't like to deal with death."
"Well, we all have to, you know. And its healthier to laugh about it."
"Yeah, you know, sometimes that's where you hear the funniest stories about people is at the meal after a funeral."
"Well, that's how people deal with it."
The talk shifted to the reason for the meeting ... quilts.
"How did you make that star quilt. The one with the black? Do you have a pattern? I'd sure love to have it."
"Well, you just use a diamond shape. For all the pieces, even the black."
"No, that wasn't the same pattern. It wasn't separate stars like this photo. You couldn't tell where one star left and another started. They weren't side by side. They kinda overlapped."
"Well, you could do that with this pattern. You just make one star like this out of the fabrics you want and then the other star lies right here and you use a fabric that would go with the first one so that depending on how you looked at it, you see stars."
"Do you all want tea or would some of you like water?"
She brought in tea and then she brought in plates with angelfood cake and strawberries. There was a fork on each plate and one of them wondered how she'd be able to slurp up the strawberry juice with her fork. She looked again at her plate and decided that perhaps the cake would help soak up the red juice. She liked the juice and didn't want to leave it on the plate.
"These plates are so pretty! They're just lovely." They all admired the painted china.
One of them risked spilling the juice and held her plate up high enough to see the bottom. If she knew that was improper etiquette she ignored the idea. "Don't break 'em, ladies, they're numbered and dated. These are really nice plates."
They all oohed and aahed and the discussion turned to plates and children and grandchildren.