Orphans and the 6 of Cups

In 1977 Baba made Karen this quilt.

I don’t know Baba. Or Karen. But when I saw this quilt at an antique shop in Billings today, I could NOT leave it there. I was about to leave. I had perused the whole place. I went in looking for some sort of ex-voto Mary statue for my house, because I’d seen one there before. This quilt was resting on a shelf underneath a mounted Bison. I communed with the bison for a moment, then turned my gaze down and saw this.

This is called a Cathedral Quilt. My friend Katie has done one. The idea is to not repeat any fabric, and the whole thing needs to be hand stitched and hand quilted. It had to have taken Baba so many hours, my guess at least 40-50 hours of continuous labor.

It’s faded. Whomever had it, maybe Karen, maybe one of Karen’s kids, didn’t take care to keep it stored properly. Someone clearly folded it and put it somewhere where it got sun bleached. And then it ended up in an antique shop. I could not let it be orphaned there.

It’s very obvious that Baba worked on this quilt in 1976, and she bought bicentennial fabric. I know because, well, look. Also, these fabrics are etched in my childhood memory. My Mamma could have bought very similar fabrics.

I was feeling especially sentimental, because 22 years ago today had my second child, Liam. My pregnancy with Liam was during my second year in graduate school getting a MA in Creativity. My goal was to run arts and education non-profits and change the world.

So while I was pregnant with Liam and Piper was a preschooler, I went to graduate school. I hung out with other artists all the time and talked about incredible things. Honestly, if I could go back in time and relive any of my schooling, I would pick those two years as a graduate art student. It was quite literally heaven for me.

In my program on Creativity, my focus was on teaching. I was working as a preschool teacher at San Francisco State when I started the program, and my Master’s Thesis is on the research and storytelling done by my students that year.

This is what I looked like back then. I was dripping with kids before I even had my own.

So Liam came in to the world when I was in this exceptionally creative place. It was when I started doing yoga, performance art, reading about Dada and Judy Chicago and art installations with multimedia. I was about 5 months pregnant with him when I did a piece where I was tormented and dancing with a wooden cafe chair.

Photo by Mary Burg

So along comes this human. He was like a selkie in search of her skin. He was always searching. He is still searching.

When he was born I wanted to give him a special middle name, but as tradition would have it, there is only so many names you can give a kid on their birth certificate. But my son has a secret name, and it’s tattooed on my body as part of my divorce tattoo and my connection to him.

Liam, my Sojourner, is a seeker. He seeks truth and honesty and has one of the most finely tuned bullshit monitors of anyone I know. He’s seen many shades of hell and found his way back to the light over and over. My own heroine’s journey shedding what I needed to let go of, like the ancient Sumerian Inanna-I didn’t do this until I was in my late 40’s. Liam has done it already several times and he’s only 22.

Liam at 15.

Yes. I am flabbergasted that I gave birth to such incredible humans. Both of my children just shock me. I was so never as introspective and put together in my early-mid 20s. I was a MESS. Honestly, when I think about that decade I want to give myself a hug and reassure myself that I would make it to the other side. Perhaps beginning therapy as soon as Piper was born (and continuing to this day), helped a teeny bit.

But they are both all themselves. I have been a vessel to bring them into the world, and a mentor as they navigated. But the work and joy has been all theirs.

The six of cups reminds us of the beauty of nostalgia. It harkens back to childhood, joy and playfulness. When I think of my children so many memories of their youth flood my memory. I have so many friends with young children, and I think about how I felt being so overwhelmed with all the details of keeping tiny humans alive.

The biggest joy is knowing that the world gets to have Liam in it. My big fat baby that loved to nurse for a solid hour and just wanted to cuddle and eat, and then watch his sibling play. They would watch Arthur on PBS while I was washing dishes or doing all the shit moms have to do. I’d hear “eh eh, murph, eh” noises from the kitchen and say, “Piper, pull your brother out from under the couch,” because he crawled backward and got his rear end stuck under the couch. Piper would pull him out and put him back on the massive blanket fortress I made for them. Then about 4 minutes later Piper had to do it again. Oh, it still makes me laugh. Liam never crawled forward, always backward, and waited until he could run before he would walk. He has always done things his own way.

Joy. Just big joy.


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