LuElla’s quilt has kept me warm
through winter night and summer storm
when I would hide beneath its tent
and read until my light was spent.
It soaked up many a childish tear
and now recalls a time so dear;
I still can see those dark brown eyes
as she proudly presented her hand-made prize.
The years have left it frail and worn,
seams have ripped and stitches torn;
but time can’t fade its magical charms
or the love I felt in LuElla’s arms.
LuElla took care of me, while my mother worked, before and after my father died in 1958. Sometimes, in the summer, she brought along a “colored” child my age and we played in a small plastic swimming pool together in the back yard. Our neighbor didn’t like that; I didn’t know why.
LuElla had a wide, toothy smile, which she covered with her hand when she laughed. (I was reminded of this when Miss Celie did the same in The Color Purple.)
LuElla called me, “Baby,” and held my hand wherever we walked — to the lumber yard to get sand, to the neighborhood grocery, to my uncle’s house…everywhere we walked, and back.
I remember once waiting for the bus with LuElla. The door opened, she told me to go first. She dropped a few coins in the glass container next to the driver, took my hand, and positioned me in a seat on the right side of the aisle across from the back door. “Don’t move,” she whispered.
LuElla then walked up to the driver, down the steps, along the side of the bus, and reappeared when the back door opened. She sat behind me, behind a sign I was to young to read.
LuElla and her sister lived in a two room, unpainted, wooden house near the fairgrounds. I had never been there before, and this visit was to tell them good-bye. We, my mother, grandmother and I, were moving to Atlanta. It was 1962.
My mother told her “Thank you” for a million little things she had done over the years. She towered over LuElla, and so did I by the age of 12. They hugged and hugged each other, cried and cried; my mother was like that.
Then a wonderful surprise brightened the dark walls of LuElla’s tiny home. She and her sister presented us with two quilts. From scraps of leftover fabric my family had worn as dresses, shirts and skirts, our everyday and Sunday best, they had transformed a patchwork of hand – cut – sown – quilted squares and rectangles into two warm, cotton-filled bed covers… just for me.