Aunt Ida Pieces a Quilt by Melvin Dixon They brought me some of his clothes. The hospital gown. Those too-tight dungarees, his blue choir robe with the gold sash. How that boy could sing! His favorite color in a necktie. A Sunday shirt. What I’m gonna do with all this stuff? I can remember Junie without this business. My niece Francine say they quilting all over the country. So many good boys like her boy, gone. At my age I ain’t studying no needle and thread. My eyes ain’t so good now and my fingers lock in a fist, they so eaten up with arthritis. This old back don’t take kindly to bending over a frame no more.
Francine say ain’t I a mess carrying on like this. I could make two quilts the time I spend running my mouth. Just cut his name out the cloths, stitch something nice about him. Something to bring him back. You can do it, Francine say. Best sewing our family ever had. Quilting ain’t that easy, I say. Never was easy. Y’all got to help me remember him good. Most of my quilts was made down South. My Mama and my Mama’s Mama taught me. Popped me on the tail if I missed a stitch or threw the pattern out of line. I did “Bright Star” and “Lonesome Square” and “Rally Round,” what many folks don’t bother with nowadays.
Then Elmo and me married and came North where the cold in Connecticut cuts you like a knife. We was warm, though. We had sackcloth and calico and cotton. 100% pure. What they got now but polyester-rayon. Factory made. Let me tell you something. In all my quilts there’s a secret nobody knows. Every last one of them got my name Ida stitched on the backside in red thread. That’s where Junie got his flair. Don’t let anybody fool you. When he got the Youth Choir standing up and singing the whole church would rock. He’d throw up his hands from them wide blue sleeves and the church would hush ight down to the funeral parlor fans whisking the air. He’d toss his head back and holler and we’d all cry holy. And never mind his too-tight dungarees. I caught him switching down the street one Saturday night, and I seen him more than once. I said, Junie, You ain’t got to let the whole world know your business. Who cared where he went when he wanted to have fun. He’d be singing his heart out come Sunday morning. When Francine say she gonna hang this quilt in the church I like to fall out. A quilt ain’t no show piece, it’s to keep you warm. Francine say it can do both. Now I ain’t so old fashioned I can’t change, ut I made Francine come over and bring her daughter Belinda. We cut and tacked his name, JUNIE. Just plain and simple. “JUNIE, our boy. ” Cut the J in blue, the U in gold. N in dungarees just as tight as you please. The I from the hospital gown and the white shirt he wore First Sunday. Belinda put the necktie E in the cross stitch I showed her. Wouldn’t you know we got to talking about Junie. We could smell him in the cloth. Underarm. Afro-Sheen pomade. Gravy stains. I forgot all about my arthritis. When Francine left me to finish up, I swear I heard Junie giggling right along with me as I stitched Ida on the backside in red thread.
Francine say she gonna send this quilt to Washington like folks doing from all across the country, so many good people gone. Babies, mothers, fathers, and boys like our Junie. Francine say they gonna piece this quilt to another one, another name and another patch all in a larger quilt getting larger and larger. Maybe we all like that, patches waiting to be pieced. Well, I don’t know about Washington. We need Junie here with us. And Maxine, she cousin May’s husband’s sister’s people, she having a baby and here comes winter already. The cold cutting like knives. Now where did I put that needle?