We have been blessed with nine grandchildren, seven boys and two girls, each special in their own unique way. Only 5 year old Leo has been given the label “special” as in “special needs” by the official label makers so popular in today’s educational system.
Leo is a child with eyes that absolutely sparkle with delight over things that others see as mundane. To this Nana, his love of life is a beautiful sight to behold. He has always been fascinated by gadgets and will spend long periods of time studying the workings of his latest fixation. I remember so well the afternoon I spent watching him opening and closing an umbrella, countless times, each time observing so carefully how the push button worked and how the spokes slid up and down the shaft. Each opening and closing was as exciting to him as the first time.
Maybe because I see some of me in him, the joy he finds in the oddest places, I’ve longed to better understand the workings of this little boy’s brain. What do you see, Leo, when you look at this world of ours?
Leo is in kindergarten and, like most kid’s his age, art class in October means creating a pumpkin. Leo gleefully presented his Mommy with his artwork. Mommy’s first reaction was “Leo, it’s a giraffe!” Leo gave her a look of “What are you, blind?” His reply, “It’s a pumpkin!” May I present…..Leo’s magnificent pumpkin.
Through the creation of this wondrous work of art, my insight into Leo’s world has improved tenfold. Yes, Leo, my darling grandchild, you are special, indeed.
Some 35 years ago, while sitting in a doctor’s office, I saw a plaque with the words “How glorious it is, and how painful, to be the exception.” For whatever reason those words touched something in me. I jotted them down and slipped the note into my wallet. Through the years I changed wallets many times, and each time, the note was relocated along with my other important documents..
Fast forward to a few years ago when I was part of a fat quarter exchange at my guild meeting. We each chose a brown paper bag containing a mystery fat quarter with the instruction to use whatever we found in the bag in a quilt to be brought to a future meeting. Unlucky me! My bag contained a kid’s story book panel entitled The Rainbow Zebra. Holy moly, talk about a challenge!
Out of the blue, I remembered the quote from the plaque. Could there be a more perfect example of those words than a rainbow zebra who wanted nothing more than to fit in? Having always lived my life outside the box, the zebra’s story was also mine. That fabric panel that had seemed like such a challenge, combined with those words from so long ago, told my story perfectly. This simple child’s story opened my eyes.
The rainbow zebra’s words read “Oh, why can’t I be striped like you? I want to be black and white, too.” I so wanted that zebra to know that he was exceptional because he was different. I am exceptional because I am different. Being different didn’t make him less of a zebra or me less of a person. I added the words “Revel in your oneness!” as a message to myself.
Living Life Outside the Box
Last week I spent two wonderful days with the women of Q.U.I.L.T. of Delmar, NY. I had been invited to teach two workshops and to present a trunk show/lecture at their guild meeting.
Back in the late 1970s, as a brand new quilter, I had been a member of this guild. Last Friday,some 35 years later, as I stood facing a standing-room only crowd of 200 plus, I couldn’t help but revel in the fact that I was now the guest lecturer. How the heck did that happen? Never, in my wildest dreams, could I have imagined such a thing.
I remember standing with shaky knees and trembling voice as I raised my first piece during the guild meeting’s “Show and Tell” so many years ago. I was so unsure of my creative abilities. What if everyone laughed at me? How critical would they be of my first feeble attempts at quilting? Would I go home mortified?
I brought to last week’s presentation one of my very early quilts, Stars and Stripes Forever, made for son Ric’s 21st birthday.
Made in 1982
I originally showed the quilt at a guild meeting in 1982. One of the founding members, whom I so admired as a quilt maker, had made my day when she commented “Wow, I’m going to be collecting you some day!” Thank you, Shirley Hedman, for giving me a glorious memory that has lasted a lifetime.
How did that once very timid young woman now stand with such confidence, minus the shaky knees and trembling voice, unafraid of criticism and hoping everyone WOULD laugh along with her as she told of her journey as an art quilter? It really is a very simple answer. I know who I am and I like me. It is one of the perks of old age. I have a new favorite quote… BE YOURSELF. EVERYONE ELSE IS TAKEN. It sure has worked for me.
Nancy at QUILT Delmar meeting