Monday, March 02, 2015


When my youngest son was two years old, he still wasn't talking. He had three teenage siblings, all of whom were homeschooled, which meant they spent a lot of time with him. We could understand almost everything he wanted.

His cute little pointer finger , a nodding or shaking head,  his smiles, his cries, his mischievous grins. He didn't need words.


But the time came when he did need words, and didn't have them. At least not English-sounding words.

One day when it was just the two of us in the kitchen, he wanted something, and  for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what it was. Pointing didn't work. Guessing was futile. None of the usual communication was helping me understand. He looked afraid that I'd never understand him.

Finally, in utter frustration, he yelled out, "Bootsanighee!"

I still didn't know what he meant, but it was so cute to hear a four-syllable "word" come out of a toddler's mouth.

And finally, we had a word that encapsulated  our mutual confusion, frustration, fear, anger, desperation, futility--all wrapped up in one single word from a 2-year-old.

Bootsanighee.  (Think of it as rhyming with Boots and McGee.)

That word became useful to me in times when I just can't understand a person, a situation, the way things are in the world.

A word that, 11 years after I first heard it,  became the name of this little quilt. Let me explain, and try to follow my stream-of-consciousness.

Back in November, I joined my first-ever online sew-along for a mystery quilt on a chat board. Bonnie Hunter (a celebrity quilter, author, and teacher) was inspired by the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, and I loved the colors. I love a challenge. I liked a lot of her scrappy quilts. I was in. Not sure what her final quilt would look like (hence, the term "mystery quilt"), but I dared to try.

Five weeks later would come the reveal of her quilt, which I couldn't keep pace with, but I set in. Chose my fabrics. Washed, ironed, measured, cut and sewed  them.  Actually MISCUT one whole section. How frustrating to spend all that time carefully measuring and cutting, sewing and dreaming of the beautiful piece that would one day adorn my sewing room wall.

But when Bonnie's "Grand Illusion" was revealed, I didn't care for it. Colors, yes, pattern, no. Too busy for this gal. It was just too much going on, and there were seemingly 100,000 pieces involved.

I put the pieces aside (my 300) until after Christmas. Then, not wanting to waste them, I began asking myself, 'What could I do with these  green, white and black units? What do they remind me of? Why do they look kind of familiar? Could I make a boy quilt with the black, green and white only? I need a boy quilt to send to Vickey's charity."  Questions, questions, questions.

Then came the epiphany.  

The colors, the checkerboard design--they look like the Minecraft Creeper!  He is the "bad guy" on the very popular video game for kids about age 6-13. 

I needed a close-up on my table .

Make a quilt after  a guy called Creeper? Would that be...creepy? Strangely comforting? Appropriate for a kid going through a hard time like extreme sickness, or separation from his family for his own protection? Would Creeper be something a kid would want to see in a quilt?

I asked my son, who said, "Yes. If a kid likes Minecraft, then he'd like that."  He clarified that Creeper is "bad" but not evil, not spooky, just able to destroy what you've crafted in your mine. He jumps out  when you least expect it. What has taken you hours to build, he explained, Creeper can destroy in seconds. But you go on.  The game's not over. You rebuild."

That conversation took place around January 10th when I had little motivation to make a quilt for a boy for a friend's charity. I was tired and uninspired.

But then came hard news, news that --oddly enough--gave me motivation.

The awful, dreadful, devastating news of the Annapolis mansion fire on January 19th that killed the owners, Don and Sandy Pyle, and four of their grandchildren.  There were two sets of cousins staying overnight because they had MLK day off school .
Top: Sandy and Don, Katie and her sister Lexie
Bottom: Wes & Charlotte  (source)

They had enjoyed dinner at Medieval Times, some shopping at Target, and then had come home to the grandparents' place--a 16,000 square foot house which neighbors dubbed "The Castle."

In the wee hours of Monday morning, a fire broke out, spread fast, and destroyed everything . All the people, all the possessions, and (I think) all the pets.

                                                                                      Source: Washington Post

How? Why? Who? Was this arson? Was it an accident? Where did it start? Why? Why? Why? I don't understand! I have no words! No one has words to express their shock, anger, confusion, fear, loss, grief.

Bootsanighee!  Nothing makes sense.

It's all so wrong. Precious lives gone in an instant.

(It was later discovered that the Christmas tree, still up since November, had caught fire from an apparently faulty electrical wire.  The tree was in the two-story living room, which was adjacent to the bedrooms.  That's a lot of oxygen and flammable material to fuel a fire. Everyone was asleep when it happened.) They all died of smoke inhalation.  In my heart I prayed that God kept everyone asleep and that they never knew what happened.

We'll never know. Never understand.

I read all six obituaries with tears in my eyes.  The grandfather loved sailing, golfing, traveling, and his grandkids most of all. The grandmother loved animals, traveling, decorating, and her grandkids most of all. I  read about what each child was remembered for.  One of the things that grabbed my attention was that Wes and Charlotte loved to play Minecraft, just like my son. My son has Minecraft posters in his room.  Did they? He has cut and painted cardboard to look like the swords. Did they? He tried to teach me one day how to play, but it gave me motion sickness. Bootsanighee. I don't understand how anyone can play this game and not get nauseated.

I wanted to make the quilt in memory of Wes & Charlotte.   I recalled what my son had said about a Creeper quilt. "Yes. If a kid likes Minecraft, then he'd like that.  ...He's  "bad" but not evil, not spooky, just determined to destroy what you've crafted in your mine. He jumps out  when you least expect it. What has taken you hours to build...Creeper can destroy in seconds. But you go on...."


I practiced free motion quilting to see if I could make it look good. I practiced making pick axe designs. My son kindly said, "Mom,  they need more work." I practiced writing the names of the
children who loved Minecraft.

I wondered how many times their mother has written their names with a shaky hand since January 19th.

My mind kept wandering....

Why did the home catch fire? I mean, yes, technically there's an answer, but it doesn't answer the raw, gut-wrenching, hair-pulling, teeth-clenching, heart-wailing cry , "Why my children? Why my mom? Why my dad?  Why couldn't it have caught fire while everyone was out? Why did they have to be there with no way of escape? Why???"

This quilt was harder to make than any I've made since my friend Renee's chemo quilt.
More tears, more prayers, more questions, more love than any quilt since hers.
More frustration in the construction.
More mistakes. Mistakes I tried to fix but couldn't.  Some things can't be undone.

Those children died after a short life of happiness, often spending their days and nights in that earthly mansion with people who loved them very much .Now they are spending eternity in their heavenly mansion that can never, will never, be destroyed. And they're with God, who loves them very much.

Don and Sandy. Katie and Lexie. Wes and Charlotte. You will not be forgotten.

Wes and Charlotte, I dedicate this quilt in your memory. It will be going to a charity called for Dolls for Very Sick Kids, which gives a doll (and now quilts with the dolls) to kids going through all kinds of trauma.  The woman, Vickey Stamps, who started the charity--and still makes every doll herself--has given away 212 dolls to date.  (She and I chat regularly online, so I know she's legit!)

I ended up quilting with my usual "stitch in the ditch" technique.

                                           Does the geometric green print look like castle windows to you, too?

Making this quilt has helped with my own grief at a time when I wanted words but had none. It has made me hold a little tighter to my kids and husband, aware that we , and all we've loved or worked for, could be gone in seconds.

Bootsanighee. I don't understand.

Rest in peace.


Zoanna said...

I love the quilt and your words explaining it.

Zoanna said...

This is Renee. I posted something on Renee's quilt too, but they all come up at Zoanna????????

Zoanna said...

Renee', that's weird, but thanks for complimenting me as me. Hahaha.

Scroll down and where it says "Choose an Identity", try clicking Open ID and going that route, or Anonymous and be sure to sign your name with the comment.

Joyce said...

The tragedy is so disturbing, and one of those things that comes to mind periodically. I love what you've done as a way of honoring those young lives lost.