The real fabric of our lives…

One of the literal fabrics of my life: my grandmother's afghan.  I remember my mother tucking this blanket over me, when she was trying to get a fever to break or was simply cold. The weight of it gave me comfort; even today, if I am struggling to get to sleep, an extra blanket gives me that sense of security of my mother's love. I thought it symbolic that this beloved afghan is beginning to unravel -- and that a new friend of mine happens to have the skills to fix us. Friends and family are truly the fabric of our lives.
One of the literal fabrics of my life: my grandmother’s afghan. I remember my mother tucking this blanket over me. The weight of it gave me a sense of security; even today, if I am struggling to get to sleep, the weight of an extra blanket gives me that sense. I thought it symbolic that this beloved afghan is beginning to unravel —  rather like my own life as I walk through my mother’s dementia. It is also significant that a new friend of mine happens to have the skills to fix it. Friends and family are truly the fabric of our lives.

I know Cotton (yes, a capital C) calls itself “the fabric of our lives” and has been using that campaign idea for more than 20 years … because it was firmly ingrained in my mind when I wrote this column for the local newspaper way back in 1994. Little did I know on January 25, when this was published, that I would be married AND a mother by the year’s end — and that the real fabric of my life would be made stronger and more beautiful by my new family (and the friends that came with it) as the years went by. However, as I reread my writing from that special time in my life, I knew it was something I wanted to capture on my blog today.

Sometimes as I’m flipping through my Bible, I come across a tiny strip of paper with a love note — one of many that my late husband tucked there soon after we were engaged.

With notes like “I love you” and “Have a supernatural day,” my heart is encouraged, but often accompanied by a twinge of pain as I’m again poignantly aware of his absence.

My best friend Judy moved to Minnesota in October, and our weekly Thursday night dinners are replaced by an occasional phone call or letter.

She’s not quite so “in reach,” but it’s amazing how timely a phone call or letter can be. When I think I’m beyond what I can handle, Judy suddenly calls — and I cry with her, we talk, and I feel a whole lot better. Hugs via AT&T.

Relationships can help sustain us despite change and distance.

I attended a women’s college in Missouri where we lived in suites of about 10 women. I had roommates from Japan, Canada, England and all over the United States — except from the Southeast, of course, where it would be easier to get together.

The friendships we made were significant. We lived together, ate together, studied together, borrowed each other’s clothes, shared a bathroom. We knew each other well.

When the time came to part, it was with tears — and a determination to maintain those friendships for the rest of our lives. We thought we’d return to the college for one weekend each year, have a five-year reunion at some central location. Call, write. Maintain the intimacy we had gained.

It didn’t happen. We still contact each other occasionally. We hurt when one member is hurting, feel joy when one is delighting in the blessings of life.

Lives touching lives.

Even though Bill is no longer here and Judy and many friends and family members are far away, their lives are still touching mine.

Notes from Bill in my Bible. Phone calls or letters from friends far away. They’re wonderful encouragements. But they’re not the only ways friends affect me in the day-to-day.

In the kitchen, I find myself using recipes and tips that friends have shared. Caramel brownies. Lemon poppyseed cake. Chinese chicken salad. I use wax paper instead of a paper towel to butter up a baking pan, compliments of Bill. From him, too, I learned to run a stick of butter across the top of a pan to prevent its contents from boiling over.

From Pam, I learned how to make lasagna without having to cook the noodles first. How to make pie without rolling out the crust. How to make bread in an hour using one bowl.

In my speech, I find myself saying things I picked up from friends along the way: “yummy,” from Jill; “honking,” from Barb; “necessarily,” from Pat.

On my walls are remembrances of my life with friends, too. A framed cross-stitched lilac with a special note from Judy on the back. Tins friends have added to my collection. A needlepoint beauty from my mom on my 16th birthday. A picture with a note Mom wrote the night before my wedding.

My mother has influenced me in every aspect of my life, but a tender remembrance is how she’d always drop everything if I needed to talk. From her I learned that people are what’s important.

From Sue I learned balance — how a woman could be beautifully feminine and yet hilariously funny. From Judy I learned how one can speak the truth in love. From Barb I’ve learned that chocolate chips improve the flavor of just about everything — including bran muffins.

Often when I’m reaching out to do something, a memory of who I learned it from flashes through my head.

A favorite song brings back the memory of who first shared it with me. An old letter brings tears to my eyes and a smile to my face.

All of these things make me see how who I am is really made up not only of me, but of bits and pieces of people who’ve influenced me throughout my life.

This isn’t an argument in the environment vs. genetics realm of psychology. I’m just aware of how many lives have touched mine. And how very thankful I am.

Just reading this column (published when I was Sara Olson, a Sun staff writer) brings back a lot of memories. Some of those mentioned are not a part of my current life — time and changes in our lives have distanced us. Some of the things I learned or the ways I communicated have changed, too. While I still use AT&T, it is via my cell phone. While I still write the occasional letter, most of my correspondence is done via email or texting or my annual family Christmas letter (which is likely to also fade into the distance as my children age and my blog becomes more far-reaching). I can’t remember the last time I made lemon poppyseed cake or Chinese chicken salad — although I made caramel brownies just last week. I use Pam spray instead of Bill’s butter tricks. I rarely say “yummy” or “honking” or “necessarily”; I likely have picked up new words from new friends. But the point is, my life is what it is because of God and because of people in my life. The people weaving into the fabric that is my life may be different, but all my friends and family members — old and new — have made my life a beautiful fabric. And I remain thankful!

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