I'm feeling a bit reflective, bear with me.
Being a quilter, for me, is intrinsically tied to being a mother. Sure, I quilted before I had my first baby. It wasn't until I had The Monster, however, that I became a quilter. As I became a mother, so I became a quilter.
It wasn't a SHAZAM! kind of moment where birthing a child suddenly gave me colour clarity or sewing skills. Nor was it a direct result of sewing cute little baby things. Rather, it was a gradual development of an inevitable compulsion.
This is why I say inevitable.
Long before I had kids I won the 8th grade Home Ec Award. All this really means is that I was the quickest to sew together my sweat pants and I'd mastered granola. The next year I lost out and suffered the indignity of crimped hair for the school fashion show. At the time I though I'd come a long, long way from the tube dresses I made for my Barbie dolls.
My first quilt was for my boyfriend's (now husband), first nephew. A simple yellow, white, and grey Irish Chain. I got bruises carrying the heavy old machine of my mom's to and from the train station. The bruises aren't my only injuries. I sliced my finger with a rotary cutter once - I'm now missing a tip. And my wrists and hands have more than a few iron burns. All for the love of quilting.
I shudder to think what I've spent in all my years of quilting. My stash is large, but not the biggest you'll ever see. It certainly doesn't reflect the fact that I've made about 100 quilts since that first quilt 14 years ago.
All that money and those injuries are fine. That's because I'm a quilter. Just like the sleepless nights, heartache, and stress of being a mother - it comes with the job. Hmm, those things come with being a quilter too.
In the first year of The Monster's life I found myself with a lot of time on my hands. She was an amazing napper and our house is only so big. It stayed as clean as it could and I was left with hours of free time every day. In time my two or three quilts a year became one a month.
That full year of mat leave produced about 10 quilts and a profound change in my being. I find it hard to describe it adequately, but becoming a mother led me to accept my true self.
After junior high I put away the sewing machine and laid down the pen I used to write stories. The focus for me was on training for swimming, then rowing. Once those were gone it was all about boys and beer. I tried to resurrect my creativity by going to journalism school, but it didn't stick. But the creative nature was there, lurking, but never gone.
That year after The Monster's birth changed all that. If I was going to be a good mama I needed full honesty with her and with myself. Not only did I have to put aside my hang-ups about my physical and creative self, I had to put my compulsions at the fore. I needed to create and I needed to embrace that. Complete honesty gave me the confidence to do that. Doing so made me a better mother, I have no doubt about that.
Now, another daughter and our son later, there is no less confidence and the compulsion grows. That's why it feels right to sew on the dining room table, to sketch quilts with the girls, to take my son to Quilt Market.
Without becoming a mother I would not be a quilter. And because I am both I am fiercely proud of it. No one will ever take that away, no matter how hard they try.
I am Cheryl Arkison, Mama to her babies and quilter to all.