My senior classmates and I spent quite a bit of time this year learning to identify the theme of a literary work in Advanced Placement literature. One theme that kept recurring in our reading selections was “family.” A poem we read that I remember in particular is titled “The Century Quilt.”
The poet, Marilyn Nelson Waniek, describes a quilt that she used while staying with her Meema. She illustrates the many different colors of patches on the quilt that remind her of people and experiences in her life. She states, “Now I’ve found a quilt I’d like to die under; Six Van Dyke brown squares, two white ones, and one square the yellowbrown of Mama’s cheeks… Perhaps under this quilt I’d dream of myself, of my childhood of miracles, of my father’s burnt umber pride, my mother’s ocher [green] gentleness.”
I believe everyone has a similar quilt to that of Waniek’s. Maybe not literally, but figuratively. And each patch represents an experience or person that we will never forget, not only the spectacular and special ones but also the mundane or everyday ones.
For my classmates, the color may be the Princeton orange on a letter of acceptance.
Or the silver of the trophy awarded after winning the national speech championship.
Or the emerald green dress of the 2020 Distinguished Young Woman of Nelson County.
Or the hot red on a flushed face after making the 1,000th high school basketball point.
It could be the clothing of the student section’s “blackout night” while cheering at the state championship.
Or the many colors of the library puzzles, a welcome distraction from dual credit course work.
Or the blue and gold of the school that welcomed the newcomers with love and acceptance.
For me, the colored squares of my quilt are found in the ordinary.
It’s the navy blue of the skirt I wore for so long.
And the bright white of the Friday night lights at Lally and then Five Star Field.
And now the sky blue of ZOOM I use almost everyday during the quarantine in order to see the classmates I miss so much.
The patches don’t just represent experiences though. They symbolize the people that helped us get where we are today — our teachers, coaches, parents and grandparents.
For me, one of those people is Mr. Tom Hamilton, the Bethlehem principal with his bright, white smile he greeted me with every morning as I walked into school.
And the iron gray sweater our religion teacher Mr. Hamilton wore everyday while guiding me into a deeper relationship with God.
For some, though, it could be the white SmartBoard Mr. Moss uses while somehow making us just slightly enjoy math class.
Or the yellow of the sun shining through the windows in Mrs. Craig’s room as she teaches with love and laughter.
The gold Rolo wrapper Mrs. Bell throws to lift student’s spirits.
The black of David Asher’s camera as he once again takes breathtaking pictures of you and your teammates during your game.
Bethlehem was and will remain forever our quilt. Quilts need stitches; our friends and classmates held together through some challenging times. Quilts need tops; our principal and parents encouraged us to develop and show our true colors. Quilts need batting or “stuffing;” we had excellent teachers and advisors to “stuff” us with the right information to face the modern world. Quilts need backing; this came from coaches and staff, who have our back and always make sure we’re doing well. And just like a good quilt, the Bethlehem family’s support, and comfort is steadfast and dependable. It offers the security, warmth and love one can always wrap themselves in during times of need.