Rose triangle bead quilt (photo: Carson Too)

QuiltRose triangle bead quilt (photo: Carson Too)

If there is one tangible object that represents my mother, it would be a quilt. She spent my childhood making beautiful patterns: lone stars, flying geese, double wedding rings. Each stitch was exactly even and the corners of the fabric joined together just right.

She was a perfectionist, my mother, and at times was a little too hard on us. I tried to be the daughter she thought I should be. And I never smiled right in pictures. But to my mother, if things were perfect, she could love.

I now know this fear was a sign of deeper hurt and that she longed for love in ways her own mother couldn’t provide. But I have these quilts, these beautiful transitional objects, and they remind me of her.

Jean Dunham is a child psychiatrist living in Austin, Texas. She curates articles and images she finds interesting on her Tumblr at roots and wings.

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One day I found a  quilt badly needing repair, that had been "lost" in the bottom of a cedar chest. It is the only thing I have from my mother's mother, who died long before I was born. Although my mother, too, had difficulty loving unless one was perfect, the quilt powerfully brought to me the "unperfect" side of loving. It restarted a dormant ambition to quilt. Now my daughters will have tangible keepsakes for themselves and their children, of a grandmother's love.
On a side note, we may be related by marriage. Lynn Donham (a variant of Dunham)