Quote of Inspiration

I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig tree in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig was a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Constantin and Socrates and Atilla and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above these figs were many more figs I couldn't quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn't make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.

Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fig #8 - The Purge

I have finally purged my closet. It took some time. In addition to being busy with other things (two dead car batteries, a faulty transmission and my in-laws visiting), I think it's just emotionally hard for me to part with old clothes. Well, it's hard to part with old anything: clothes, furniture, books, relationships. I think we do a lot of what we do in life because of habit, because what is comfortable is comfortable, even if it doesn't work. At least we know the bad, which is better than gambling on the different.

For me, clothes have been a challenge. I keep my clothes from my old self because, after having two kids, I think that getting back into my old clothes is a sort of badge-of-honor I need to earn and then wear on my sleeve. See, I didn't go to hell in a hand-basket just because I created, housed, birthed and fed two small beings.

I know. It's silly. I get it.

The China clothes were the hardest, because that was my thinnest self, and I always like to hold out that I'll get back to that girl. The word girl is about right, too, because I was 25 when I left China, which means I was 23 and/or 24 when I wore those clothes, and why the hell am I competing with a 23 year old anyway? And of course, I feel that if I get rid of those clothes, I'm somehow closing a door on that chapter of my life. I suppose it would be okay to close that door. I returned home 10 years ago, a decade. So, I suppose it's time to move on........

Well, as you may recall from those many moons ago, I wrote about the idea of turning all those China clothes into a quilt. Normally, I would toss this idea around my head for a while and then give up on it altogether for whatever reason: too expensive, can't quilt, etc.

But, with all these 52 figs hanging around in my head, I decided to get right on it, which I did. I finally admitted to myself that I hate sewing (I tried to deny that for a long time and had some really bad experiences with my sewing machine because of it). In light of this acceptance of myself, I looked on Craigslist and found a woman who happens to love sewing and specifically quilting. I met her a week later, carrying in all my loads of silk and cotton qi paos and Dynasty-style jackets.

Three weeks later, I met her again, and she had transformed my clothes into a beautiful, queen-sized quilt.

I have to tell you, honestly, hand to my heart, this quilt makes me happier than any object has made me in a long time. Happy-happy. I sit on it. I sit under it. I finger it. And I think about all the days I wore this particular dress to teach in, or that particular dress out for dinners or that silk jacket out with the Madames, a pair of motley Chinese women with a penchant for liquor and married men.

Emily, the quilter, included all the buttons and details from the dresses, so I can see the top of one or the bottom of another. I look at one patch of the quilt and see the slit of one cotton dress that hit me just above my knee, where a red satin frog-button sat. I see the ruffled collar of a cotton sun dress I wore my last summer in China. I look at the sleeve of a black silk jacket covered in butterflies that I had made my first weeks in Chengdu, that I wore at my swearing-in ceremony.

Wearing those clothes again couldn't have made me any happier than having this quilt. So, even if I set out to purge myself of all these extra clothes, I ended up acquiring a piece of my own history that is full of memory, that I can sit on top of or crawl underneath, forever.

Okay.....here are the pics:

The blue outline below is the Chinese double-happiness character. I had a tin coffee mug with this emblem painted onto the side, and I used that coffee mug every morning while I taught class. I drank instant Nescafe coffee out of it, and I swear that one day I will find a packet of that stuff and make it again, for old-times sake. Until then, the remnants of that old electric-blue Dynasty style jacket now detail double-happiness for me on my new quilt.

That's it. I sleep with it on me every night, grateful that fall has arrived in Nor Cal and I have use for my new quilt.

I love that I set out to do one thing - purge my closet - and ended up with something else in the process.



  1. I love this. Thanks for writing again. I enjoy reading. So many of these patterns also bring back memories for me. :)

  2. that is amazing!!! Love it, Amy!!

  3. Erin - so many of these memories include you, too.....the nights out with the Madames and all.

    Gillian - thanks...I agree that it's amazing and I'm really enjoying it!


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