Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle

Reading: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
Listening to: Nothing to Declare on Pick TV
Outside: The wind! It gusts!

Recliner fully stretched out, I am typing this in my living room - also known as The Room Without Time - with my dozing baby in my lap. She's sleeping soundly (for how long? Let's find out!) after my expert rendition of Mother Goose's nursery rhyme, "Hey, Diddle Diddle:"

Hey, diddle diddle,
The Cat and the fiddle,
The Cow jumped over the moon.

The little Dog laughed
to see such craft
and the Dish ran away with the Spoon.

Picture from here.

It reminds me of perhaps my favorite piece of family history, an antique quilt passed down to me by my mother. It has been in my mother's family for a long time, and I remember snuggling up under this quilt in the basement of my granny's house when I was just a little girl.

Such family vacations were rich experiences. We left the familiarity of Indiana and drove all the way down to America's Deep South, to warm bread rolls steaming fresh and dripping with honey, to homemade ice cream and the basement where we kids slept, breathing in the sawdust smell of my PawPaw's woodshop. And, of course, to that quilt.

I loved staring hard at those bright pieces of fabric. The sheen of the satin yellow, the delicate threads of the bluish-black, the tiny petals of the miniature red flowers in their very own beds of white. But my favorite pieces of this quilt were the Hey Diddle Diddle ones. Oh yes. The cat and the fiddle, the sloe-eyed cow and her gorgeous moon, the laughing dog and even the legged silverware all feature on a cornflower blue background. These came to life. As a child I watched these thimble-sized characters run all over the bed. Indeed, they were not contained by stitching; they sprinted all over the place, and jumped from that quilt right into my head and my heart.

When I turned seventeen, vacationing at my granny's house, once again I found myself on the guest bed with my favorite quilt to keep me warm. (I even have an old Kodak picture somewhere of me curled up on the quilt. Smiling a devilishly teenage smile.) A lot of things had changed by then. My parents had divorced. My life was, therefore, turned upside down. I was at the mercy of teenage hormones that wanted to run me ragged. And - most importantly - I was in love. I wrote letters to my beloved, a boy barely older than me, sitting on Granny's back porch while my mother smoked and we both listened to the Southern winter birds in the trees. Eleven pages I wrote in one sitting, and I re-read them later (I was always an editor at heart) sitting on that very same quilt. So you could say that quilt was always with me in the most important times in my life. My beloved, that lucky recipient of my novel-length letter, was the young man who would, years later, become my husband and the father of my child.

Hey, diddle, diddle...Jellybean's new (old) quilt and her future crib. We welcomed our little one to the world about a week after this picture was taken.

Here I find myself lulling my tired baby to sleep with the very same rhyme that used to dance in my imagination, and breathe in my dreams. Today I showed her the story in the quilt, and how it pieced together the story of my life. I don't think she much understood what she was looking at - as an almost-three-month-old she lives her day moment by moment, tasting life one color and sound at a time - but she will one day. 

And this quilt will be hers, too, someday: singing softly to another generation, gentle scented syllables that soothe a crying child's fears. I hope it keeps her warm in the moments she most needs it. I hope her timeline runs neatly along these stitches, and that she will always, always believe in a world where a dish can run away with a spoon.

Happy Wednesday, everybody. 


  1. Sniff, crying. blubbering. What a wonderful heartfelt story. Lena will grow to love and feel the love in the quilt as it has magical memories to pass on and on. Mom

    1. Aww thank you, Mom! And thank you for this beautiful quilt. I will cherish it always. Love you!! :) xoxoxo