Making nine-patch blocks, matching corners of 4 1/2″ squares, I feel as if Pauline is looking over my shoulder giggling now and then at my mistakes and my successes. I can hear her making quiet suggestions about which squares would fit best where, exclaiming over the rich colors, the darks and lights, the prints and solids. She’s in heaven now but she and I shared a rare friendship for quite a few years and she made a huge impact on my life. She was a joyful quilter, for certain. But she was a lot more than that.
I first met Pauline when she kept our church’s nursery. I was a young mother then and she in her early fifties. She was quite enthusiastic about my little boy and that endeared me to her immediately of course. As I learned that she and her husband had never had children, I felt a deep grief for her because, to me, having no children would be truly awful. I learned more. Pauline’s husband had died and she’d left her country home to move into town. She lived in a small brick house right across the street from our church. As I observed her week by week taking such interest in our little toddlers, her blue eyes a-twinkle as she talked of Jesus, I felt very blessed to have her and her c0-worker Miss Mamie take care of William.
One day in Belk’s as I was choosing clothes for William and his newly adopted sister, I heard a familiar voice. There was Pauline working as a clerk. It turned out, she was a very competent buyer for Belk’s so was out of town every so often on purchasing trips. But when she was there, it was such fun to have her help me shop. She always knew about the cutest outfits and the best buys. I needed flowers to send to a grieving family and stopped in at Annell’s Florist. There was Pauline arranging roses. She smiled and said, yes, she filled in sometimes because, after all, she lived next door.
When Pauline moved to the south side of town she acquired an entire closed-in carport for her sewing, a huge table for quilting and other projects, lots of cabinets and counters. I lived a short distance away and could walk to her house. She loved for me to come see every blooming flower, every shrub in her modest yard, as well as her latest sewing accomplish-ment. I’d take her soup or a loaf of bread and she’d give me a cutting from a rose bush, a new apron or pillow.
Pauline helped me immeasurably with a quilting project of my own once (that’s another story) and, after that, with my children grown and fewer demands at home, I was able to help Pauline sometimes with her quilting. I think I was never much real substantial help but she enjoyed having someone to talk to while she worked. She taught me how to hand stitch along seams making as small a stitch as possible and, as we worked, she’d tell me some amazing stories.
Like the time she was passionately set on giving to Billy Graham’s European Crusade. But she had no money. She talked to the Lord about it and told Him her desires. She was sewing drapes at that time but had only small orders, barely paying her bills. Shortly after she prayed about her desire to help Billy Graham, she got a call from our regional hospital. They had added a wing and wanted her to do the drapes, an answer only the Lord could have supplied her, she said with that exultant smile of hers, her pale blue eyes glistening.
She told me about her trip to the Holy Land, not only the miracle of how she was able to go, but about what happened there. She was standing outside Jesus’ empty tomb with her group when it started sprinkling rain. Holding her umbrella, her purse under her arm, she suddenly wasn’t there any longer.With an intense glow of joy on her finely wrinkled face, she told me that she felt a strong shudder as there’d been a big clap of thunder and then, instead of standing in the rain, she was sitting on Jesus’ knees. In heaven. “I could feel the bones in His legs,” she said. She asked Him if she could stay and He told her Oh, no, that she had more to do on earth yet and she’d have to go back. But He assured her that when her work was done, she could come back to Him. In a twinkling she was again standing in the rain holding to her umbrella. Nothing had change. Except for Pauline.
When she returned from that trip Pauline began sewing feverishly. She’d call me and ask the sizes of my little grandchildren. “I’m going to make them some pajamas,” she’d say. When I’d go to her house she’d give me lapsize quilts or ask me how to send garments to the orphanages our church gives to. She was driven to sew, dawn to dark. She explained one day that she believed if she sewed up the stacks of fabrics she had until they were all gone, then Jesus would let her come home.
Though I didn’t want her to leave, I did help her when I could. And in those years she sewed tons of children’s garments, pillows and throws, smocks for the elderly, and quilts, quilts, quilts.
When Pauline died, there were still stacks of fabric in her house. I guess God didn’t require she sew every last piece. But she left with a certain hope and joy that’s invaded my very thinking all these years. And now as I make this quilt I can just see her smiling and encouraging me, her shoulders shaking with anticipation like a kid about to lick an ice cream. I’m blessed with other wonderful, joyful quilting friends and sisters. But I think Pauline, next to my mother, may have taught me the most as she stitched and prayed and told her stories.