Patchwork Quilt, Model, Clay Pot … Whatever

It’s been a few years ago now, but there was a time when I was in a hobby store looking for a model for my grandson for his birthday, and while I was there I ran across one of those human anatomy models. You know, the kind where you can see all the internal parts because the body, or shell as it were, is transparent. Those models, like the models of cars and ships that I built as a child, always came with detailed instructions that, when followed, resulted in a detailed and realistic representation of the real thing. I remember having one of those anatomy models that I never could seem to get put together. I had all kinds of trouble making the pieces fit and in the end it went unfinished.

It wasn’t the same with the models of cars and pickup trucks I put together. Up to a point, I followed the instructions carefully, but the end product was always a “custom job” which usually involved leftover or borrowed pieces of other models. In that respect those models were much like the real items, which were most often the result of taking parts of several cars or trucks and making them into one vehicle.

The quilts that Granny used to make have a similar aspect as well. Her quilts were like most quilts. They were assembled from scraps of material leftover from other sewing projects, which by themselves seem to be good for nothing more than rags to wipe the oil off the hands of a mechanic. Those bits and pieces of material became works of art in the arthritic hands of a loving, patient and devoted woman. The beauty of quilting is that the end product is not the result of a set of printed directions; instead, it’s the result of internal direction and vision of the quilter. As it turned out, that was a harbinger of things come.

If I had the human anatomy model now, maybe I could look at it with a little more objectivity. I might discover the reason the pieces didn’t seem to fit was that I wasn’t following the directions carefully enough. I was probably following my own idea of where the various parts were intended to go. It doesn’t mean that I would know any more about what all those pieces represented. It doesn’t mean that I would know any more about what their function in the human body was, or that I would be happier with the end product. It would just mean the end product I had in hand would match the picture on the box. You know, kind of like the end product that finally left my parents home; the one that matched the directions they got with the “Georgie kit.”

Of course when I look at the “model” in the mirror now I realize that a few, shall we say, alterations and modifications have taken place over the years. What’s happened over the years is that I’ve consciously and subconsciously adapted internal and external personality traits of people who’ve come in and out of my life. Those parts and pieces of other “models” have been used in place of the original ones. The result is a combination of patchwork quilting and modified model building.

During the years when “George” was being a salesman and learning the tricks of the trade by way of various sales courses, one of the facets of selling he was schooled in was the practice of mirroring the client. I always thought he wasn’t very good at it at the time, but in retrospect I realize that the habit became so internalized that it was happening automatically in virtually every aspect of our life. It became such an unconscious part of the modeling, and quilting effort which is me, that at times I realize I have unconsciously picked up a mannerism of speech or motion that I found attractive in another person.

I think we all see at least small parts of our parents in ourselves. My nearly flat feet came from Dad. My overall size came from Mom along with the sense of humor, which my best friend Vince honed and sharpened, and which I consciously modeled. My sense of style and poise I made a very conscious effort to model after Marilyn who felt that the original model looked a little too much like a hooker and as a result tended to act a little too much like a hooker. These are the visual parts of who I’ve become. The internal parts, the parts hidden beneath the paint, the odd parts from other models, are covered by the bits and pieces of quilting fabric which make up who I expose to the world. But, it’s the framework beneath is what makes up the essence of who I’ve become under the watchful eye and skill of the Master Model Builder/Quilter.

To add just one more bit of symbolism I would refer to Jeremiah 18:1-6 “The Lord gave another message to Jeremiah. He said, ‘go down to the shop where clay pots and jars are made. I will speak to you while you are there. So I did as he told me and found the potter working at his wheel. But the jar he was making do not turn out as he had hoped so the potter squashed the jar into a lump of clay and started again.”
“Then the Lord game me this message: ‘O Israel, can I not do to you as this potter has done to his clay? As the clay is in the potter’s hand so are you in my hand.”

After all my work at modeling and quilting and mirroring, the day I finally surrendered and bowed my head at an intersection on my way to work and in essence said, “I give up. I will be what You intend me to be”; God squashed me into a figurative lump and then began taking me apart and reassembling me the way He wanted me. The amazing thing to me is that He threw very few parts away. He just reassembled and shaped them into a more attractive quilt and functional model … or clay pot if you prefer.

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