(Originally published in June of 2016)
After several days of radio, TV, and internet news, Facebook and Instagram posts, and Twitter feeds, I vented on the phone to my lifelong best friend when she had more than enough in her life to deal with, ending the conversation apologetically and vowing I would do something this time. I will advocate. I will participate. I will no longer be emotionally or politically constipated as I have been since I left the Washington D.C. area in 1990. In the intervening years, I discovered that people will hate you for what you believe, for the way you live, or love. My apologies to the South. The space we currently inhabit is not regional, but global, influenced by social, economic, and cultural tides.
Yesterday, as I took refuge from the heat in my home, bereft of a working air conditioner, I drove by an example of the Culture of Hate in my four-years-newly-adopted hometown: Frostproof, Florida. Since Obama’s second term in office began, a particular sign has hung on the security fence of the former citrus plant.
Yesterday, I discovered a new one, also hateful.
Vote for whom you choose. Post their placard in your yard. Spread leaflets. Join the volunteer call center asking for donations. Discuss your choice rationally, and I will listen. However, don’t make your choice about hatred, or put that hatred on display.
I pointed my car south on Highway 27, missing the turns for the errands I planned to run, taking a sudden detour into the parking lot of a local quilting shop. I do not quilt. Something about perusing colorful, crisp fabrics, rows of bolted cloth (and not to discount the quiet hum of central air conditioning), drew me inside. The bright young clerk explained the sales items, pricing structure, and inquired about my quilting experience.
“I have a dear friend who quilts competitively and has won numerous awards,” I replied, proudly showing her the photo from a recent text of said friend’s latest project. “Just browsing!” I piped.
She returned to folding squares of cloth, known in the quilting world as fat quarters: square cut quarter yards of cloth, providing the quilter with maximum choices of fabric at minimum investment. I hovered over the box of fat quarters, enticed by the palette of hues. I arranged my choices on the work-space, mixing patterns and depth of color: red crosshatched with orange, orange dotted with yellow, a splash of honeysuckle to border a thatch of green, deepest indigo blue to follow, regency purple to close.
I turned to the clerk and said, “I need your help.”
Having watched me amass the swatches, she asked me, “What are you making?”
“A banner,” I blurted out, my voice thick, suddenly knowing–something to do at last. “A rainbow banner. To hang on my front window. For Orlando.”
The clerk beamed her approval, helping me choose the backing. She measured and cut and packaged everything I needed.
I am no seamstress. Mrs. Carrico, my 7th grade home economics teacher, would attest: I am dogged if not particularly talented. My Texan grandmother, Anna Pearl, did not bestow on me her professional seamstress skills of stitching and darting, keeping pattern proportions in her mind’s eye, shoulders roped with a measuring tape, pins protruding from her lips.
Even my mother, an accomplished home decorator, often chided me, “Stop whimpering every time you prick your finger. Learn to use a thimble!”
But I can doggedly produce a straight seam on a Singer machine if moved to do so.
I worked in my mother-in-law’s sewing room past the afternoon into evening, through frayed thread and bunched corners, frozen bobbins and slipping needles, singeing my fingers with the iron as I flattened seams. Two banners lay upon my kitchen island that evening, a small offering, fending off the culture of hate, nudging me towards hope, and action.
As I hand-whipped the final stitches in place, measured the points on which to slip the drapery hooks, coiled out the twine I would use to suspend the banners from our windows, my anger moved outward. I let it go. I let it go.