It's so good to see you again. Our coffee and story get-together is long overdue isn't it? Let's just blame the delay on the quilt. It certainly caused a major upheaval in my life. But, we are drinking our coffee now and I couldn't be happier to see you again.
So where did we leave off?
Paul and I began to "keep company." There wasn't a day that went by when we didn't talk on the phone or meet for coffee. We both agreed that we weren't ready to jump into a relationship fraught with drama and commitments and decided to work at becoming good friends first. And, friends we were.
It was wonderful to have a companion to do things with. Of course, we had our differences. Paul loved the opera, I still love a good rock concert. Paul was a stay-at-home guy who loved to study the stars from his front porch. I had a drawer full of travel brochures and a yen to see the world.
Don't get me wrong, Paul is an absolutely wonderful man. He's kind, handsome and intelligent. I really felt fortunate to have him in my life. If I occasionally had a niggling thought that he wasn't going to be the great passion of my life, I would remind myself that at my age it was truly selfish to wish for more than we had.
You are probably wondering what happened to the "evil twin," Peter. He disappeared. His calling to explore the secrets of the past was just too strong. We couldn't keep track of the exotic locales he traveled to. When he would resurface, the three of us would have dinners where he would regale us with stories of his digs that would make me laugh until I cried. Then he was gone again.
I don't think Paul truly understood my passion for quilts. I guess it's hard for anyone who isn't a quilter to understand us. He did try though. He even helped hang quilts at the last guild show. Well, you know that. You met him there didn't you?
So, let me tell you about the quilt that changed everything. It was the one that Peter found in their attic and gave to me, the Robbing Peter to Pay Paul quilt.
When I first saw the quilt in the box it looked absolutely new. However, when I spread it out on my bed, I was heart-sick. On the front of the quilt up and down both sides of the vertical fold lines, there were brown marks all the way from the top to the bottom. The exquisitely hand-quilted quilt had obviously never been used, just made and stored away.
I so wanted to find out this quilt's story. Why did someone make such a beautiful quilt and never use it? I took it to a quilt appraiser who said that based on the fabrics, the pattern, and the condition, she felt the quilt was made between 1860 and 1900.
But that wasn't the story. The story of the quilt had to be somewhere in Paul's attic. Paul doesn't like digging around in old things and getting dirty, but I thought I would ask him to help anyway.
"Oh Rose," he said. "As much as I love the smell of moth balls and the crunch of mouse droppings, I wouldn't know where to begin. Remember, I told you about the conference I'm going to next week? Peter is coming home on Tuesday. Since he found the quilt, he should be able to help you. I will feel better knowing there is someone around in case you need anything, too."
The thought of working with Peter made me uncomfortable. I said, "I don't think that's a very good idea, Paul. I don't think Peter likes me. He never says a word to me when you aren't around. Anyway, it would probably be an inconvenience for him."
"Of course he likes you," said Paul. "All I ever hear from him is how lucky I am to have you and how I had better treat you right. Getting to the bottom of a mystery is never an inconvenience for Peter. I will have him call when he gets home."
I resigned myself to working with the "evil twin" and waited for his call. By Thursday, when I hadn't heard from him and after calling several times, I decided to take the quilt to their house and see if Peter was really back.
I knocked at the door and Peter answered. "Rosie, I wasn't expecting you," he stammered. "I'm sorry, but I don't have time to help you with the quilt right now. Paul will be happy to help when he gets back."
"I'm sorry this is a bad time," I answered. "If you could just show me the place in the attic where you found the quilt, I will be happy to explore by myself. I promise I won't disturb anything else. I just can't get this quilt off my mind."
He sighed and said, "Come in Rosie. I will help you. I don't know what we can find, but we'll give it a try."
I heard him mumble under his breath, "This will teach me to come home."
He led me to the third floor attic. It was full of over 100 years of the family treasures. There were all of the odds and ends that had once been too special to give away. Furniture, toys, trunks, and boxes, all a silent testament to the people who had lived their lives in the grand old house.
"Gosh," I said. "It almost seems like it's disrespectful to touch anything up here. It's like a shrine to the past."
"The trunk where I found the quilt is over here. It's the blue one. If the quilt was made as early as 1860, then someone put this picture of the pilot on the inside of the lid at a later date. It doesn't appear to have anything to do with what was in the trunk."
"What else was in the trunk," I asked. "Could it have been a hope chest of a young woman? I know that people used to sew all kinds of household goods to have when they got married."
"It could have been a hope chest," said Peter." But the quilt was the only thing in the trunk. Let's look around and see if we can find anything else."
We spent the rest of the morning looking through trunks and boxes. We gradually started talking to each other more comfortably and Peter, true to form, had me laughing at his adventures.
I don't know why, but I blurted out, "Peter, why didn't you ever get married?"
He looked at me and said, "Well, I came close. But, I guess I never found the right woman. What about you, Rosie? Why did you get married?"
"Well, I guess I thought I found the right man and he turned out to be the wrong man."
Thinking the conversation was getting a little too personal, I changed the subject.
"You know I once wanted to be an archeologist. I even took some courses in college. In the end, I decided I sunburn too easily, and I wouldn't want to sleep in a tent."
"Ah, Rosie, that's what sunscreen is for. And, you haven't slept in the right tent."
I could feel myself blushing and knew that Peter was staring at me. Something had changed between us, and I looked everywhere but in his eyes.
I felt Peter take my hand. "Rosie we can't do this. You don't know what Paul was like when his wife died. You have brought him back and I will never do anything to hurt him."
"But, you don't even like me," I said.
"Don't like you? I'm in love with you. You're the reason I started traveling again. The first time I met you at the fence, I knew I was lost and I knew you belonged to Paul. Every time I come back and see how happy you make Paul, it kills me a little more."
"Go home now Rosie. I will solve the mystery of the quilt for you. I'm leaving again soon. You and Paul belong together."
I left the house befuddled. Peter loved me? Paul had never told me he was in love with me. The more I thought about it the madder I got. Peter loved me and got to decide that I should stay with Paul? Didn't I get any say in who I loved? Then again who did I love?
Two days later, I found a large envelope on my porch. It contained this letter from Peter.
I think I have solved the mystery of the quilt. When I looked at the trunk more closely, I found that the picture of the pilot had indeed been glued on the trunk at a later date. Under the picture, in a slit in the lining I found this letter. I was able to find Clarissa in the family bible and discovered that she died at the age of 20 in 1862. We may never know the full story, but it appears that she made the quilt for someone she loved. The letter was never posted and the quilt never used. Not all stories have happy endings, I'm afraid.
The letter from Clarissa was yellow and brittle, the handwriting faded and hard to read.
My Dearest William,
I have at long last finished stitching the blue and white quilt which will be the first possession to grace the hearth of our new home. My fondest wish is for you to see it and for you to return home so that we may wed as planned these many months past. I pray daily that you are safe and that you will send word to me of your whereabouts and good health. Mother and Father send their best wishes. I love you more than I can say and live for your safe homecoming.
With all my heart,
So, the mystery of the quilt was solved. At least as much as we will likely ever know. Did William return before Clarissa died? Was William in the war and did he die, too? So many questions.
But the story of the quilt? The story is that it was made with love, like most quilts.
Paul returned home from his conference a few days later and Peter apparently left. I wasn't sure how I felt about Peter (although I was afraid I might be madly in love with him). Even if Peter never came back, I just couldn't continue the relationship with Paul.
I hadn't heard from Paul in a few days, so I called and asked him over for dinner. When he came in he seemed a little edgy, not quite himself.
After a fairly uncomfortable dinner, Paul cleared his throat and said, "Rose, you know how much I value our friendship. It has meant the world to me to have you in my life. It's just that, well, I've met someone. I didn't expect it, and I don't want to hurt you. I will always be your friend, but I think we should stop spending so much time together."
"Wait," I said. "Are you breaking up with me? Really? I hope you will be very happy. I am completely devastated, of course. But, I'm sure I will get over it. You should probably get going now. Yes, I'll be seeing you, too. Bye, now."
Paul broke up with me? I wondered if he had told Peter? Just in case he hadn't, I grabbed my phone and sent this text message to wherever in the world he was:
Dearest Peter, You have never slept under the right quilt.
Three days later the doorbell rang and there was Peter, unshaven, unkempt with a duffle bag over his shoulder. We were married three months later.
Since then, we have traveled the world and I have seen places I had only dreamt about. I have slept in a tent in the shadows of a pyramid with a blanket of a billion stars. We even went to one of the famous quilt retreats of Gandiegow, Scotland.
When we return home to our little cottage we sleep under a blue and white Robbing Peter to Pay Paul Quilt that love made.
So, that's the story of the quilt that helped me find the love of my life. I think it's your turn now. When are you going to tell me about how you stole Paul from me?
by Suzan Ellis
Suzan Ellis is the Director of Content at AccuQuilt. She loves quilters, quilts and quilting. And, she would love to hear from you!