Quilted Heritage

by Susan J. Wurtzburg

Old patched quilts hanging over a ladder in a sun-filled corner of the bedroom.
The most colorful one, perhaps a hundred years old, is surprisingly intact.
Its white background interspersed with patterned fabric vibrantly abloom,
delicately repaired by my grandmother, whose tiny stitches can be tracked.
Sewn by hand, a dying skill, women gifting their eyesight to a family’s warmth.
In this manner, heavy cotton quilts map the genealogy of relationships in the north.

These ragged family coverlets, now imported to Hawai`i, renowned for the shaka.
My northern heritage fits surprisingly well, given the importance of kapa kuiki here.
Women’s modern sewing skills, overlaid on historic production of bark cloth tapa,
honored in the islands, since even royalty made quilts, are unlikely to disappear.
My cobbled together self, and my cotton-recorded genealogy rest on island easily.
In these isolated times, I have the opportunity to reflect on both, quite leisurely.

 

Susan J. Wurtzburg is a retired academic (Ph.D., Anthropology), and lives in Hawai`i. She writes and runs her editing business (Sandy Dog Books LLC), in between water sports, hiking, walking her dog, and socializing online, while she waits for the pandemic to diminish. In a former life, she traveled the world, and explored archaeological sites, but now ventures beyond the island through books.

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