Life in the Variable Lane

How a quilt and COVID brought me back to my daughter

Anna Maria DiDio
Human Parts

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Thomas Wolter — Unsplash

Quarantine had drained my energy. It was the third rainy day in a row as I sat in a funk with piles of shredding all around me. The gift of endless amounts of time at home had forced a necessary slow down of my life and I was determined to tidy things up.

The sun finally came out and I pulled open a cabinet that held yards of fabric and incomplete sewing projects. I had forgotten about most of them including a stack of twelve-inch quilting blocks made for my daughter.

The cotton felt soft as I examined the seams, looking to see if I had lined up the blocks in a straight line. It had been years since I worked on a quilt. Thankfully, there were enough squares for a full-size bedspread.

Why had she chosen this particular pattern? I went to my quilt book to look up the name. The page was marked with a sticky note: Variable Star. Perfect.

The truth was that life with my daughter was more than variable. It was downright tumultuous at times. Adopted at age seven from Mexico, she struggled with her identity beginning with screams in Spanish that she did not want to learn English. After a few months she lost her native tongue and spoke English almost exclusively; an added trauma that I did not fully appreciate. We tried to restart Spanish lessons many times, but our efforts fell flat. It was not until college that her first language was fully reclaimed. Mastery included completing a difficult study abroad experience. We were so proud of her.

Now in her twenties, she moved out a year ago after we did not see eye-to-eye on a number of issues. Communication was strained and only when we had to. Our rules had suffocated her and she was determined to find her own path. She didn’t go very far. Instead of blazing a new trail, she moved in with her boyfriend.

Unfortunately, the space between us only grew wider.

Variable Star

What a perfect description of our life and lesson for me. Variable: not consistent or having a fixed pattern; liable to change; able to be changed or adapted. Yeah — no kidding.

I tried to reach out many times. Text messages were ignored. Once, we met for dinner and ended up accusing each other of many things over tacos.

Then, tragedy struck. Her boyfriend passed away suddenly. She moved home for a short while wanting nothing more than to sit in her old room alone while wearing his sweatshirt. I coaxed her to seek out friends and “talk to someone” about her grief. She agreed.

Eventually, we helped her get settled in a new apartment.

The holidays were forced and unpleasant. The fog lifted just a sliver in the new year and ever so slowly, we started to connect again. She was still the queen of one-word responses. But then, as our world began to hang on an elastic mask strap, I wanted to do something more.

I pulled out my quilting supplies and began attaching all of the blocks. While my hands were busy, my mind was focused on repairing this relationship. We kept our social distance for the most part. During one visit, she smiled when she saw the quilt partially put together. “I remember picking the fabric.”

While my life could be described perfectly by straight lines and squares, my daughter’s routine resembled more of a crazy quilt. There were no lines or predictable patterns to her way of thinking. Her plans were always changing and it was still difficult for her to be honest with us about how she was doing.

The quilt turned out beautifully, with a dark border and black thread in a leaf pattern. My phone buzzed to tell me that the variable star was on her bed. We had not texted or interacted on social media recently. But now she loved the quilt with many emoji hearts and would I help her to look for pillows? Baby steps.

In a year where every day looked the same, I learned a valuable life lesson. Look for the small changes. Seemingly insignificant things will make a huge difference in our lives. Embrace change. Adapt…not because you have to…but because you want to. “Variable” is the only way to live.

Anna Maria DiDio is a writer and children’s author whose memoir and adoption-themed books can be found on her Amazon author page.

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Anna Maria DiDio
Human Parts

Children's book author who also writes about the wonder and mystery of everyday grown-up life: www.amdidio.com