It’s been quite a week.
Amid assorted crises, I filed appellate briefs in three different cases one morning. (I’m going for the legal mumbo-jumbo record this year.) After countless edits (and proof-reading by more than one person) I glanced through the bound, printed pages after numerous copies had been dispatched to counsel and courts.
Each one of the finished briefs somehow retained typos which had eluded my eye: a lonely parenthesis without its mate, a missing footnote-ending period, and (especially egregious) one absent conjunction.
Nothing’s perfect (although I would enter full-tilt advocacy against anyone who dares to intimate my husband Jim was any less perfect than a human can be).
The first baby quilt I made was for an in utero guest at our wedding. I used moss-green cotton prints culled from a sale at the late Laura Ashley store on Newbury Street in Boston.
Neither fabric nor free time came cheaply to two graduate school students, so I was dismayed when I finished hand-sewing and quilting the crib quilt, held it up–and only then realized that there was a small ochre dot on one cream-and-green hexagon. The pencil eraser-sized stain proved as irrevocable as bleach on black.
I sighed. When Jim and I went to visit the beautiful red-headed newborn recipient, I told his parents that in the Amish quilting tradition, there is such a thing as too much perfection: I had read that as an act of humility, and in the belief that only God creates perfection, Amish women purposely left flaws in quilt tops.
This seems to have been a rural legend.
In my defense, this was in the days before the internet and personal computers. Although the 500 square feet Jim and I occupied as newlyweds was awash in spine-crushing medical and legal textbooks, I had scant resources for fact-checking quilt history.
Symmetry is said to be the ideal for perceiving beauty, but I remain a fan of the visual oddity–especially the oddity that tells some kind of story: the “e” and “s” worn bare to sheer black on my computer keyboard, the flattened penny my husband carried and left for me, the off-center heart in a bright cloud, even the straight scar through my husband’s left eyebrow–an earned imperfection that told a childhood story of a neighborhood scamp whose unsupervised experiments included tossing a hammer in the air (this was not only well before the advent of personal computers, but before the Darwin Awards were launched).
I still routinely have to rip stitches out of elaborately constructed quilt tops. I take accidental pictures just about as frequently as I unintentionally place cell phone calls while fishing around for things I’ve misplaced (“Mom, can you please learn how to lock your phone?”).
Just this morning my daughter looked up at me from an examining room table about a yard away from me and said, wryly, “You do realize you’re phoning me now?”
I did not.
Seeking perfection? Not going to happen for me.
Attaining imperfection? I’m way ahead of you.