My favorite frayed thing . . . and a variation on one of my favorite words.
I made a quilt for my baby daughter, and it became her favorite inanimate companion. She rubbed its binding away as she clutched it, until the once crisply pressed bias-cut fabric along its edges separated into feathered ridges.
The quilt became so well-loved that an appliqued heart occasionally would drop from its surface. A piece of fabric from its top might gradually loosen and then suddenly float away, leaving a tiny triangular nest of cotton batting exposed.
My husband Jim and I took our two sons and first daughter for a summer week in Bar Harbor, Maine. We wandered and popped into a store where children’s books were displayed.
Our three and four year-old sons, who were quite learned when it came to dinosaurs, pointed out books with pictures of them to their little sister, who had one thumb plugged into her mouth. Her arm enfolded her bundled crib quilt, which she clutched in all seasons and temperatures.
After her toddler tutorial, she pointed delightedly at a small stuffed pink and yellow stegosaurus at her level of a book display in a clear lucite column.
“Dido!” she cried.
We returned home and were putting our daughter into her crib when she began demanding “Steggy,” beaming when her father handed her the quilt.
“Steggy?” Jim and I turned to each other.
Then we saw her happily running her finger over the quilt’s frayed edges, smoothing the frayed binding into a line of wee, softly serrated triangular points.
“Stegs.” She announced.
She had added another sensible word to the family lexicon.
Look carefully at the deep rose leaves on the plant pictured above and you’ll see the “stegs.” What better descriptive word could there be?
When we moved, after Jim died, I found Steggy carefully folded and packed away inside a penguin-shaped backpack.
Steggy’s owner has just returned from Bangladesh, where she spent the summer studying infectious diseases. This weekend her nerves are slightly frayed, and the vocabulary she’s studying is nothing I’ve ever heard of. Vast bodies of technical scientific material must be memorized. It’s now subject matter that doesn’t lend itself to metaphor–applying colorful common sense shorthand derived from the magical worlds in which toddlers dwell.
Her dad would be so very tickled.