Oh, The Places You’d Gone!

Dearest Rachel –

Earlier last week, I swapped out the quilt I’d been using on our bed for the last few months, since the rest of them arrived just in time for Daniel’s birthday (which was particularly fortuitous, since his quilt was among those returned by the company assembling them) – not to mention the fact that the fandom one I’d been using needed a break after six or seven weeks of being pressed down by half the contents of my closet while they were working in the laundry room.

So, for now, I’ve laid out the travel quilt.

This is how it was depicted to me by the quilting company…
…and this is what it looks like in real-life use.

The strange thing about this is that, while it doesn’t reveal all that much about your personality the way the others do (and will… I’ll get to them eventually), there’s probably more in the way of memories included in here than any of the others, simply because this covers so many of the places you’ve gone, and the things that you’d seen.

The irony of it is that, while I think we visited most of these together at some point, many of these souvenir shirts are from trips you took when you were younger, long before you met – or even knew about – me. Obviously, this includes the ones from your high school days, although less evidently so the one from your trip to Paris that you took at that time with your French class. We made it there together, true, but this shirt was not from a memory we shared.

Nor were the various ones from Greece, although I will express some amused astonishment at how many you acquired in only a couple of weeks during that J-term class in 1991. For all the times and places we visited there (such as Mykonos, Santorini, and Corfu, as well as Athens itself), I’m thinking these are all from the one trip you took separately from me. There are others here from your college days – including both the school and your dorm – as well as the front and back of a shirt that wasn’t even a trip you took. I know you’d be better able to fill in the details were you still around (although this quilt wouldn’t be made if you were still around, among other things), but I want to say the ‘McLenin’/‘The Party is Over’ were part of a gift from Elizabeth, when she stayed in Germany for a semester, and visited behind the rubble of the recently fallen Iron Curtain while she was there. Of course, we also eventually made it to Russia ourselves (albeit not to Moscow, like she did), but by then, the fall of Communism was pretty much old news.

I don’t think that any of the ones from the Caribbean were from our travels together (or as a family), but rather from your days traveling with your folks. Sure, we made it to the Virgin Islands, but I’m pretty sure the parrot pre-dates that. Likewise with the Alaskan bear – and I don’t think I ever yet made it to St. Croix, myself. Meanwhile, I’ve only just seen Curaçao a year after your departure, and while we’d been to the Bahamas several times before, the shirt from there, you’ll recall, I got on that same cruise, so you’d never have seen it. I still say it represents you and your love of swimming well; aside from its color, you would have been quite pleased to have it (although you’d probably have been annoyed that I spent that kind of money for a shirt that would never be worn. Then again, there were several shirts on the original fandom quilt that were never worn either, so there’s that). And for all the ships we did ride together on, I think the Song of America had already been sold by the time I took my first such trip, so that was another destination of sorts we never shared.

Still, the rest are ours, I believe, and while I may not have specific stories about each of them (or, in the case of the full cruise ships, too many stories to simply touch on and leave it at that), there are a few worth mentioning. The one from the 50’s and 60’s night, in particular, was a fun one, because we won the dance contest almost by default. Most people doing the Twist that night were ones that remembered doing it back when it was popularized, if I remember correctly, and being among the youngest contestants there (it being a part of our first cruise together back in 1999), we were conspicuously more limber than most of our competition. Granted, all we won were the matching T-shirts, as opposed to the watch and champagne set from the game show many years later, but we certainly got a lot more use out of them – and I guess, in a way, I still am.

When she was over last night – and I showed it to her – Ellen looked at the designs from Disney World, and recalled how much Daniel enjoyed the place (in particular, the Test Track ride – which, thanks to Ellen’s MS, or whatever ailment limited her mobility for extended lengths of time back then, we were fast-tracked onto several times over the course of our visit there). It’s a shame, if understandable, that he has such antipathy to the place – although in fairness, the company has done itself very few favors, and I’ll leave it at that.

Of course, she also noted the visit to Fort Wilderness, where you and I had gotten engaged the previous year – making it a little silly that we were attending a singles’ retreat, but we were still technically single at the time. I can’t remember if you’d convinced both Ellen and Elizabeth to come with, but Ellen certainly remembers (and I think she had gotten a sweatshirt from then as well, although from what she said last night, she may have discarded it since, due either to issues with shrinkage or holes, I forget which).

And while I should mention Israel in passing (there will be time enough to go into more detail come November), final mention should be made of your beloved Middle Bass Island. Of course, we lost a ‘Lake Erie Love’ sweatshirt that you had been wearing to camp – that had to be cut away for the doctors to attempt to revive you – but there is enough to bring attention to it, with four adjacent panels on the right side of the quilt. But it’s the one I had them put in the middle that gets me every time:

“The Lake is Calling, and I Must Go.” And so you did, wearing that shirt often on the days we would depart for the island each summer. Amazing that, for all the cities, all the sights, all the places you’d seen in your life, it was the simple peace and serenity of a tiny rocky beach that called to you, and still calls to you, to go there. And so you shall, at some point in the future, when we set you to rest there, where you loved to be above all these places you saw in your life.

But until then, darling, wish us luck; we’re going to need it to get you there.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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