You know how old things can sometimes be new to you? Like when you discover a band that’s been around for ages and there’s an entire back catalogue of albums to gorge on. Or come across a book that was published ages ago and you can’t believe you haven’t read it yet, because it’s by an author that you know well.
A Painted House by John Grisham (2001) is one of my new old books. It’s different to any of his other novels that I’ve read. It follows a seven-year-old boy through the cotton picking season in rural Arkansas towards the end of 1952. And I’m guessing his mother would have been considered somewhat of a liberal back then, for spending days cleaning the hayloft above the barn and filling it with pillows and quilts to make it comfortable for the Mexican migrant labourers who would live there for the duration of the picking season.
This particular scene reminded me of how integral quilts were to the American way of life in those days. The women who made them were not precious about their quilts. They were functional, everyday items made from whatever was available for the sole purpose of providing warmth and comfort. I’m sure some were more elaborately pieced or stitched than others – the creative spirit lives in us all in varying degrees – but ultimately they had a purely practical purpose.
And when you think of how warm and cozy and at home it feels to be wrapped in a quilt, suddenly it doesn’t make much sense to hang them on walls or keep them ‘safely’ packed away. They’re meant to be snuggled under and picnicked on and used to build cocoons against the world. When last did you immerse yourself in a quilt, just to feel its goodness? I highly recommend it.