“Sensory,” says Grace, reaching for her purple toothbrush.
“Century,” I say. “Sure, yeah.” I have no idea what she’s talking about. It is early morning, early meaning “no caffeine yet.” I hand her the toothpaste.
Grace sighs. It is the sigh of an old soul, weary of putting up with the limited intellect of humans.
“Sensory,” she repeats, speaking louder as if I am hard of hearing, then proceeds with loading a seafoam green pea of toothpaste onto the bristles of her toothbrush.
Oh. I’ve misheard. Not ‘century’ so it must be…
“Sentry,” I say, wondering if she thinks the toothbrush needs guarding. As I think about why that might be, I wander about her bathroom, picking up the discarded dirty clothes. Grace stamps her little foot. And then lets out a long, loud sigh, followed by a slight growl. I’ve annoyed her with my thickheadedness.
Patiently, she repeats, turning her head to look me directly in the eye. “Sensory. S-E-N-S-O-R-Y.”
“Oh!” I say. “Sensory. I get it. Sorry baby, I wasn’t listening very well. Thanks for spelling. Sensory.” She smiles, pleased I finally got it.
Except I don’t. I still have no idea what she’s talking about. I can fake it, but that’s not going to help her communication land, is it? So I ask. “Um, what are you talking about?”
She waits a beat. Then shrugs her shoulders and says, “I don’t know.”
Laughing, she leaves the room.
My daughter Grace has cerebral palsy. Her muscles don’t work in the typical fashion. This includes the facial muscles used to form sounds, words, speech. Speaking has not come easy to her. She worked determinedly for many years to train herself to talk. Now, at the ripe old age of sixteen, she can, and will, speak in full sentences, although sometimes it is difficult.
While Grace has worked hard to learn to speak, her father, sister and I have worked to train our ears for her speech patterns. After years of guessing meaning from mere vocalizations and/or one word utterances, we have developed a verbal shorthand.
Grace well knows the value of not mincing words. If one word communicates her idea to the intended audience, she goes with it. It requires less work for her, and generally gets the intended result.
Me, I’m used to guessing what she means and I’m usually right. Usually. But occasionally she throws me a curve ball. She’ll say something that is so completely unrelated to what is going on at the time, that my ears don’t pick up the word. Speech is fascinating. We often don’t hear something if we aren’t expecting it.
Hence the “sensory” example.
This manner of piecing together a conversation may seem unconventional, but I assure you it isn’t. You do it, too, especially with the people you are closest with. For example, my husband never calls me Stacey unless he wants my full attention. If he says it more than once, I even respond to it.
A friend of mine once said that he didn’t understand quilting. According to him, quilting involves taking a perfectly beautiful whole piece of cloth, mincing it, and then sewing the pieces back together. This, he says, is a perfect waste of time.
I’m sure he thinks he is making a reasonable point. But he isn’t. Actually, he is missing the point by a wide margin. The piecing IS the point. There is joy in connecting little bits and shapes of fabric into a new creation that is pleasing to the senses. You piece the quilt top by mixing colors and shapes and then, add texture with quilting. It is a fully immersive and creative sensory experience.
Conversation is a lot like quilting. You take pieces of words, some awkwardly phrased ideas, add dialect and nonverbal gestures, and poof! Ideas exchanged. People inspired. Connections made. The joy of living, in a nutshell.
In the past month, I’ve been a little bit obsessed with piecing. I tend to go for easy patterns for quilt tops because I have a tendency to get bored if a quilt takes too long to finish. So when I’m in the mood to piece something a little more challenging – or I just want to sew a fun, fast-to-finish project – I go for table runners. This past month I did four!
Told you I was a little bit obsessed. Notice the wild difference in sizes? That’s something to keep in mind when you’re doing table runners. Measure your table! The one on the far left is probably too big for mine, but that’s okay. I’ll probably just keep one of these, and give the others as gifts.
The blue runner on the far right is a free pattern I downloaded from Jordan Fabrics, a great online quilt shop that I just discovered! They specialize in pre-cut quilt kits. Someday I am buying one of their awesome log cabin pre-cut kits. But for now, I settled for making their Friendship Table Runner design, and it was super easy. The pattern actually makes two runners from one jelly roll. If you are interested in the other patterns, put a note to me in the comments and I’ll send you a link/info.
In case you’re curious about my “sensory” experience, I can report that Grace did indeed know what she was talking about. Later that day I heard her reading the biology textbook with Emma. They were studying the Sensory System.
I think she likes to mess with me.
Peace & Joy,