Something extraordinary happened when I Googled my maiden name a week ago. I received some news that I had been waiting almost forty years to hear. It wasn’t delivered specifically to me, nor in the manner I had been expecting, all those years ago. And it wasn’t like I was biding time for the day this news would come, because the truth is, after years and then decades passed, I never really thought it would. It was just one of those little things, more of a fantasy, that would passively cross my mind, or whenever I’d read something, or see something that brought it to the forefront, I’d think, ‘what the hell ever happened to that?’
And then after all these years, I got my answer. There it was. At the top of my Google search.
Little backstory. In the early 80s I went to a Judy Chicago art show in Toronto called The Dinner Party, a magnificent installation honoring the history of women throughout civilization. It was an impressive, mind-blowing show that inspired me. As a young Feminist (and Crafter/Artist) the show really spoke to me.
As the show toured North America, Europe and Australia women were invited to create triangular quilts “to extend the spirit of The Dinner Party” to form the International Honor Quilt (IHQ), which expanded the number of women honored by Chicago.
I was so profoundly moved by the show, I went home and began to work on my quilt, with the sincere hope that it would be included in the extended collection. In the short essay accompanying my quilt I wrote that I chose to honor Gertrude Stein and her memorable line “A rose is a rose is a rose” from her portrait of Sacred Emily, which “I have embroidered (using a running stitch) into the centre of my honor quilt. I have also embroidered two roses using a satin stitch into two smaller triangles within the larger triangle, one representing Gertrude Stein and the other, Alice B. Toklas.”
I carefully wrapped the quilt in tissue paper and placed it earnestly into a white apparel box and mailed it off to the Judy Chicago/Organizers of the extended exhibition. And that was that.
I never saw it again. I never heard a word back from the organizers. Nothing. Not ever.
I remember how hopeful I was that day as I sent it off on its journey to join the other quilts that told so many beautiful individual stories, but also a massive and powerful collective story of so many exceptional women throughout the ages.
I was so full of anticipation, mixed with a certain degree of pride at my accomplishment of having gone to see The Dinner Party, and having been so inspired that I took action. I remember how important it was to me to demonstrate my budding feminism and to show solidarity with all the women, not only participating in the exhibition, but the ones being honored.
Because I hadn’t heard back I thought the quilt got lost in the mail or was trashed, or worse, laughed at and thrown out. Looking back, I’m not sure what I expected – a receipt, an official letter from the organizers, a thank you card? I guess I just didn’t expect radio silence.
Then a week ago I got an email from a guy I dated in high school – totally random and out of the blue via my Girl Warriors email. I wondered how he found me or discovered the GWP website, so I Googled my maiden name to see what was connected to it. And that’s when I found it.
International Honor Quilt Collection.
I didn’t recognize the Google Search site so I clicked on it to see what it was all about and why my name was attached to it. And there it was. My “Gertrude Stein/27, rue de Fleurus/Paris, France” quilt with my name next to the photo of the embroidered triangle.
I was blown away. It was surreal.
I guess in a way it’s silly to be so damned delighted, but this means the world to me. After almost 40 years to see that my little quilt had indeed made it to its destination, and was included in the extended collection, is beyond the beyond. And to see what I wrote about the piece and what inspired it takes me back to that sweet girl who believed in the art of the possible. My heart beats with tenderness for that girl. If she had only known.
This was such a magical thing. If I hadn’t received the email from my old high school boyfriend I still might not have known this had happened all those years ago. It was there all along living in the universe, just waiting for me to discover it.
Since last week I’ve been contemplating the power of the universe moving on our behalf and conspiring behind the scenes; things happening in their own time, not ours; the seemingly unrelated chain of events that take place to birth things; the power of hope and faith and tenacity; and most importantly the appreciation of the beautiful little things in life and the unexpected gifts delivered randomly for us to receive with love and grace.
All this fills me with awe and wonder. To think an out-of-the-blue email, from an unwitting old flame, set into motion the miraculous unfolding of this discovery. And it’s true. Better late than never.