Sunday, March 24, 2013

It has a New Home!

I never planned on selling this quilt. I made it just for me and my son, to help me deal with the thought that my only child was going to be a Marine and probably go off to war. That was very difficult for me to handle but as all quilters do when faced with challenges; I went to the studio and put my feeling into cloth. There are tears in that fabric. 
I looked at all kinds of patriotic subject matter before I realized it HAD to be a flag.   
My idea was to visualize this quilt years later on the wall in my son’s office when he is an old man. We both made it through the trial of war and came out the other side.

I started to take the quilt with me on the road when I did trunk shows around the country. I had no idea the emotion it would cause in others as I showed it. It was overwhelming and very special, so this quilt is for all the mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters of soldiers through all the wars who, like me, have given their loved ones for our country to be free.  This quilt is not mine, it’s ours!

I had to write a story for a newspaper about my quilt and this is what I said:

As all parents do, we want a better life for our child.  Joe and I wanted Matt to be able to go to college without the financial burden that we had. He graduated with a degree in mathematics and we were so proud to say that he was the first Bula to graduate with a college degree.  But 2 days later he joined the United States Marines. I was proud and very worried. You see, he is my only child, not that a mother with more than one doesn't have the same feelings.  It just hit me hard.

We stood at the front of the church when he was 1 year old and dedicated him to the Lord and promised that we would raise him up to be the man that God had made him to be. I was thing maybe God wanted a dentist. 

We all went to see him graduate from boot camp that August day in 2010. How proud we were.  That day I saw all the other families that were going through the same feelings as us. I noticed all the flags denoting the various states represented and other countries from which the new Marines had come.  I was amazed how many countries were represented but, of course, that’s what America is — a land of immigrants.

I noticed a young Nigerian man marching at the head of the battalion and carrying the flag for his platoon. My son had told how the other Marines in the Nigerian’s battalion questioned him about life in his West African country. He immigrated here when he was only 14 years old. His days in Africa were spent running from danger and searching for food for his family and there he stood as a Marine holding his battalion flag proudly at the head of the line.
Compared to my own son, whom they’d raised with many advantages, a safe home and plenty of food, I realized that every Marine and every family there told a different story.
I was determined to never forget that day.  As an artist I express my feelings through quilting. I started making the flag quilt immediately when I arrived home from the ceremony, and during the process I cried many tears.  I cried for my only son going off to war and all the other mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers, wife's and husbands, that I knew felt the same way.

I made this quilt for the families whose children didn't come home.
I made it for my uncle who had no choice in the 60s and was drafted into Vietnam, served as a Marine, and when he came home, he was spit upon, and I cried again.  I cried for the young men I heard about who have come home struggling to readjust.
Generations of my family have fought for America to keep it free and safe, but I had forgotten that some of these new patriots came to the United States recently for the same reasons and now wanted to stand by this beautiful flag.  I dedicate this quilt to all military men and women.  Because of them, we can say “…and our flag is still there.”

You can see this quilt at the National Quilt Museum in Paducah, Kentucky.


Mary Keasler said...

There are tears in my eyes as I type this. Congratulations - that your son is safe first of all. What a wonderful story and I look forward to seeing "our" flag when I next go to Paducah. Congratulations again. Bless you.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your flag and for your son's service.
I found myself weeping as I read.

Anonymous said...

My youngest son is a Marine. That quilt grabs me every time I see it.

Jenny K. Lyon said...

Tears. I am so proud of YOU! It's so touching how you are able to reach out to people. And congratulations on having this quilt hang essentially forever in the National Quilt Museum. What do you do for an encore?>>

Anonymous said...

Absolutely Beautiful!!!!!!


Teresa said...

I would have dearly loved to watch you create this quilt. It is amazing! I have a nephew who just left on his first deployment as a Marine. We are so proud of him! My husband was in the Navy and thankfully did not have to be there during war time. I know you are extremely proud of your work being in the museum!

Marija said...

All I can say (with tears in my eyes too) is - THANK YOU.
Your story and your quilt touches EVERYONE. It is amazing how we all have these common things, no matter where we come from or who we are...For me - I am one of those recent immigrants too, my kids grew up here into amazing, accomplished adults that I am so immensely proud of! Now it seems that our daughter found her soul mate - and he is a Marine. He does his incredible service to this country, she gives back by being an epidemiologist who travels the world and helps make it a better place by working on global health issues in impoverished countries...The other two kids do their part here and us parents - we love them, pray for them, sometimes cry in fear for them and...stitch all of that into cloth. I feel so blessed and humbled to be a witness to all. So inspired when I read and see work of others, like you. Thank you.

Melinda Bula said...

Thank you all for the nice words.

Martha Tsihlas said...

What a beautiful post, so touching. I will pray for your son's safety and congratulations on your quilt being at the museum. I had seen a photo of the quilt and through someone posting on FB now I know who made it. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you have placed it in the museum where all can see it. As I read your post, I found myself saying, "Yes, this is what America is about." I come from generations of military men, too. My husband was in Vietnam and came home to disrespect. My son was in the first Gulf War and the treatment was so much better then. I'm glad that Americans have begun to support the warrior, no matter how they feel about the cause. This is a beautiful, beautiful quilt, and your post matches it.

Fleur de Lis Quilts said...

I come from a family of veterans and have a son who served in the Air Force; thankfully though he did not have to go to Iraq. Recently a cousin's son went and came home with PTSD, which he did not survive. I will gladly visit your quilt in Paducah and remember the many veterans it honors. Thank you for making it. And thanks to the museum for realizing its significance and preserving that for us all.

Kathi said...

Love that quilt. My son is in Afghanistan now. He graduated from college and joined the Army last February. I know those tears. I also know that pride.

Heather P said...

What a stunning quilt! And a lovely story to go with it.

Karen said...

Thank you for honoring America, and the the brave souls who have given so much. Our lives have truly been enriched by your incredible talent, dedication and love.