the bold & the barfiful

my sister wrote me a few days ago to let me know that our paternal grandmother died over the weekend. apparently she had a stroke a few weeks ago & was in hospice care. there’s no need to feel bad for me. we never had a very good relationship & i hadn’t talked to her in nearly ten years. i remember when i was seven years old, she ordered custom pencils for all of her grandchildren with their names printed on them. my name was spelled “cierra”. i get it; ciara is a difficult name. people fuck it up a lot. when i applied for a U.S. passport, even THEY mispelled my name as clara & they had an entire sheaf of official paperwork with my name on it. but there’s changing up one letter to turn an unusual name into a much more common name, & then there’s a wholesale mispelling. that indicated to me that my grandmother didn’t know how to spell my name.

there were other weird incidents over the years, but the worst was when my dad died. he died on a tuesday & we called grandma dot right away to let her know & suggest that she come up to ohio. my dad wanted to be cremated right away, but we wanted to give family the chance to view the body first, especially because we weren’t doing a traditional funeral. she said, “well, i’m having a new ceiling fan installed on thursday, but i guess i can fly up after that.”

she thought her ceiling fan installation was more important than the death of her son.

yeah, so, no need for any condolences on her death. i don’t really care either way. however, when i wrote my sister back, i said, “i guess we’re down to just the one grandparent, huh?” & then i realized that i didn’t know if that was true. i hadn’t talked to anyone on my mom’s side of the family since the mid-90s. they could have been collectively wiped out by a meteor or something & i would have no idea. i know my grandpa tom (paternal grandfather) died of a heart attack in 1996, & my grandma noni (maternal grandmother) committed suicide in 1997. but it was possible my grandpa bernie (maternal grandfather) was still alive & kicking somewhere on a northwest ohio golf course.

so i googled him. & found his obituary. he died in 2010. but weirdest of all, my entire part of the family was written out of the obituary. all of his kids got a shout-out, as did all of their kids. my mom, my brother, my sister, & myself were excluded.

i don’t really care that much. i hadn’t talked to him since 1997. but no one can deny that that’s weird. when i told my therapist about it, she said, “wow. you hear about things like that happening, but you never think it will happen to someone you know…”. forget “someone you know”! it happened to me! that is WEIRD! i feel like i’m living in a soap opera.

so then i started having all these feelings about how little connection i have with my family & what that means for ramona. jared seems to have access to a lot of information about his side of the family. his brother is david shearman taber the fifth, for crying out loud! i don’t even know my paternal great-grandparents’ names. i think my grandfather’s parents died during the depression, & my grandmother spent a good chunk of her childhood in an orphanage. or so the story goes. i don’t even know if that’s true or not, because i’m pretty sure it’s information i got from my mom & i just don’t know if anything she says is true. she could tell me that the sky is blue & grass is green & i’d still double-check for myself before accepting it as fact.

ramona has a silver baby cup that is a hand-me-down from jared’s grandfather. apparently he gnawed on it when he was born in 1912, exactly 100 years before ramona. isn’t that amazing? i LOVE that she has family history to draw upon. i’m just sad that i can’t really offer her any.

i think that’s (at least partially) why i have been so obsessively making her things–clothes, quilts, etc. i want her to have something that she can look at as an heirloom from her mother someday. because as it stands right now, i’ve passed on nothing except a dimple & a tendency toward substance abuse.

in fact, i had so many feelings about all of this, i actually thought about contacting my mom. i asked my brother what he thought of this idea, since he’s the only one of us three kids who talks to her at all. he said, “i doubt the world’s oceans will catch fire if you email her. at least not right away.” which made me laugh & made me think that i may be over-thinking this whole “mom: to contact or not to contact” thing, but at the same time, she is so crazy-making. i’ve lost count of how many of her email addresses i’ve blocked. jared has already put his foot down & stated in no uncertain terms that ramona is NOT to have a relationship with my mom. she’s proven in the past that she isn’t above using her grandchildren as pawns in her on-going game of emotional abuse & manipulation.

ugh. sometimes i think about what the hell i’m going to say when it’s, like, grandparents day at school or something & ramona is asking about her grandparents. she has jared’s parents, although they live 1000 miles away right now. but how do you break the news to a small child that, “grandpa don is dead & grandma mary is a crazy person”? especially because i don’t want to poison her on the concept of family, & i don’t want her feeling like she comes from defective genetic stock. that’s how my mom made me feel & it has played no small role in developing a lot of the habits/feelings/life philosophies i like least about myself.

oh, hey, new quilt top i made for ramona:


& ramona trying to crawl:


Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

9 thoughts on “the bold & the barfiful

  1. It’s such a cliche, but family is what you make it. As long as Ramona has people in her life who love her and treat her well, who cares how their genetics match up with hers? Better to have no grandma than to have a grandma who would just fuck with her head. I’m guessing it sucks not to be able to share this new experience with extended family, but if they suck then fuck ’em.

    1. i don’t care about sharing the experience with family. i care about all the crap ramona isn’t going to know about her family because i don’t know it. like, in my grandfather’s obituary, it said he was a minor league baseball player. i never knew that. it’s a cool piece of family lore, you know? the kind of factoid that other people take for granted because they actually converse with their family members on occasion.

      plus, while obviously the thing that really matters is that ramona have people who care about her & treat her well even if they are not related to her, i can speak from experience to the fact that it fucks with a person’s head when their relationship with family is all fucked up & weird. i have actually said to people, “i gave up on my own mother. what makes you think i won’t give up on you?” & then i have followed through on it & ended friendships. because it got too hard or the person was acting like a chucklehead or whatever. i’m not saying that these people didn’t kind of deserve it, but there’s something to be said for sticking it out when the going gets rough sometimes, you know? & because of my family history, i am so often like, “okay, this is more trouble than it’s worth, peace out.”

      it’s obviously all just a gigantic trauma that i probably would never have dealt with if i hadn’t had a baby. but i did have a baby & now it’s stirring up all these issues & feelings. & i feel that i should try to sort at least some of it out before ramona is old enough to start asking uncomfortable questions that i don’t know how to answer.

  2. PS. I second the comment about how cute Ramona is. Also, that quilt turned out great. My best quilting year was, like, four whole years ago ( But I’m starting to sew again. Next time you guys are in Boston, you should come over for a play date and some craft time. I’ve got a whole craft area in our attic that we’re working on.

    1. at the risk of asking a dumb question…are those quilts actually quilted? & if so, how? the white one (wedding quilt) kind of looks like it is but it could just be a pattern on the fabric. it’s hard to tell because the photos are a touch dark (a problem i often have).

      i ask because i am totally scared to actually quilt my quilts. i wish i could just piece & bind them & be done.

      we’ll be in boston for christmas.

  3. I used to hand tie all of my quilts, but now I machine tie most of them, because it’s much faster. I believe those are all machine tied, because hand tying is not a great idea for baby quilts… too many pieces of embroidery floss that can become choking hazards. Machine tying is stupid easy. You set your stitch length to zero, press down at the corner of your block, stomp on the pedal for a few seconds, rinse and repeat.

    I have also never really machine quilted any of my creations, because it’s a pretty steep learning curve and I don’t want to put all of that effort into a quilt top just to fuck it up when I put the whole thing together. Hand/machine tying also means you can user thicker batting which I think is snugglier.

    1. WTF. wordpress ate my comment.

      i’d never heard of machine-tying before. it definitely sounds a lot easier than machine-quilting. maybe i’m weird but i HATE the way hand-tying looks. it is so offensive to my eye. unless the ties are really, really short…but even then, i don’t care for it.

      i finished my “practice quilt,” which i machine-quilted in a lattice pattern using a walking foot. i still haven’t experimented with free motion quilting, which looks really scary. straight-stitch quilting was surprisingly easy. or maybe just not as difficult as i’d expected, based on all the scary stuff i’d heard about it. it’s not perfect-looking, but it definitely looks a lot better than i expected it to.

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