On a late October evening a woman intently peers in the front window of Born Again Quilts. That's how I meet Judi Vaught who on her way to meet her friend Crystal and her nearly month-old son next door at the Friendly Fox Restaurant when the display of vintage embroidered crib sheets and baby quilts caught her eye.
Judi checks them out and decides an embroidered late 1950s baby quilt with green borders depicting nursery rhymes like Jack Be Nimble, Little Johnnie Stout, and Little Boy Blue would make the perfect baby gift. Judi wants the baby's name embroidered in the top border. "What is the baby's name?" I ask. "Atreyu" she replies. "Atreyu?" A-T-R-E-Y-U like the boy in the 1980s movie "The NeverEnding Story"? Yes! Now I've never seen the movie, but my friend and Founder-Chocolatier of Vosges Haut-Chocolat Katrina Markoff named her second-born son Atreyu so I knew how to spell it.
Judi disappears into the night and returns with Crystal and Atreyu in tow. Judi wants Crystal's input on the quilt choice and the color of floss for the name. Crystal is shocked when she hears me correctly spell and pronounce her baby's name (ah tray you) and confides her grandmother doesn't "get it" thinking she named her son "I trade you".
Before Judi and Crystal return to the Fox she tells me she'll be back to complete the transaction. It's the Saturday before New Years before I see Judi again. She enters the studio bubbly as ever, her short funky hair askew and makes the final arrangements not only for Atreyu's quilt but puts an embroidered crib sheet on layaway for a grandnephew too. An Indiana Tech law student Judi tells me she won't be back until spring break to check on the progress.
On the second Saturday in February Crystal calls to inform me that Judi died on February 5 at age 51. This vibrant free-spirit woman dead: Unbelievable! I can tell by Crystal's voice she is taking her death very hard. She describes to me their friendship and how Judi has been a mentor to her. Judi sold Crystal her used car below its value, taking her to lunch-not a fast food lunch but a restaurant lunch where they could sit, talk and connect every time she made the payment. Atreyu's crib and a mound of diapers-gifts: from Judi. Crystal is anxious to have the quilt work completed. It's a small task, so it is immediately pushed to top of the restoration list.
I attend Judi's visitation and meet her mom and youngest. I explain how briefly I knew their daughter and sister but her impact was so profound. The quilt project intrigued them and as I imitated Judi's enthusiasm and gestures, they laughed and said, "That's Judi!"
Last week Crystal comes by to pick up the quilt all packaged with a bow. She takes it home so Atreyu can open it. The quilt that will be used in the crib also has a sleeve so one day it can be hung on the wall: Forever a reminder of the wonderful and generous woman who took a young mother and her infant under her broad wings.
Now this article is over fifty years in the making because there is also the story of the origins of Atreyu's quilt. Back in the late 50s early 60s Charlotte Heers of Owatanna, Minn., embroiders a pink nursery quilt for her firstborn daughter and the green-bordered one for her first son. Charlotte dies a couple of years ago and the family enlists the assistance of Etsy Seller Chris Quinn to sell the textiles in her cedar chest. At the very bottom of the chest in a large black trash bag she finds the two quilts. Chris calls Charlotte's son Jim to ask if he would want to keep them. He declines-as he and his family are in the process of moving to Florida and would have no use for them. So up on Etsy they go where I find and purchase them and now the one has a new sweet baby to cherish it.