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the cheer, then the paththe evening, quietly at home, often finds me nested on the sofa with a support staff of pillows — maybe under my elbow, or cushioning my feet. almost always, i will hold one on my lap. sometimes that props up my iPad, or phone, maybe playing a crossword or mindlessly scanning news while watching some escapism. this pillow is an old, dear friend of more than 30 years, made for me by a neighbor who repurposed fabric scraps to make little portraits of cheer on pillows  i don’t know where sweet Maggie has gone in her life in the decades that have passed, but i know it is with enthusiasm, kindness and adventure.

we became fast friends when she moved into the apartment a few doors away from mine, and we often had impromptu meals together with her and her husband. he was aspiring artist & writer who had hung with Carolyn and Neal Cassady and had wonderful, wild stories about Cassady, Kerouac and Ginsberg. Maggie had run off to Guam after high school.  my life seemed tame by comparison (and still certainly is), but we were our own merry pranksters in a not-very-inspired apartment building.  we united against an ogre of an apartment manager, and shared whatever we had for meals or a drink. this was the neighbor you would gladly fill a cup of sugar, or, better, a glass of wine for.roads or fences

one week, Maggie took on a project to keep her active imagination from running beyond the confines of her tame apartment while at home during the day, and started designing pillows from scraps and a modest machine.  she greeted me with this strawberry basket of gold and red threads one night when i arrived home, in my corporate drag uniform of somber colours, trying to pretend to be the adult i was just becoming. the cheerfulness of the innocent strawberries always reminds me of her bright animated face, and her infectious joy.

i hug this pillow close still, wearing the threads to fray. the strawberries are still sweet. gold grid farmroads leading to strawberry fields