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Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I'm conducting a Quilters' S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Teresa Romano. We are at the Ohio Reformatory for Women in Marysville, Ohio. Today's date is July 20, 2009. It is now 12:23 in the afternoon. Teresa thank you so much for doing this interview with me. Let's start off by you telling me why you are here.

Teresa Romano (TR): Actually, I made a wrong choice in a relationship. I'm in here for involuntary manslaughter. I'm not proud of the choices I made. It was actually self defense, but the State of Ohio does not have self defense laws so that is what I'm here for. [shrugs and laughs nervously.]

KM: Let's talk about your quilt "The Lord's Eyes Are Watching Over You."

TR: Yes,

KM: Tell me about it.

TR: I did this quilt on something that had happened to me in my past back in 1988. I was in a batter women's shelter and I had my daughter with me and we was going to the store and I was hit head on. A lady in a big car swerved over and hit me head on before I could hit the ditch. I just went through the windshield and was crushed by the steering wheel. My knees, my body, everything. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't see. What brought me to was hearing my daughter cry. It brought me to. I couldn't breathe. I still couldn't see and I kept thinking, 'God, please don't let me die. Help me breathe.' I had to fight for air and hurt really bad, but I finally got air in my lungs. Once they took care of me, they had to cut me out. They sent my daughter through an ambulance, but they had to cut me out of my car to air-flight me to the hospital. They didn't think I was going to make it. I shouldn't of which is what they said, but I had the will power. They said that I was very strong. The only thing on my mind was living to take care of my daughter. I remember right before the operation, there was this doctor and he just bent over and he had these crystal blue eyes. I was so scared. I was in a lot of pain. I kept begging, 'Please don't let me die.' He said, 'You are going to be alright.' The eyes. I kept looking at the eyes. There was something with his eyes. When I pulled out of surgery and a couple weeks later when I was able to realize that I made it and I stuff, I started asking doctors and nurses, 'Who was that doctor?' Because I wanted to thank him. Nobody knew who I was talking about. I knew right then that was the Lord. That was the Lord letting me know he was with me. He was with my daughter. That I was going to be okay. So that is why I did this quilt.

KM: I'm assuming these are the blue eyes. [pointing to the blue eyes on the quilt.]

TR: Yes, yes.

KM: Tell me about the rest of the quilt.

TR: Well, God was there with us. Mother and child being reunited [pointing to the Bambi fabric.] and we're back into the beautiful world. He gave us a second chance and he is with us always and he is always watching over us. This is pretty much what my quilt is about. He is always with us, each and every day, every second of the day. All we had to do was just cry out, reach out to him, he is there. I really found that out. I grew up in a family that--I chose to go to church when I was little, but the family never did. I really didn't know enough about praying, about the God or anything, but the day of that accident when I heard my daughter crying I realized that I couldn't breathe or anything, I just mentally started to think, 'God, please help me.' That is like, 'Wow, he was there.' He was.

KM: Tell me how you determine how to put things. Tell me about the creative process. Where did you start?

TR: I started on the border. I'm not sure. I figured just let me piece and stuff, make it like a picture frame and then my next thing I knew I wanted to put the eyes in some how and I wanted to add God. So I just started with pieces and material I had and made these little things. [pointing to the lace pieces.] [laughs.] Just started and I want God to be in the middle, the focus of everything and the eyes. Then I came across this little Bambi piece for mother and child so as I went, I would just put it together how I wanted it and this is it. [laughs.]

KM: How long did you work on it?

TR: It took me about eight months to put it all together because I have a full time job here a seamstress in the big laundry, so in my spare time. Then we did this big move over the winter and we didn't have a quilt session, so I'm guessing six to eight months.

KM: How did you feel when it went to Sacred Threads?

TR: I felt good. At first I'm thinking, 'Oh, I hope I can get this together,' and I kept praying to God like, 'Help me with this because I was like at a standstill with it. Not sure what to do next on it,' and such. Finally as I get it out, it is like, 'Okay, I've thought about this,' and tweaked some stuff, but once I got it together I felt good and confident about it. I was happy with it.

KM: You put the pearls on.

TR: I hand stitched every bit of that.

KM: Wow, and up here too?

TR: Yeah.

KM: You had to write an essay about this. [sneeze heard in the background.]

TR: Yes.

KM: Tell me about writing the essay.

TR: I think that was on my mind throughout the whole process of making the quilt, 'What am I going to say?' I had pretty much the quilt done, except for the backing done. It was like a fall day on a Sunday and we were on lockdown so I just grabbed paper and pen and it just like came to me. I just started writing a story about the quilt and what inspired me to do this quilt. It just came like real fast. I was happy. I was never a writer. First thinking how to put it, what to write, but when I got down to it and put the paper and pen in my lap and started writing it just all came to me.

KM: What did you say?

TR: I pretty much about my accident and what I just explained to you about the doctor with the eyes and afterwards that there was no doctor. I mean no doctor in that place. Everybody looked at me like I was nuts, but I knew that had to have been the Lord letting me know he was there and he was watching over me and I was going to be okay and my daughter was okay.

[her artist statement: It was August 13th, 1988 when I was hit head on. I went through the windshield and crushed the steering wheel. My four year old daughter had undone her seat belt and ended up on the floor under the dash board. All I could remember was hearing her crying which brought me to. I couldn't move, see, or breathe. All I could do was beg God to not let us die. I was in so much pain and so scared and so alone, but as God breathed air back into my lungs, I realized he was there for us.

Later after being life-flighted to the hospital, I was going into surgery and I looked up into the doctor's eyes. They were so crystal blue, and they told me I wasn't going to die. A few weeks after my surgery I asked everyone who the doctor was who had the blue eyes. But there was no doctor with those eyes.

As I sit here today I know those were the Lord's eyes, letting me know that he was with me then and he is still with me now watching over me. My daughter came through all of this with only a few bruises and a lost tooth. I feel in my heart that God took his hand and held us that day. This is the story that inspired me to do my quilt. God reunited a mother and daughter to live in his beautiful world.

A personal note: I am 49 years old and am a mother of two, a girl and a boy. I'm not a grandma yet, but hopefully soon. I work in the big laundry as a as a seamstress. I love coming to church, and love doing cross stitch projects. I've enjoyed doing this quilt, and yes, this is my very first quilt.]

KM: What do you think your daughter would think of this?

TR: She would absolutely love it.

KM: How old is she?

TR: She is in her twenties now. She is twenty-three now. Be twenty-four in February.

KM: Does she remember the accident? How old was she?

TR: She was four. She was in the back seat and I was unaware she undid her seatbelt. Next thing I know I'm hearing a cry and she come flying from the back to the front instead of going through the windshield. I know God had his hand down. He took her down to the floorboard and she was very fortunate. She only had bruises and one lost tooth so I was very, very grateful. I think back and I knew that was the Lord. He had his hand to keep her from going through that windshield because she should have went straight threw. I was just so blessed, she was too. [laughs.]

KM: What advice would you give somebody making their first quilt?

TR: Think back in their lives at a life threatening experience or something to do with God. Ask God to guide you through. Try to bring out a story of their lives. That is how I did it. It took me some time to think, what am I going to make my quilt on and just wanted to have the blue eyes. I was at work and it just hit me, that experience in my life there, do a quilt on it. That is what I did.

KM: What do you think makes a great quilt?

TR: You have to put a lot of love, knowledge, your story. You've got to put your story in it so you can reach out to other people with your story and tell them, maybe teach them also what you went through. I think that is what makes a good quilt.

KM: What was your favorite part of putting this together? What did you like the best?

TR: I liked a little bit of everything because the eyes, God but yet he gave mother and child the opportunity. I enjoyed putting it all together.

KM: You've done embroidery on the face.

TR: Yes, I sketched that on the material real lightly with pencil and I embroidered it. As I kept going I had this [pointing to the gold braiding around the face.], but I had some of this color floss so I went ahead. I just started, as I was going things were just coming to me and then I had beads, I figured, 'Let me add some beads to it.' I enjoyed doing that.

KM: Have you made quilts before?

TR: No, it is my first one.

KM: It is your first one? Okay, do you know how to sew?

TR: I can sew on the machine and pretty much I can hand sew, but I've never did a quilt before.

KM: Would you like to make another one?

TR: Yes ma'am, I very much enjoyed this.

KM: What would your next one look like?

TR: Probably something else to do with my past. Yeah. Another story I can reach out and touch somebody with.

KM: What do you think somebody looking at your quilt would walk away with?

TR: They would walk away with something from my story. Each individual would probably walk away with something different, but I'm sure they would walk away with a piece of my story.

KM: Is there any part of quiltmaking you don't like?

TR: No. I really enjoyed it. I really did. I wasn't sure how to do these [points to the quilt.], but I just tried you know. [laughs.]

KM: Good. You did real good.

TR: I really enjoyed it. Throughout my life I always thought I'm going to tell my story some day. I was always thinking maybe writing. I'm thinking I'm not a good writer and I still haven't told my story so this is how I'm doing it I guess.

KM: Have you seen other quilts that were made?

TR: I've seen a couple, yes.

KM: What did you think of them?

TR: They were beautiful, but I wasn't sure of their story yet I'm sure they've got a good story. They were very beautiful and I'm thinking, 'I hope mine is good.' [laughs.] But I felt good once I put it together. I felt real good about it, confident and I knew God was happy with me. I just felt a happiness in me.

KM: Do you have any quiltmaking in your past at all, family or friends?

TR: No.

KM: No?

TR: No, I've never quilted before. My family maybe distant relatives, I don't know. [laughs.] Mainly just like sewing, making clothes, or crocheting or something like that, but other than that there has been no quilts.

KM: But now you are going to make more?

TR: Yes.

KM: That is so good to know. Is there anything else you would like to share?

TR: I don't know what it would be. I just hope if there is another Sacred Threads quilting. I would love to make another one.

KM: Very good. I hope you get the opportunity.

TR: I hope so too.

KM: I hope you get the opportunity. I would love to see what you would do next.

TR: Yes. I'm looking forward to it if the opportunity arises, I would love to do it. I just think back to something in my life because you know I've had some life and I just thank the Lord that he has brought me this far in my life because I should have been dead a long time ago. He has gotten me this far so it is time for me to start telling my story. Maybe I can help others.

KM: I think that is wonderful. I do. I think that is really truly wonderful. Stories are very important.

TR: Yes, because there is a lot of women, a lot of problems and a lot of background and they think they are going through it alone and if I can like maybe tell my story, maybe I can reach out to somebody and help them. That is what I would like to do.

KM: I want to thank you for sharing with me today.

TR: Thank you for letting me here.

KM: I'm thrilled. I really am. We are going to conclude our interview at 12:40.