A Patchwork Christmas
As a child, I have vivid memories of my mother, Ida Stevens Clemens, and her mother, Bertha Agnes Gearheart Stevens as they pieced squares and triangles together making quilt tops. I believe the fabrics were those that had been worn as clothing and still had a bit of a life in them.
Mawmaw would live with us every winter. My parents and I would make the trip from Ohio to Kentucky in October to pick her up and bring her up north. Mom was always afraid that her mother would take a tumble while going out to pick a bucket of coal for the stove. One year she did fall, and broke her arm in the process. But, as soon as the weather would be clear enough to go back home, we took her. She was anxious to get back for “plantin’ time”.
Mawmaw passed one. Then, my mother passed on. One day, while at my father’s home, we were going through an old steamer trunk that had been in the family for years. I pulled out quilt after quilt, as well as four quilt tops. I mentioned to dad that I would be happy to take them home and repair, clean and preserve them. He thought about it, but said my three sisters would probably be jealous. I did talk him into letting me take the four quilt tops, promising that I would someday make them into quilts for my sisters and myself.
Just two months later, my dad went to Kentucky to visit relatives. When he came home, the only thing standing was his front door and the front wall of his home. Lightning had struck the house and burned it to the ground while he was gone. My sisters and I helped him go through the rubble, trying to salvage anything we could. The only thing that remained intact was the genealogy, the pictures, and a drawer with his underwear in it. Those items smelled of smoke and had a bit of water damage, but were mostly in good condition.
Through years of raising my own family, the quilt tops were forgotten. They remained in a black garbage back in my attic. But, one year I rediscovered them and decided it was time to make them into what they were intended to be – beautiful quilts.
The fabrics were old and mismatched, but through the help of a friend and her quilting machine, we began to work on them to get them quilted. I thought of how each one was so different and decided which of my sisters would get the finished one.
All except for one. I couldn’t find it anywhere!
I tore the house apart. I promised a reward to any of my children that could find it. I cried. I prayed. I was desperate.
The impression came to look in the back of my van, for I had loaded up a number of items to take to the thrift shop. Sure enough, as I reached through the clothes to the bottom of the bag, I could feel the familiar stitches my mother and grandmother had made some forty years before on material that was even older than that.
The quilts were finished and given to my sisters for Christmas that year. They were absolutely dumbfounded, for they had all assumed that everything had been destroyed in the fire. I can still remember their voices as they exclaimed over the fabrics, remembering a dress, or a tie, or an apron, etc. that brought back a flood of memories.
I am saddened for the quilts that were lost in the fire, but am so grateful for the quilt tops that I brought home that enabled me to give one final present from Mom and Mawmaw to each of us granddaughters.