Thursday, September 22, 2011
I don’t know why I have this obsession about West Virginia.
Ever since we moved to the East I have wanted to visit.
Maybe I want to know more of the country where my
husband’s father grew up since I never had the chance to meet him.
Or maybe its because so many of the Scots and Welsh people came over
to work in the coal mines of West Virginia. I can feel the type of country
where my ancestors came from and worked without flying a half a
We started out on our odyssey in Clifton Forge, Virginia.
Frank, my husband’s father, spent his high school years there working
in the train yard after school. As we drove into town we passed that
train yard, a major part of the economy in the early 1900’s. On the left
was a hill filled with the houses and the town. I could imaging Frank as a
young teen, walking down the hill from home to the school; the fall
leaves crunching beneath his feet.
As we drove down the highway we passed the library and the
courthouse, a lovely 19th century brick building, with tall white pillers
reaching from the narrow steps to the third floor roof. It was the type of
building you imagine when you think of small town America. On Main
St. and Church St. we passed many of the thirty-four churches listed in
the directory for Clifton Forge.
I noticed that one of them was having a tag sale and asked if we
could stop to look. As we walked into the fellowship hall I saw things
that tugged at the memories of my childhood. I saw a pink My Little
Pony with a blue mane and tail; a black and white ceramic salt and
pepper set shaped like little pigs. I even saw a troll doll; orange with
wild green hair flowing out in all direction from a head with big round
eyes and a wide grinning mouth.
Then my eye caught a glimpse of a quilt folded on a table with old
clothes and ancient shoes. I love quilts. I think that when I walk into a
room with a quilt in it, it seems to jump up and yell “I’m over here! Come
look at me!” As I walked towards it, it started talking to
me. In my mind I could hear its story…..
“I looked down at Grammy, lying on the bed with a slight smile on her
face. What had she been thinking about? Now it was too late to ask her.
The preacher would be here to start the service any moment.
Tomorrow I would have to go through all those boxes in the attic and
ready them for the estate sale. What was I going to do with the rows of
square fabrics she had meticulously stitched together by hand? Would
anybody want them?
As I looked at the strips of squares, memories flowed through my mind.
The bright greens were from Halloween, the year Mikie and his girl
went as the Princess and the Pea. Mikie was the pea. Grammy made his
costume and we stuffed it with newspapers.
The white squares with blue flowers—a-dress Laurie wore to her first
party. The red material was from her first day of school. I fingered the
grey fabric with yellow roses that Grammy had made a dress from for
my first date. We went to Joe’s and had ice cream after the show.
Daddy’s cotton shirts were represented in blue and white stripes. He
hated to wear stripes. Said it made him feel like a prisoner. There were
the faded calicos from Momma’s aprons. I remember Sunday dinners of
roasted beef or country fried chicken, corn on the cob and pink
applesauce. I loved pink applesauce the way Momma made it with
cinnamon dots. Mikie, Laurie and I use to climb the apple tree to gather
apples for the sauce on cool autumn days.
I stitched the strips together with alternating rows of black cotton. I
would make a quilt for Mandy. I would tell my baby of my childhood,
and Momma’s, and Grammy.
Now I know why Grammy was smiling. She didn’t have to make a
quilt from those squares of fabric. She has passed it along.
Another quilter was born.
I wrapped the quilt I had made around my baby girl, “Snuggle sweetly ,
baby. You’re surrounded by stitches of love.”
As we walked back to the car I looked down at the quilt I had bought at
the tag sale in Clifton Forge, Virginia, I wondered about the other fabrics
in the quilt. What were their stories? I wanted to know more about the
lives of the three generations of this family represented in the quilt.. As
Mary Ann Kelly use to say, “Every Quilt Tells a Story“