I was back in Illinois this past week, helping move my parents into their new, one-bedroom assisted living apartment. They had lived in the same 1919 two-story, four-square home since 1949, so leaving it, my mom’s four outdoor cats, their neighbors, and their daily routine was emotional for all of us. We relieved a small amount of their anxiety by recreating their living room, kitchen, and bedroom with their own furniture, artwork, and collectibles, right down to the family snapshots attached to their refrigerator door.
Back in their house, I slept each night in my room of 18 years, but without my brother in the upper bunk. Mom had encouraged me to take back a few of the many quilts she and my grandmother years earlier had pieced and sewn together, so while there I rummaged through the attic and closets. In the bottom of an old cedar chest at the foot of one bed I found a large, folded quilt with a hand-written letter carefully tucked inside it.
The letter had been written to my grandmother by her Aunt Edith on February 1, 1943:
Well, you have a birthday tomorrow. I forgot it until today. Hope you have a happy one and many more. I am sending you this quilt that my mother pieced in 1919. Its laid around here all these years. Never has been used but is soiled from laying around. Maybe you won’t want it, but knowing it is the last one your Grandmother ever pieced, use it as you see fit, and if it is still there when you are gone, give it to Marcia [my mother, above].
There is no one else I want to have it. If Dwight [her son] was a girl, of course, I would give it to him. I have a feeling I won’t be here too long, and Lord knows what will become of a few things I have cherished. Maybe you better not tell your Aunt Ida, as she asked Mother for this quilt before she died, but what’s the use of me giving it to her? She won’t be here many years either, and you know who will get all her things, and they may not care for anything made by someone they never knew.
I don’t want Vera [her sister] to ever get her hands on any of my things. I know when I am gone she will be here into things, tearing and burning them up.
It’s cold here again today. Snowed yesterday. Maurice is working in the timber and Dwight is at school. We are about as usual. Haven’t had any bad colds yet this winter. Hope we escape them. I am baking bread today.
Write some time,
Your Aunt Edith
The quilt is now here in our home, tucked into yet another cedar chest, along with Aunt Edith’s letter – and a copy of this Little Journey.
Until next Monday,
Document your pieces.