The Ugly Quilt

“Blessed are the children of quiltmakers, for they shall inherit the quilts.”

There is a quilt on my bed, and although it is priceless to me, I doubt it would win a blue ribbon at The WV State Fair. My Grandmother made the quilt for my Father several years ago. Every quilt has a story, and Dad told me the story many times. We laughed predictably because it was a funny story.

Several years ago, my Grandma Hartsog called my Father one day and said, “Jarrell, I have made a quilt and I want you to have it. It is an ugly quilt, but it made me think of you.”

The first time Dad told me this story, I laughed until my stomach ached. “Why did an ugly quilt remind her of you?” I asked Dad as I continued to snicker.

“I don’t know!” Dad replied. “She wouldn’t tell you?” I asked. My Grandmother was a woman of few words, but I couldn’t imagine her saying such a thing. There had to be a good reason she gave my Dad an ugly quilt. He went to his bedroom and brought the quilt out for me to see. While I can’t say it was “ugly”, it probably wasn’t as lovely as most of my Grandmother’s quilts. She made every grandchild a quilt when they married. I remembered her handing me a beautiful baby blue quilt with lovely patterns within the squares. I held it close and said, “I am going to put it in my cedar chest and never use it!” Grandma responded by reaching out and snatching it back. “If you aren’t going to use it, you aren’t going to get it!” She said firmly. I readjusted my plans and promised I would use it on my bed forever. I kept my promise until it was so tattered it deserved a proper retirement in my cedar chest. The truth was, I was probably one of the last Grandchildren to be handed a quilt by Grandma. The younger ones were given one after she was called to heaven.

I am grateful she made the blue quilt with me in mind, and know she had her reasons for giving Dad the “ugly quilt”. My immediate thought when I looked at it was Josheph’s coat of many colors. But the coat of many colors was supposed to be beautiful. The “ugly quilt” is striped, with the colors orange, royal blue, ivory, lime green, baby blue, sage green, yellow and brown. It’s like my Grandma had a lot of scraps left from other quilts and she just mixed up a batch and “Ta Da!” She had a quilt! I am pretty sure the baby blue in the “ugly quilt” was left over from my quilt made years before.

My Dad left this earth and is now with Grandma, my Mother, and lots of other family and friends. He no longer needed the “ugly quilt” on earth. When my siblings asked if there was anything I wanted from Dad’s house, the “ugly quilt” was what I wanted. Over the last few years I have spent more time in bed than I would ever want due to a disease called Multiple Sclerosis. I knew the quilt would be comforting when I am not feeling well. When I told my sisters, they understood and brought the quilt from West Virginia.

A few years ago, my Dad and sisters sat down and listened to audio tapes of my Grandma Hartsog telling the story of her life. My two Uncles, John and Buford, were narrating and it was funny when Grandma would say she didn’t want to tell this story or that one. She was giving my uncles a hard time and it struck us all as hilarious! I guess I never saw such a spunky side of her and it was awesome!

Grandma told many stories of her life both in Western North Carolina and then when the family moved to Sophia, West Virginia. My favorite stories were the ones she told about when she was a little girl. Grandma Hartsog was the oldest of her siblings, and because her Mother was young, she was raised by her maternal Grandparents. I loved to hear stories about her Grandmother and Grandfather Taylor! The stories fascinating me the most were about how they lived and what life was like her on a daily basis.

Grandma explained her Grandparents were not wealthy, but there was always enough and they never went without. She talked the food the grew in the garden and how Grandpa Taylor would hunt for meat. I loved hearing about Grandpa Taylor going bear hunting during the winter months, sometimes not returning for two months. She said he always brought back a couple of bear skins and lots of meat to be cured. I guess bear hunting wasn’t for everyone but Grandpa Taylor was known as a competent bear hunter.

One of the stories I found fascinating was about how they made their own clothes from wool, but Grandma was unfortunately allergic to wool. It didn’t surprise me when she talked about walking three miles to the nearest town to buy cotton for dresses. One of my uncles asked how she got the money to buy the cotton and she said she picked up chestnuts and sold them at the market to have enough money for material. I could just picture my sweet Grandma as a young girl, walking to get cotton and making her own dress. The love she put into the quilts she gave us was the same love she put into everything she made.

Grandma talked about the quilts she learned to make as a young girl, and told how everyone in the family took part in the process. The cotton came from the fields and every stitch was done by hand. The quilts were heavy, which came in handy during the long, cold winter months in the mountains of Western Carolina. She said there were times she remembered waking up in the morning with snow on the quilts! But she said they were always warm and never wanted for anything. Listening to her stories were fascinating and I could tell by the sound of her voice she had fond memories of that time in her life. Her stories gave me more appreciation for the life she had and for the quilts she made.

Like the quilts of her childhood, the “ugly quilt” is heavy and warm. I have thought a lot about it, and I think I know why my Grandma had my Dad in mind when she made the “ugly quilt”. My Dad was anything but simple. He was wise and complex in mind and spirit. But materialistic? Dad was the least materialistic person I have ever known. We always had enough and he saved for rainy days, but he lived within his means and never cared about impressing others. Thinking about this made me realize why my Grandma gave Dad the “ugly quilt”. She knew he didn’t care about how it looked, and she knew he would cherish it as if it won a blue ribbon at the state fair! She was right. He cherished the quilt until he passed. The quilt is now mine, and hopefully it will keep me warm for many years to come. It is the most beautiful quilt in the world.

Author’s notes: The audio tapes of my Grandma Hartsog’s stories are indeed fascinating. When telling the story about my Grandfather Taylor’s bear hunting trips, she speaks on the tape about Grandpa Taylor hunting with a man by the name of “Mr. Crockett.” She explains how Mr. Crockett refused to hunt with just anyone, and only hunted with her Grandpa Taylor because Grandpa was a good bear hunter and could be depended upon. Later, I was telling my husband, Kevin, about the story and he said, “You know my Grandfather’s sister married a Crockett, who was a direct descendent of Davy Crockett.” No, I didn’t know. Looking at the map, it seems very possible Grandpa Taylor went bear hunting with a Crockett, and the connection with the Crockett’s are one in the same. We are Facebook friends with one of Kevin’s Crockett relatives so I will see if he can probably tell us more. I bet my cousins would like to know!

Published by statesville2020

Francie has spent her thirty year career as a licensed family therapist. She is a freelance writer & her work has been published in medical journals, magazines, and newspapers. Francie lives in Statesville, NC with her husband, Kevin, and their two dogs, Gypsy & Bella.

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