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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Family Heirlooms... The Fruit Quilt

Birthday's come but once a year...  although the years seem to be getting shorter.  Happily, this year's birthday celebration lasted for four nights!  How did I calculate this?  It was exactly the number of evenings that I didn't have to decide on, or make, dinner.  This is, perhaps, one of the best gifts I could be given.

On Monday, the last night of this extended celebration, my mother had all ten of us for dinner...  That must be a daunting proposition, don't you think?  I well remember hearing people boast about how many people they were hosting for Thanksgiving or Christmas...  "I am feeding fifteen people!"...  At my house, we start with ten and it just seems to go up and up from there...  But, back to the point.

One of the fun things about visiting my mom's house, aside from the consumption of large amounts of really, really good food that I never make for myself, is the chance to see some of the things that I grew up with and loved.

There's a beautifully carved Victorian dresser that, for years, wouldn't open.  Now, it's been put into perfect shape and sits in the guest room.  I loved that dresser, especially the finely turned medallion that tops the mirror.  To me, it always seemed like such a grand piece of furniture.


Lovely old Victorian dresser.
Marvelous carving...  I was always very
impressed with the fat strawberry at
the top!

I also always loved a certain wooden box, the top inlaid with mother of pearl, that contained bottles for ink, a blue velvet pin cushion and several little compartments, including a secret one.  It always has the same smell, sort of a woodsy perfume smell, and is used to put special little items like greeting cards, movie tickets and the like.  I spent many happy hours taking the little wooden separators out and reconstructing them again.


The secret compartment, which I thought I alone had
discovered, always made me wonder what sorts of
exciting and mysterious things must have been
in this box at one time!

But, perhaps my favorite thing of all is a quilt...  A quilt that my great-grandmother made and that my mom has always had.  It's large enough for a full sized bed and it's made of cool, slightly-yellowed white cotton and trimmed in bright green.  There are at least thirty "baskets" of appliqued fruits, attached to the fabric with tiny stitches and made of the loveliest  and most colorful cotton.  There are fruits that we don't even think that much of today...  tiny redcurrants, each with it's little tail, and tart, green gooseberries.  There are apples and cherries, at least two kinds, bananas with their tropical banana leaves, pineapples, plums, giant grapefruits, oranges and apricots...  it makes me hungry just writing about it!


This quilt is made of the coolest, softest cotton you could
ever find.  Perfect for naps in the summer!

I think my favorite bits are the berries - raspberries, strawberries and blackberries.  The raspberries and blackberries are each carefully embroidered so that you can see each and every tiny segment, and the strawberries are dotted with their diminutive yellow seeds.  It's the sort of thing that can keep a small child's mind occupied for a long, long time...  For example when they wake up early from a nap, as I often did.


I think one of the reasons I love blackberries
so much is because of this quilt!

Does anyone grow red currants anymore?  I think
that they are one of the prettiest fruits around.  They
look like little red rubies...
  
Old-fashioned apricots...  Yum!

Quilts are lovely things.  When properly aged they are soft and cool in the summer - perfect for wrapping up in on a breezy evening, or spreading out on the green grass for a picnic.  I also recall using this particular quilt to make a fort - draping it over two chairs with the sunlight filtering through to light the Technicolor fruits.  Quilts also add a homely touch to any room.  The fabric can be a humble patchwork of scraps, or it can be a carefully designed pattern of precisely cut shapes and sizes.  My mother-in-law makes fabulous quilts, carefully turning all kinds of fabrics into works of art to celebrate a season or a holiday or a baby.

We are lucky to be able to visit our moms and to see some of our favorite things where they ought to be - still with them and in their use and care.  Family heirlooms might be fun to have, but I think they are more fun to look at and admire when they are with the people who shared them with you. 

In our own homes, it's lovely to have the chance to share those things we've been given that have been passed down in our families - pictures, embroidered linens, dishes, silver, furniture - and to remember all the stories associated with them and the people who touched them and loved them before you did.  It's a reminder that we are all just stewards of that which we possess.

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