Strong Women and Quilts

I joke with my husband that whenever we visit my family, we end up taking home more than we brought with us in the first place. Although we might drop off a few bags of clothing for my sister to peruse, we pack the trunk a few days later with pie plates my mom found in the basement, an old coat no one wears anymore that just might come in handy for us, and a little something of some kind my mom found somewhere for us to use someday. As much as I dislike the bulk of extra stuff, as well as unpacking it after our three-hour ride in the car, I love this exchange of treasured goods, which, when it comes time to pack up and go home, always ends in hugs.

After packing up at the end of our most recent visit, and after the last hugs and the horn blow at the end of the driveway, I peeked into the back seat of our car to take inventory of the extras that made their way into our lives. On the top of the pile, folded neatly, I saw a fifty-year-old baby blanket my grandmother used when my mom only mumbled baby talk, an assortment of doilies passed down through generations of women in my family which we used on the tables at our wedding reception, and two small quilts, the first made by my great grandmother on one side of my mom’s family, the other made by a distant relative of my great grandmother on the other side of my mom’s family.

The quilts, one made of soft yellows and creams, the other a kaleidoscope of colorful diamonds on white, smell old. They look old too, with a few tatters here, a loose thread or two there. Their imperfections, though subtle, show. When folded, one corner pokes out farther than the other three. Some patches are bigger than others. And they look worn, though lovingly, used daily by people whose blood runs through my veins, people who lived their lives and now lie in the earth.

When I look at these quilts I think about my great grandmothers who I had the honor of knowing as a child. I think about their wrinkled hands and knobby knuckles and their polyester dresses that fell unevenly around their knees, allowing glimpses of their silk slips underneath. I think of the scattered patches of fabric on the floor of my great grandmother’s living room on a warm sunny day. I think of the shing-shing-shing of the sewing machine as quilts were given life. I think of their big bosoms and robust laughter. I think of their smiles and the wisdom found in the splintered corners of their eyes.

I wish I could go back in time and watch them create these beautiful quilts. What was happening in their lives then? Who did they love? What did they fear? What were their dreams?

While I will probably never know the answers to these questions, I cherish the quilts my great grandmothers left behind. I love the crocheted blanket my grandmother looped together patch by patch, the knitted throw my mother made for me a few years ago, and the incredible, colorful quilt my little sister made (her first) as a wedding gift for me and my new husband. I cherish them all. 

I love knowing that the women who ushered me into the world, who paved and are paving the way for my own path through womanhood, have left behind tangible expressions of themselves. When I touch the colorful, worn fabric of each creation, I will remember the women whose hands brought them into existence. I will always thank God for the generations of strong women—grandmothers, great grandmothers, my beautiful mother and amazing sister—who have lived before me and with me, who have given me incredible examples to follow and beautiful quilts and creations to pass on.


  1. This is beautiful, SB....I think you need to start writing a book. You have such a gift using words.

  2. Thank you so much, Esther! You're so sweet. I would love to write a book. I'm just not sure what it should be about. I'd love to write little essays about life, but I'd also love to write a novel. I'll definitely get you a copy if it every happens :)


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