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James R. Stout

The Contraption

            If you’ve been reading my recent blog entries, then you are aware that I am moving. One of the things that has taken a great deal of time in preparing to move has been packing boxes with all my worldly goods. I must admit that I learned quickly that I have been something of a pack rat over the years. Now, it’s great to keep things that truly mean something to you, but a certain kind of laziness tends to overtake us in our daily lives, and we keep things that we will likely never use or want again. I mean, how many back issues of magazines does one need? Did I really think that I would one day want to read them again? No, I mostly just found it easier to throw the magazine in a box, cabinet, or stacked on bookshelves. That’s just one example. I have gone through everything that I own in the past few weeks and while I am keeping quite a bit of “stuff”, I have literally filled a utility trailer twice (with the help of my brother-in-law) and hauled the stuff off to a landfill. I filled up 5 or 6 lawn & leaf sized bags with clothes alone. I have lost about 70 pounds in the past year or so and that means I had a lot of clothes that were way too big. I won’t be gaining the weight back given my lifestyle changes that are for health reasons, so the clothes needed to go. The worst of it was I had some clothes that were nearly 20 years old. I had this one green long-sleeve shirt that I used to wear quite a bit. It was still hanging there in my closet and it had to go. I have pictures of me wearing that shirt in 1998!

            Having said all of that, I also found some treasures. Oh, I knew that I had them, but they were in the top of a spare closet or stacked in the antique chifforobe that I inherited from my grandfather. When I came upon these certain items a flood of memories came my way. Let me tell you about some of those memories.

            First, let’s go back to some of my earliest memories as a child. It was the late 50’s or perhaps 1960, but I remember my grandmother making me take a nap one afternoon. I don’t know why, but in this particular case I took my nap on her big bed. As I laid there trying to get sleepy my eyes were focused on the darndest thing that I had ever seen up to that point in life. Hanging from the ceiling was some sort of wooden contraption. It was pretty big at that. I made a mental note to ask Grandma about it after my nap. Well, I took my nap and when I woke up that contraption flew out of my consciousness when I spied a 3 Musketeers bar at the foot of bed. But that contraption came back into focus a day or so later.

            I had been playing cowboys and Indians on the front porch and had worked up quite a sweat in my make-believe skirmish. I had both a cowboy holster and cap gun and a bow and arrows. I took turns wiping out either the “pale faces” or the “injunes”. Well, I worked up a powerful thirst and a yearning for a cool fan blowing air in my face. In the house I did go and while on my way to the kitchen to get a cold drink of water (from a jug in the refrigerator with my name written on it) I saw my grandmother sitting in a chair beside her bed and darned if that contraption from the ceiling wasn’t pulled own and she was making something with a lot of material and some kind of white fluffy stuff. I had to ask her what she was doing. She informed me that she was making a new quilt. It had never occurred to me that all of those quilts in her house weren’t store bought. Nope. She made them all and that contraption, which I learned was called a hanging quilt rack, was a big part of how she made them.

            OK, so there’s the background for you. Let’s get back to the last couple of weeks. I started to pack those quilts (also about as many afghans that she made later after she was no longer able to make quilts due to mobility issues) in boxes and my goodness the memories came back. They are all in mint condition, so they appear to be the exact way that they were when I was a child. I must have about 20 quilts. As I would pick up one to put it in a box, I would see a piece of scrap used in the quilt and I would remember the shirt that she made for me made out of that material. She usually made us about 5 shirts for the beginning of the school year and then a few more for Christmas. I was amazed how much material from those shirts were used in several of the quilts. I remembered one in particular because the shirt had been brand new and I had a bad nosebleed that day at school which resulted in blood all over the shirt. My mother was not amused. Thinking of those shirts also brought back the memories of the jeans with the cuffs rolled up so that they would still fit me if I had a “growing spurt”.

            Grandma stopped making quilts when she was about 67. That’s when she took up making afghans. I showed one of the quilts to my sister and she pointed out several scraps from material that Grandma had made dresses for her. Grandma has been gone now for 31 years, but a part of her is still in my life and that part gets to move with me to wherever I land. I’m also thankful to my mother who lovingly took care of those quilts for decades. She had three or four hope chests filled with quilts, afghans, doilies, crocheted potholders, and coasters that my grandmother had made. I believe that I will need to purchase something that will allow me to hang a quilt on a wall in my new place. I can then change out the quilt every month and every time that I see it, I’ll think of my grandmother and mother. Grandparents and parents are the gifts that keep on giving.

Class picture from 2nd Grade. I'm the second from the left in the middle row. I'm wearing one of the

shirts that Grandma made me for school. Note the jeans are cuffed and, typical for an 8 year-old boy, one cuff is crooked.

 

 

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