Quilted with Love
5586 Gumwood Trail
Gilmer, TX 75645
As I sit in my chair, surrounded by my children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren, I am reminded of a life full of happiness and love. Their laughter fills my home and my heart. My latest quilt, a double wedding ring, lies across my lap as I put the finishing touches on the last patch. It has always been a favorite past time of mine, quilting. There is something comforting about making a quilt for those you care about; knowing it will keep them warm on a cold winter’s night. I know while they are wrapped up in its memories, they will remember me, even when I’m not here anymore to tell them my stories and share with them my wisdom of the years long since past.
I know who this last quilt of mine will go to and I pray for her happiness and safety and that God will continue to guide her through life. It is important to me that my family remembers how much I love them and my quilts are a sign of my love. Each quilt I make is made out of fabrics I have used throughout my life, intermingled with new fabric family has brought me to use. I see one of my favorite calico dresses and some material from curtains that once hung in a house I have long since moved out of. I wonder if they will look at my quilts as I do and know how much of me has been sewn into each section.
The scenery outside my kitchen window is significantly different than that of my childhood but it too holds happy memories for me. Growing up in the early 1900’s had its challenges, but it held so many rewards for me as well. I lived through the end of the legendary era of the cowboy, the Great Depression and two World Wars. I saw the country change as the railroads conquered the west with their steel locomotives, read in the newspaper about the first man in space and watched on a black and white television as man walked on the moon. I have seen a lot in my day, more than most can attest to. The years picked up speed as I grew older and the changes around me came even faster. I long for the simpler days when time seemed to go by slower and the world seemed to be right there for the taking. I miss the days when people lived off the land and passed it on to their children; when hard work brought rewards more important than all the money in the world.
The memories flood my mind as my eyes grow heavy. I close them and drift off to a familiar and happy place long, long ago. I’m sixteen again. My auburn hair is being teased by the Texas wind as I struggle to pull it into a bun and pin it in place. My calico dress whips against my legs as I place my bonnet neatly over my head to block the intense morning sun. This is the land I love; the land of my ancestors and it is embedded with history I will forever carry with me, no matter where life takes me.
I see the covered wagon as it sits beneath the tall oak tree at the bottom of the hill. It is exactly as we left it when we stopped to rest for the evening. I arose early to wash the clothes at the nearby creek before we continue our journey west. We have only been traveling for a few days and yet home already seems so far away. My husband is hitching the team to the wagon and securing our belongings. He is meticulous as he checks everything one last time. I admire this about him, his thoroughness. He is a kind and patient man. Still a boy in so many ways and yet advanced for his years. We are both young, really. My ma said we were too young to be married and heading west to start a life for ourselves. But we are full of dreams and ambitions so we smiled and comforted our families as we made our plans to go to New Mexico.
My husband, Earnest, is what most people call a ‘half breed’. I have always despised that term. He has never been half anything in my eyes. To me, he has always been whole: a whole man full of love and compassion, driven to achieve his highest goals. He is devoted to his family and to the Lord. This is why I love him so much. His family is a part of this land in so many ways. His grandfather settled a town that is named for him, just south of Austin in the hill country.
Earnest smiles at me as I near the wagon and make my way inside to finish with the laundry before we head out.
“Bonnie.” He calls to me as I finish hanging our clothes up inside the wagon to dry. “It’s about time to go. Are you ready?”
“Yes, I’m ready.” I assure him, climbing out of the back of the wagon to join him up front.
I secure my foot on one of the spokes of the tall wooden wheel, hold the corner of my skirt and hoist myself up while holding onto the seat. I feel him put his hands around my waist to steady me as I climb. He is tall and strong and his hands are comforting. Without his strength and courage I would feel uneasy about our decision to leave our families. His smile reassures me that we are making the right decision. I look forward to the life we have planned.
We travel on, always looking ahead to the western sky. It holds a promise for us. The soft wind is like a song that inspires and motivates us onward. We watch as the team of horses move, one determined step after the other.
“So what do you think it will be like? Ruidoso, I mean. Do you think it will be anything like home?” I’m hoping he will say something comforting as I force myself to not look back towards the only home I have ever known and the family I’ve left behind.
He squeezes my hand, knowing a part of me is all ready home-sick. He looks at me with his gentle eyes and kind smile.
“It will be perfect. I will build you a good, strong house and we will do well for ourselves out there. I will never let you feel alone or scared. I promise.”
I know he is right, of course, otherwise I never would have agreed to leave my family to head west, leaving the country I love so much. It is exciting and exhilarating at the same time. My ma had taught me well. I knew how to be practical and sensible. I had always been the levelheaded one and this would serve me well in the months and years ahead. Living in the wagon had its challenges but my ma had traveled in a wagon when they first moved to Texas from Arkansas and she had given me advice to help make the journey easier on both Earnest and myself. We had supplies packed in wooden crates on the floor of the wagon and I had arranged our bedding on top, diligently making it as comfortable as possible. I looked forward to the challenges of cooking while on the trail although the first night I had been so tired we had eaten sandwiches prepared by my ma.
It took several weeks to travel to Ruidoso, New Mexico. The time on the trail blessed me with some of my fondest memories of Earnest. We talked about our hopes and dreams and planned our future together. It was a special time that I will cherish always.
Ruidoso was everything I had imagined and more. As we rode into the valley I was in awe over the beauty of the land and I fell in love with it upon our arrival. The mountains created a spectacular backdrop to the valley in which the town sat. Houses were scattered throughout the mountains and along narrow dirt roads. A thick mist hung in the trees in the mornings and the sunsets couldn’t be matched anywhere else on earth. Wildflowers covered the rolling hills, black bear roamed freely and the lakes were crystal clear.
The first several months we lived in our covered wagon while Earnest secured a job in construction and we anticipated the birth of our first child. We built a log home in the mountains, surrounded by tall pine trees, where we welcomed our daughter and six more precious gifts from God. Each year brought new challenging adventures. All were met with great anticipation and unending courage. I watched my children grow up in a land they were free to explore. I missed my family back in Texas but with time the railroad and automobiles made it easier for us to visit each other.
Earnest kept his promise and made a good life for us. He was happiest when he was building houses and working with his hands. We made lifelong friends in Ruidoso and became members of a local church. Our children enjoyed the small school they attended. The years seemed to pick up speed as each one passed by and somewhere along the way I became a grandmother. In my mind I’m still young and my husband is still beside me in that wagon as we look onward to our future.
I slowly awake to the sound of children laughing and playing on the floor beside me. I open my eyes and see my family as they surround me with their love. They come to visit me often, especially now that Earnest is no longer with me on this earth. I long for him but know soon we will be reunited. I’m almost one hundred years old now. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined living this long.
I look down at the quilt in my lap. It is complete now and it holds within itself memories from my childhood and adulthood. Each stitch holds together a piece of my history and I pray it will be passed down from generation to generation. Someday I hope my story is told to those I never will have a chance to meet and that they know I will always be looking down on them, keeping them safe from afar.
My hands shake uncontrollably as I lift a corner of the quilt to examine it. These are not the hands of the young, vibrant girl I used to be. No, they are the hands of a well-seasoned veteran of life. I can proudly say I’m happy for each wrinkle and scar I have acquired over the years. Yes, I have been truly blessed. What a glorious life God has allowed me to live. He gave me seventy-five years with the man I love and a life full of His grace and mercy. A person could not possibly ask for anything more. I’m reminded of my blessings every time I look around me. I promise myself that my family will never forget how much I love them and how grateful I am for each and every one of them.
Quilted with Love / Stormo, 3
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