Antiques of years past are blessings of today Print
Grand Mom
Thursday, Mar. 27, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

It’s hard for me to believe it now, but in my younger years I cared nothing about antiques. I foolishly figured that anyone who furnished a home with them simply couldn’t afford new stuff.

Now, although I still don’t have them in my home, I find myself fascinated by anything with a “history.”

I can’t wait each week to watch public television’s Antiques Roadshow. I guess you could say I didn’t care for antiques until I became one.

Sharing ‘antiques’

This idea was brought home to me recently when my eldest, Rob, called from the east coast and made a strange request.

His eldest son, Andy, and his wife Alexsondra are expecting their first child next month, a girl. The proud grandparents are planning to send them the baby quilt that I sent to them 35 years ago to be used for Andy.

Now, mind you, this was a quilt originally intended for Andy’s daddy, Robbie, 65 years ago. It has now officially become an heirloom, thanks to Rob’s wife, Lee, who cherished and lovingly cared for it through their three children.

Now Rob was asking that I write the story of the quilt: how it came about and the ladies (God rest their souls) who made it.

The heirloom’s history

It was 1948. Bob and I had been married a year and were expecting our first child in November.

We were leaving our hometown and our families in Aurora, Ill., in September for Bob to finish his degree at St. John’s University in Minnesota.

My oldest sister, Ione, threw a baby shower for us before we left, during which each of the guests was given a quilt block stamped with a cute little baby animal to embroider.

She supplied the hoops, floss, scissors, needles, etc., as well as a colored block on which to applique the finished work.

I can still remember the ease with which the grandmas and mothers and aunts attacked the project, and the fumbling fingers of the younger ones like Mary Lou and myself.

The result was that I ended up with a box of assorted blocks in varying degrees of completion. And all that sewing, stuffing, quilting, still lay ahead.

Traveled with the family

We moved that box of quilt parts with us through seven more homes and nine more babies.

Every time I opened the cedar chest I heard the little voices of those animals crying out to me: “Help! Get us out of here. Where’s that baby we were promised?”

Finally, Robbie, the baby for whom it was intended, was married.

When he and Lee were expecting their first child, I knew it was the perfect time to finish the quilt. I was teaching at the junior high at that time, and one of the staff was doing a lot of quilting. She agreed to take on the project. At last Robbie’s quilt would be finished for Rob’s son.

Moving on

Now, 35 years later, I was excited by Rob’s request that I write the story of the quilt to accompany the quilt itself.

It meant digging through old photographs and ancestry records, but in the process I acquired a whole new depth of appreciation for my family:

  • My sister Ione who helped support our family during the Depression;
  • My sister Grace whose sunny disposition brought her through crippling years and a husband returned from war mentally ill;
  • My mother, the consummate dedicated homemaker with her dimpled smile;
  • My grandmother who was widowed with two daughters at the age of 27 when her fire-fighter husband lost his life in the line of duty;
  • Bob’s grandmother who was widowed with six children, supported them by selling insurance, and then raised five grandchildren when two of her daughters died in their 20s.

She walked to Mass every day of her life — even into her old age. When neighbors would call out to offer her a ride, she refused. When they asked her to pray for them, she replied with a twinkle, “I pray for all the sinners.”

Reconnecting with family

I have spent hours and hours in the past few weeks searching for pictures to help tell the story of these remarkable women. In the process I have become rededicated to my wonderful heritage and current family.

With the ease of computer self-publishing today, my story will be bound in a book form and presented to my new great-granddaughter, complete with photos of those strong women who created the quilt for her grandpa Rob 65 years ago.

They are sure to be looking down smiling on and blessing this latest little Fixmer. I may not see her because they live in California, but she will be my 13th great-grandchild. My 12th, my adorable little Gabrielle, was born in October and lives in town. I see her most Sundays at Mass.

These are the blessings of old age. They are the reason my first and last prayer of each day is, “Thank you, Lord, for the GIFT of OLD AGE.”

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