January 13, 2020
The subject given to create a story at a Writer’s Club meeting was “What is the oldest thing you have and why do you still have it?” For me it is an old and cherished quilt. It is nothing like today’s quilts which are made using brightly colored material in artistic patterns and mostly stitched using a quilting machine. This quilt is made with muted colors that have been softened with age. The tiny squares are of aged cotton. Some were cut from cotton patterned flour sacks. The stitches that connects the squares together are short and expertly placed just right.
One can only imagine the hours it took seated in a straight wooden chair, making all those tiny stitches with limited light. The quilt top was made by my great-grandmother Ruth (Cook) Niceschwander possibly 120 years ago. Great-grandmother Ruth was a short but stout woman with long gray hair she pulled back into a bun at the back of her neck. She was born in Ohio and came with her family to live in Cloud County, Kan., between Concordia and Jamestown. Here she met and married William Tell Niceschwander, a giant of a man, and a railroad foreman. They eventually moved to western Kansas and lived the rest of their lives in a small sod house. It was in this sod house that she made her quilt tops and quilted them into warm blankets. Ruth taught her daughters how to quilt and it was one of her daughters, my grandmother Daisy, who acquired this quilt top Ruth had made.
Grandmother Daisy continued the art of quilting mostly out of necessity to provide comfort and warmth for her family. Somehow she kept the quilt top in reserve for many years until all of her children were grown and had families of their own.
I remember visiting my grandmother during winter months. Her dining room area was taken up with the wooden quilt frames stretched out. A quilt was pinned around the frames and was being quilted all by hand. I admired the quilt she was working on and envied whoever was to receive it.
The following Christmas at the Heskett family gathering, I was to learn who the owner of that precious quilt was to be. Grandmother Daisy always made sure that every member of her large family had a Christmas gift from her and most were handmade. That Christmas, I was handed a large boot box, carefully wrapped. It was from Grandma Daisy. When I lifted off the lid of the box, I can’t imagine what expression was on my face. There was the quilt that I had admired, all perfectly completed. Grandma quickly explained that I was to receive this quilt because I was her eldest granddaughter. She told all of the family that the quilt top was made by her mother, Ruth. Of course, my aunts and mother helped me pull out the quilt and unfolded to show it to all.
Today, this family keepsake quilt is kept in a specially built quilt cabinet, with glass front and sides. The quilt cabinet is stationed in our living room and joined by other special quilts made by my mother. At least once a day, I find myself looking at those quilts and remembering my great-grandmother, grandmother and mother. I keep and treasure those quilts, remembering those three special women.