Moments of Discovery # 6: Whip up Recipes, Stir in Imagination

Clearing out a house after death is a sacred act, yet no amount of holiness assigned to this task can dismiss the back-breaking, shoulder-aching, neck-craning job of sorting, recycling, and passing on to others the possessions of a loved one. Aside from clothing and furniture, Mother left behind the tools of her trade in the kitchen along with beloved books of our childhood, some of which are displayed here.

Prepare Food & Serve It

What remains: A scale on which all of our baby weights were noted and recorded (or ingredients for recipes measured), cooking utensils, ice cream dipper, and juicer, most of which have been passed on to grand-children.

Scale Mom

My best guess is that these were wedding gifts or first (and only) time purchases. I don’t remember another scale, a different set of utensils, a second ice cream dipper or juicer ever passing over the threshold of our home. The throw-away mentality of our current consumer society never made sense to Mother. “You buy good, and keep it – for a lifetime” was her philosophy! Yes, prepare food and serve it, and with love! Her fancy china set, sterling silver flatware, and crystal glasses and goblets all have found homes with her grand-children.

Kitchen Utensils Mom

Daughter-in-law Sarah pleased with Grandma's ice cream scooper
Daughter-in-law Sarah pleased with Grandma’s ice cream scooper

Juicer Mom

Don’t Forget to Stir in Imagination

Page from Arnold and Ann Lobel's book
Illustration from On Market Street by Anita and Arnold Lobel

In previous Moments of Discovery, you may have seen other books from Mother’s bookcase or from the attic.

The book below, a reader, is certainly a keeper, recording media and methods that are becoming obsolete.

Pages from my text book
The Child-Story Reader, copyrights ranging from 1927-1936

And one of my favorites is My Bible Book with verses selected by Janie Walker and pictures by Dean Bryant (Rand McNally and Company, 1946). These words and pictures have been imprinted on my childhood memory as I joined the red-haired boy and blonde-headed girl roaming around gardens and romping through meadows with their pets. It was a perfect world!

My Bible Book_front cover

Aunt Ruthie gave me this book with penciled instructions to read it to my sister Janice, show her the pictures and tell her all about them.

My Bible Book_pre Title page w note_light text_7x8_300

 Ever the teacher, she closes with her sweet lead-in question: “Can you tell what each picture means?” This is probably a Christmas gift or birthday present given to me in 1948.

Puppy dogs, a frog, a snowman, a kite, some birds, squirrels, a herd of cows, and a even a special kitty cat amuse the children as the pages turn with words of wisdom all quoted from scripture.

My Bible Book_Be ye kind_p25-26_8x5_300

Do you have old books in your treasury of keepsakes? Some special utensils for cooking or serving passed down to you from a generation or two ago? We’re all ears!

Coming next: Button, Button, Who’s Got the Button?

Moments of Discovery # 5: Mother’s Quilts

 

Page from On Market Street, Anita & Arnold Lobel
illustration from On Market Street by Anita & Arnold Lobel

Bossler Mennonite Church was the hub of the Longenecker family’s spiritual life and the school beside it, Washington School, the place where the Women’s Sewing Circle fabricated comforters, baby clothing, blankets and quilts to help clothe the needy of the world. Some of these gorgeous quilts are displayed on a previous blog post. You can see and read about them here.

quiltSchoolhouse

Quilt exhibited at the bicentennial of Bossler Mennonite Church
Quilts exhibited at the bicentennial of Bossler Mennonite Church

Even more than quilting I think Mother loved knotting comforters. For her, it was easier to see progress knotting a comforter. She liked the warm fluffy texture, and she could work on it by herself at home.

1995RuthKnottingComforter_small

Last fall, on one of our trips to the attic cleaning out the house after her sudden death, we opened the yellowish, grain-painted blanket chest with turned feet where we knew we would find some of Mother’s prized quilts.

1999_0900_Mother L_holding up white quilt w circles

 Can you identify the design above? I need help with the name of this pattern please!

Crazy Quilt design, 1999
Crazy Quilt design, 1999.  Each of Mother’s grand-children received a quilt. This one now belongs to our son, Joel Beaman.

 

Joanne Hess Siegrist, one of my former students at Lancaster Mennonite School, has published a story in photographs from 1855-1935 entitled Mennonite Women of Lancaster County. In this pictorial overview of Mennonite life from this era, Joanne, who can trace her family back eleven generations, depicts the many facets of Mennonite women’s lives in chapters like these: The Tone of Their Lives, Motherhood and Children, Farm Life and Work, Faith and Family Outings.

Here is an excerpt from her chapter entitled “Quilting and the Arts”

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Mennonite women of Lancaster County spent many hours doing elaborate, colorful needlework. Young women worked especially on their dowries.

 

With a frugality that was part of their spirituality, these women often created handwork out of remnants and half-used materials. They crocheted exquisite lace tablecloths from the cord strings used to tie feed bags. They made hooked rugs using the unworn sections of old winter coats. They designed quilts with fabric from colorful feed bags found in the barn. . . .

 

Mennonite Woman_Quilt_p193

In a photo dated 1948, Joanne showcases Anna Huber Good as she adds tiny stitches to a Grape Vine appliqué quilt. Author Siegrist adds, “Anna quilted all her life; in fact, after rearing eight children, she became even more intent on quilting. Anna got up at 4:00 a.m. and quilted until 6 a.m. Then she made a large breakfast for her husband Daniel and sent him off to his market work. After doing a few cleanup chores, Anna returned to quilting. She quilted all day long until about 9:00 p.m., stopping only for meals.”

Anna’s retirement years were even more productive, making “forty-two quilts for her children.” Amazingly, she charged only 15 cents per yard of quilting thread if she quilted for people outside her family.

Mennonite Women_Quilt_p194_crop_300

Here are four friends quilting in the dining room of Enos and Annie Lefever’s home (1915). Their intent expressions (uh-oh, I see one smiling!) and nimble fingers are caught on camera by Annie’s son Harry, whose photography did not interfere with his membership at Mellinger’s Mennonite Church (Mennonite Women of Lancaster County,194). Just a mere ten years earlier, Mennonite farmer, John Kreider Miller, lost his church membership for running a photography studio (The Lancaster Intelligencer Journal, Friday, May 10, 1996). Photographs, apparently, at the turn of the twentieth century, spoke of pride, a cardinal sin in the Mennonite system of values. (Mennonite Women of Lancaster County, Siegrist)


Amish and Mennonite hand-made quilts are now marketed as a luxury item and often used as decorative wall hangings. There are numerous websites advertising such handiwork for thousands of dollars.

Until recently, the Quilt Museum at the People’s Place in Intercourse, PA exhibited cleverly crafted quilts from all over the United States.

The Mennonite Central Committee, providing aid to the world’s forgotten and neglected, often sponsors quilt sales and auctions beyond Lancaster County borders. Here is a link to one in Ohio.

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Buy Joanne’s book here!

 

Is there quilting in your family history? Has a quilt been bequeathed to you of quilt-essential quality? Are you a quilter?