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September 27, 2022


Storyteller Mary

Beautiful work, much like telling or writing a tale. <3

Marlis Manley Broadhead

My grandmother--born in 1903--made a checkerboard quilt top--half the squares solid white and the other half comprised of squares made up from four fabrics each. It represented all the dresses she had made for herself and two daughters over the years. She gave the top piece to my mother to have finished. But my mother was killed in a car wreck at 48, and so it came to me. I was back in school getting my MFA, so it rested in a large drawer of fabrics.

Until my 11-year-old daughter found "the scraps" and cut out a pair of shorts--which never got finished because I went a little crazy. Everything got put into a box, and the unfortunate event told and retold over the years. When that daughter became engaged, my step-mother quietly took the too many pieces, saved those that were intact, and put the rest into a canning jar with a ribbon for a wedding present, telling us she was using the recovered pieces with new material to finish it up.

The first color she chose didn't work, so she bought more fabric, And time passed as it does. My parents aged, slowed down, and the quilt-that-never-was got carted off by an I've Got Junk truck after I had hurriedly purged their home for their resettlement into an assisted living apartment half a country away.

I think about those pieces, dresses, people with affection, remorse, and even a little shame. How I wish I could look through those random piles from two lifetimes once more before I hear the truck whoosh to a stop in the driveway, young men jumping out to unceremoniously remove things I mistakenly thought no one would ever care to see again.


I give a quilt history program called "Every Quilt Tells a Story." I ask people to bring quilts they own, whether inherited or a gift or made themselves, and we talk about the age, the design, and of course how the owners came by them. At one meeting two women brought the same quilt -- made from a commercially-produced kit in the 1960's. (Kit quilts are entire genre of the vintage quilt collecting world.)

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