The Quilter's Legacy

Some of the most poignant truth about life comes from novels, and that truth can have deep relevance for life writing, about our own life and others. Although I am not a quilter myself, I am attracted to the art, and recently became hooked on The Elm Creek Quilts series of novels by Jennifer Chiaverini. I just finished reading The Quilter’s Legacy, and a short passage on the final pages rings so true as it sums up the heart of life writing:
"Sylvia looked up from the guide, her gaze fixed on the New York Beauty quilt, but her thoughts far away. Whoever this Amelia Langley Davis was, she must have known Sylvia's mother. The details from her journal could not possibly have referred to any family but the Bergstroms. But if she was such a “dear friend,” why had Sylvia's mother never mentioned her—or had she, and had Sylvia carelessly allowed the stories to pass by unheard?

Her mother had confided little about her life before coming to Elm Creek Manor—but Amelia Langley Davis had also lived and worked in New York. Could she have been Sylvia's mother's nanny? Could she have been that distant relative or family friend who had taught her to quilt?

Grief came over Sylvia, for the stories lost, for those pieces of her mother's life she would never know. Now only her quilts remained, silent and steadfast testaments to the woman she had been.

And yet one other part of her legacy remained: Sylvia herself, and all that she recalled, and all that she had yet to discover.

Gazing at the quilt that had so long eluded her, Sylvia resolved to gather the precious scraps of her mother's history and piece them together until a pattern emerged, until she understood as well as any daughter could the choices her mother had made. She had no daughter to pass those stories along to, but she had Sarah, and she had Andrew’s children, and among them she would surely find one who would listen, so that her mother’s memory would endure.

She would begin by setting the record straight."
I feel Sylvia’s resolve as deeply as if she were a flesh and blood person. I also wonder about some of my female ancestors. I am intent on gathering precious scraps of their history and piecing them together with what I do know and remember, to create a historical legacy for my generations to come. Those women are our roots from which our current strength and being emerges. I honor the sacrifices and tribulations their lives required and the strength those experiences developed. I want their memories to live.

If you’ve already begun writing your own stories, you may take as much heart as I do from realizing that you are sparing your descendants from the need to solve these mysteries.

Write now: an overview of a parent or grandparent whose memory you want to keep alive. Get the basic facts recorded, then go back at your leisure and fill in the details and breath life into the memory with fully developed stories. Make that person as real for your descendants as she or he was for you.

Write on,

Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal

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