My great-grandmother started this quilt when she was 94 years old. It was her first time to use an electric sewing machine, her eyes were weary, and the quilt is very poorly sewn, and was unfinished. My mother handed it to me, and I asked my quilt guild friends at one time, could it be rescued? Their answer was, only keep it if it has memories for you. I’ve finally hemmed the border and yarn tied it, nothing of beauty, but useable. Quilters have many homilies about working on quilts, a lot of nostalgia induced from working with saved scraps of material, parts of your children’s clothing, Aunt Elsie’s wedding veil or a favorite blouse or dress. As I worked some magic crept in. I thought of the few encounters I had with her. She spoke a jumble of French mixed in with her English. I could see her beautiful smile when she picked up my older sister’s first child, and hugged her. She would touch my cheeks with soft, soft hands. I traced her work closely with my hands and thought about her. It crossed my mind that she touched this quilt, handled it, and it has never been washed. Could a person feel the DNA from a past great-grandmother? Silly, I suppose but I got emotionally involved with this homely quilt.
My mother’s family was French. When she did an extensive genealogy, she found out that there was some American Indian blood in her family, which explained the hawk nosed Indian features of some of my uncles.
Speaking of features, when I was growing up, my dad used to call me his “little Mongolian” because I had very slanted, Asian looking eyes. One of my brothers and my oldest daughter have that same feature, except, as we aged, our eyes have become more occidental.
Now, a genealogist I know, red-haired and blue-eyed, had serious burns and went to a plastic surgeon. He told her, I see you have Asian or African background from the way your scars rope.
She told him it couldn’t be, she had traced her ancestry into the 1600’s and had a clear view of who she was.
Segue forward to DNA ancestry testing which is very popular and affordable right now. The plastic surgeon was right. She knew there was a family story that the grandson of Genghis Kahn, Kublai Khan had invaded their Polish village in the 1200’s. From the British Royal Museum, she got a map of Khan’s conquests and sure enough, their village of Besko was invaded. Kahn pillaged and burned his way across much of Asia and Europe, killing the men and impregnating as many women as he could. They say now that one out of 200 men are related to Kahn. Hmm! Interesting. Maybe my Dad knew something I didn’t and I could be related to Genghis Kahn. Guess it is time to get a DNA test.
See what can happen to you when you connect with the past through an old quilt?