I was in college when my Great-Grandmother died. She had not recognized anyone for over a year, and she was spending her last days in a nursing home in Maquoketa, IA. But the last time I saw her she sat up and said “There’s my college boy”! I will never forget that moment. Her name is Beulah Mae (Hutchins) Templeton, and she was a wonderful woman. Sadly, I did not understand just how wonderful she was until she was gone. But this isn’t a sad story.
Beulah Mae Hutchins was born in 1901. In 1921, she married Allie Russell Templeton. They spent their entire lives in Maquoketa, IA. They survived the great depression with the love and help of friends and neighbors. My great-grandfather passed many years before her. She died in late November of 1987. In some ways though, I think maybe she is still watching over me.
My grandfather’s mother on my mother’s side, she spent many of her days making pies from scratch and canning jams and jellies. The jams and jellies were made from fresh fruits and berries, often picked fresh from the areas around Maquoketa. I can still smell the elderberries boiling in her kitchen, and taste the sweet tangy strawberry-rhubarb pie that was my favorite as a child.
She also made quilts, comforters she called them, but they were quilts made from the patches of fabric that she had collected for so many years. One year, for my birthday, she gave me a quilt. I didn’t think of it as an heirloom at the time, but it sure is a nice quilt. Over the years I would receive a couple more quilts from her, each one unique and precious.
One day, several years after she had passed, I was reading in bed on an especially cold night. I decided to pull out one of the quilts to help keep me warm. I found myself looking at all the patches on the quilts. Then it happened.
I realized that the hundreds of patches that she had sewn together were not pieces of fabric that she purchased from a fabric store for the purpose of making quilts. These disparate and uniquely beautiful pieces of fabric were little bits of history. My family history. There were pieces of my grandfather’s pants from childhood, pillows that the stuffing fell out of, shirts that either went out of style or were no longer viable as shirts and even the pocket from a pair of jeans. There were so many pieces, so many bits of history. Every piece had a story, and every story was about me, my family and my world.
When she gave me the first quilt, I thought I must have been her favorite. While this may very well have been true, I came to find that she had a closet we later called the “quilt closet”. It was full of the quilts she had made over the years. There must have been 40 of them in that closet.
When I think about the metaphor of sewing together these individual patches of beauty, I can’t help but draw a comparison to the world of Associated Content, and the brilliant tapestry we have made from our own disparate pieces of fabric. We are creating a history, a story and a world of our own. And this world is beautiful.
I knew my great-grandmother pretty well, but I learned a lot more about her in the years after her passing. My great-grandmother was not just the baker of pies, the maker of jams and jellies, nor was she just the cool old lady who lived through the depression. She was pure love, in its truest form. She was incredible, and I miss her.