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Getting back to my Roots

January 19, 2010

As many of you know, I live in beautiful BC.  I was born and raised here.  But my family was originally from Northern Manitoba.  My mother received a calendar of BC images many years ago – full of beautiful flowers and green trees and sunshine – and insisted my father take her there.  They never went back.

Lately, my elderly father has been expressing his interest to visit his old home.  I wonder if that is what happens as you get older, you have these urgent desires to reconnect with long lost loved ones, to re-visit those happy times of childhood.  As my daughterly duty (or maybe it’s something else), I’ve decided that I should go with him.  He won’t go alone, despite the fact that he has many family members that that would take care of him while there.  And my mother, well, she asked me when I suggested to the both of them that I would go with dad, “Why on earth would you want to go there?!?”  It’s obvious that her memories of Manitoba are not the same as my father’s.

I have not been to visit my Manitoba relatives in over 30 years.  I have had no interest, up until now.  However, recently I have re-connected with a cousin who lives not far from where my father grew up.  Well, in Manitoba terms a tw0-hour’s drive is not far.  It turns out my cousin Cathy is a quilter.  I never knew.  I thought I was the only one.

As a very young girl, I remember visiting my grandparent’s house in the summer months, playing in the lake beside their home, trying not to get attacked by the gigantic horseflies that seemed to be everywhere.  I remember family dinners outside on the picnic table, the outhouse that we had to use because my grandparents had no indoor plumbing.  Mostly, I remember sleeping under my grandmother’s quilts.

Nana was a war bride from England.  She grew up with very little, and even though I thought my family was very rich – there was the house by the lake, big family dinners with endless food, neighborhood parties, and lots of laughter with family and friends – Nana always maintained that frugal mentality.  So these utilitarian quilts she made were created from any scrap of fabric she could find, and the batting was more often than not an old woolen blanket.   But there was nothing better as a child than sleeping out on the enclosed summer porch on the daybed with your cousins, curled up under one of Nana’s big quilts with all the crazy colors and fabrics, watching shooting stars fly through the night sky.

I envy Cathy.  She remembers sitting with Nana, watching her stitching and mending clothes at the old treadle sewing machine (power came from a generator at Nana’s house, and only at night).  Cathy inherited that sewing machine when my grandmother died.  Nana taught Cathy to knit and crochet.  And she obviously inherited Nana’s knack for quilting.

So, when Cathy contacted me and told me she, too, was a quilter, I began to think about Manitoba – and taking a trip out there. A pilgrimage of sorts, I guess you would call it.  A quest to find my own roots, my quilting roots.  To meet up with Cathy, because not only are we kin, but kindred souls.  And to find out more about Nana, her life in the wild woods of Northern Manitoba, and how I – the far away granddaughter who never really knew her – came to inherit one of her most treasured hobbies.

Cathy tells me that some of Nana’s quilts are still in the family, that one of my aunts may have something that I could bring home.

A quilt from my Nana would be the richest treasure I own.

And those wonderful memories of falling asleep under a quilt made with love.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2010 5:27 pm

    YES, you must go and return with a quilt of your Nana’s!!

  2. January 19, 2010 6:39 pm

    Sounds fabulous Heather! Enjoy your trip and hopefully you will come back with a treasure!

  3. January 19, 2010 8:07 pm

    Oh, yes.. this looks like one of those opportunities that will be treasured for a lifetime!! I’d say, go enjoy this adventure and make your own impressions.

  4. January 20, 2010 3:41 am

    That would definitely be a trip you would love.
    I think you would come back with wonderful memories and inspirations for future designs.


  5. January 20, 2010 2:27 pm

    Sounds like a fabulous trip.

  6. January 20, 2010 3:27 pm

    What a beautifully written post – thanks for a very pleasurable read.

  7. Colleen permalink
    January 21, 2010 4:55 am

    When I was about 24, my grandmother said she would like to visit home (which was Saskatchewan). My mom and I took her there. We drove around to visit all her friends and relatives. We took her out to the farm where her father had homesteaded (and saw the tiny house they had lived in with 6 kids). I took my cross-stitching and spent time stitching while she visited, but still heard plenty of stories of the “old days”.
    Being 24, I didn’t appreciate how much the trip meant to her. But it turned out to be the last time she saw any of those people – her health took a turn for the worse soon after. So, I am glad I was able to help her with her pilgramage.


  8. January 21, 2010 11:23 pm

    What a great post — I love any post about grandmas and the stuff they make for their family.

    I hope you have a lovely trip!

  9. January 23, 2010 11:05 pm

    Hi Heather, what a great post. YES definitely take the time to go back home to your roots and get to know them again…I loved my grandma dearly, I didn’t know she quilted when I was young because I guess she didn’t have to anymore being the 2nd generation that I was…but she did and I’m grateful to be quilting many years after her time. I miss her dearly.
    Have a safe journey and keep us posted!


  1. Re-tracing My Roots « Quilter's Connection Blog

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