Through the Looking Glass: Carrying on a legacy

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When I was a little girl, I can remember my grandmother setting up a quilting frame in her living room to hand quilt beautiful quilts to give as gifts for weddings and Christmas. I loved laying underneath the frame and watching the design take shape as she and her friends worked for hours on end with aching backs putting so much effort into such a thoughtful gift. Grandma taught me how to quilt and I made my first quilt when I was about 10 years old, with the help of my childhood friend, Freda Patrick. It was a baby blanket out of denim and bandanas for Ray and Debbie Anderson’s daughter, Liz Ellis.

Over the years I have made many different quilts as gifts. Each time I make a quilt for someone new, my brother, David, reminds me that I have never made a quilt for him. I decided this summer that this would be the year that he gets a quilt for Christmas, but life got busy and I wasn’t able to put a quilt together from scratch for him so I decided to do the next best thing. I found a partially finished quilt on eBay and set out to finish it. It turned out better than I expected, even if it wasn’t done by Christmas and he got a box of quilt pieces and a promise that it would one day magically turn into a quilt. That quilt isn’t the subject of this week’s column though.

For years I have wanted a quilt that I have no emotional attachment to. A quilt that I haven’t spent hours and hours working on so that I could use it to watch fireworks or have a picnic on and not be upset that something I worked so hard to make was being trampled underfoot. I found the perfect project while I was shopping on eBay! It was a quilt top that was definitely not my style, had been made several decades ago, and I thought I would have zero trouble laying this quilt on the ground. If it got a few grass stains, that was fine with me because I was not getting emotionally invested in this project.

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This quilt top stayed in a pile in my craft area for several months until this weekend when I decided I was going to finish it. I planned to add some more rows to it to make it bigger, and I dragged out the ironing board to start ironing and see what I was working with. This is when my plans took a drastic change.

As I was ironing, I realized that this entire quilt top had been meticulously hand pieced together. This wasn’t something that was quickly sewn together in a few hours of spare time on a sewing machine, someone had taken the time to sew over 100 five-inch squares together to make this quilt. I imagined an elderly lady sewing to pass the time as she rocked in her rocking chair. I don’t know why she didn’t finish this project. Maybe she went to a nursing home, her eyesight could have gotten too bad to finish it, or maybe she planned to finish it but was called home to Heaven. Whatever the reason, this quilt ended up unappreciated, for sale on eBay with a lackluster description, and had found its way into my home.

Once I realized how much effort had gone into this quilt, my conscience would not let me use it for what I had originally intended. How could I take someone else’s hard work and not see it through? What kind of an inconsiderate person could trample on something that had been made with so much obvious effort? This had become a joint project, much like the first quilt I ever made, but this time I was sewing with a stranger from the past.

As I worked to finish this quilt, I couldn’t help but think about how this quilt is a lot like our beloved Carthage Press. We are picking up where someone else has left off. Someone else has put their heart and soul into making this the best paper they could make and now that it is in our hands, we have a responsibility to continue their hard work and build on it with our own efforts. We may not know all of the people who have put their heart and soul into Southwest Missouri’s Oldest Newspaper, but we are working together toward a common end goal to deliver the best paper we know how. Like those who made the Press great in the past, we love this community, and will keep working hard to carry on the legacy that they started while looking toward the future.

Brandi Ensor is a lifelong Carthage resident. She is adamantly single, spoils her nieces and nephews as much as possible, and loves camping and boating with her 16-year-old son, Johnathan.   

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