by Peggy Rice Wright
It was many years before I actually saw the bedspread Iíd always been told existed. The widow of my grandmotherís youngest son had kept it in a trunk for her only child, she said, who had recently died far too young. She had called to let me know she had it. My aunt said she couldnít decide what she would do with it since her daughter was gone. It didnít take me long to decide what I wanted her to do with it: I wanted it to be mine! I wanted it badly! I had nothing of my grandmotherís.
My fatherís mother died more than fifty years ago when I was a small child, but the memory of her is sharp and sweet. Always seemingly old, she was a slight woman whom I never saw without a faded, fragile apron tied securely around her trim waist -- an apron that appeared to have been washed many times on the rub board. Her hair, not really gray, still had a hint of auburn. The severe hairstyle never changed. She wore it smoothed back into a tight bun on top of her head for as long as I knew her. A little stick she called a toothbrush was always discreetly peeking out from one side of her mouth and she chewed it until it was fluffy. It held the ever-present pinch of sweet snuff from the brown bottle she kept hidden. Somehow I was surprised Ma would dip snuff.
Crocheting a bedspread also seemed out of character for her. Doilies maybe, something that wouldnít take much time, but I couldnít imagine her having the time to crochet a whole bedspread. I knew of her hard-working ways as a woman with ten children managing her large household, not one likely to fritter away the time to embroider or crochet. She had borne eleven children; eight boys and two girls survived the hard times.
She picked up the hook and yarn at an advanced age long after her children had grown away, and I faintly remember kneeling down beside her, watching her crochet. Her hands bore the scars of a life of toil. Blue veins were now prominent through the translucent skin. Hands once lovingly comforting her children slowly created sections one stitch at a time of the spread she would join together.
She often sat in the living room in her small eyelet cane rocking chair with the short curved arms to read her Bible, the local newspaper and Life magazines which Molly, their spinster daughter, had carefully edited with eyebrow pencils so the scantily clad women were modestly dressed in matronly ankle-length skirts and blouses with ruffles under their chins. She didnít think it was appropriate at all for Pa to have access to such scandalous womenís pictures. After all, they were church-going people.
A securely locked round-top trunk with dark metal bands was in her bedroom, and no one except her two daughters were admitted access. I was not privileged to see its secret contents even after her death. The bedspread must have been there for safekeeping along with other treasures. Someone said she kept momentos there of her sonsí tours of duty to foreign countries where they were protecting ours.
Now the coveted bedspread, yellowed with age, had been laid out before me. I caressed it for the first time and the memories of my quiet and gentle grandmother swept over me.
But sweat I did! She didnít want me to have that spread. She was toying with me. Trying not to display my hostility, I mentioned with a wave of my hand, if it were money she wanted, I might be able to come up with a little. Mother would have been proud of me. I thought, however, her asking price was quite inflated according to recent visits to antique shops. This was not a good thing to say. I saw the fire in her eyes. I was sure she added Lord knows how much to the price because now she saw the desperation. She could tell right off I wasnít about to leave empty handed. I was hers and so was the spread.
I discovered I wasnít any good at this thing called haggling after all. She told me about the garage sales sheíd been to and how much crocheted bedspreads were bringing in deep East Texas. I had not inherited my motherís poker face and lackadaisical attitude after all. I could not bluff. I prayed I wouldnít beg.
I had a few cousins, but chose not to mention their names, invoking instead my self-appointed status as heir apparent to the bedspread. She was a tough one. I sensed it was highly possible I was about to be outmaneuvered. She said she might want to keep it on her late daughterís bed as an addition to the shrine she had created, but it would be mine when she died. Yeah, I thought. Sure. I knew the odds of that.
Not one to be unprepared, I pulled out all the stops. I went to my vehicle to retrieve two bedspreads I neglected to mention I brought from home. Too late, I realized Mother would have brought in only one at a time. I was desperate. The first spread was carefully folded and returned to its pristine original clear plastic zippered bag with the purchase price, not including tax, highly visible. It was lovely. A pastel palette of petite pink flowers perfectly matched her bedroom. The other one was an elegant custom-made creamy hued spread with a scattering of soft pink and mauve flowers, which seemed to have been frozen in place by a gentle wind. A full gathered skirt draped to the floor. I put each of them on the bed for her approval. The colors were perfect. She said she guessed they were all right. She showed no hint of emotion.
Then she said it. She said, ďI guess you can have it.Ē My grandmotherís bedspread was at long last mine, albeit grudgingly, though it was not yet securely locked in my vehicle on its way home with me. I held it lovingly in my arms and buried my face in it. She insisted I leave her both spreads.
Well, now, Iíve thought about this a lot. Iím not real sure I won this battle of the bedspreads. This ďvictoryĒ was not as sweet as Iíd hoped. The more I mull this over, the less certain I am I have an authentic item here. I left with a bedspread I could never swear was crocheted by my grandmother. There was no certificate of authenticity. There was no one to ask.
After careful inspection, the crocheted spread didnít look all that old. It didnít appear to have ever been laundered in its lifetime. It had never hung on a clothesline. There were no broken threads, no worn spots. In whose trunks had it been stored? Iíll always wonder if it was actually made by my grandmotherís hands. Whatever the answer, my aunt now has two very expensive spreads, and I have a bedspread made at home with loving hands by someone whose identity shall forever remain a mystery.
Peggy Rice Wright put down roots in the small Limestone county town of Mexia, Texas, as soon as she married her newspaperman husband Bob. Defecting from the Baptist church as a bride, she is a member of First United Methodist Church and proudly notes that fellow family tree resident Col. Samuel Doak McMahan established Methodism in Texas in September of 1833 amid the pastoral setting of majestic pine trees not far from St. Augustine, near Nacogdoches, Texas. She was Mexia FUMCís first librarian, was a charter member of the board to establish a pre-school, directed a childrenís choir, was officer of the administrative board, taught childrenís Sunday School classes and sings in the choir.
She is a longtime employee at Mexia ISD and is currently secretary to the counselors at Mexia High School. She is a member of the Jonathan Hardin Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and a charter member of the Limestone County Republican Women.
Proud to a fault of her family, Peggy and Bob have two sons, two daughters-in-law, four grandchildren and two grandpuppies named Buddy and Brook.
Memories of Jody and Josie
The School Bus That Spit Fire
Fluffy Southern Women
Clotheslines, Yellowjackets, and Chewing Tobacco
Shoe Shopping With Luck
Memory Flavored Ice Cream
More Than Singing on Sunday Afternoons
Red-haired Rebel With a Cause
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