November 14, 2009

Quilted Memories

My in-laws have often talked about the Mennonite relief sale in Enid, but neither I nor my husband had ever gone. What a treat it was! With the sweet smell of fresh kettle popcorn wafting through the air, the sing song sound of the auctioneer, the "Yip!" of the ring men, the distinguished Amish visitors, and the vision of beautiful quilts, there was nothing to disappoint. The relief sale consists of food and product vendors with the highlight of the event being the quilt and craft auction. All of the proceeds go to the Mennonite relief projects. My favorite parts of the sale included: the quilt auction (we saw one auctioned off for $6200!), watching my husband bid on and win several items we wanted, eating the homemade ice cream sold by the Amish community, and watching them make it as well, and last but not least, was the surprise from my in-laws, Jack and Janice.

Before the auction starts, the quilts are on display for viewing. As we walked up and down the aisles looking at all the beautiful quilts, my eye settled on one. I tried not to be too interested in the quilts because I knew I couldn't up the money needed to bid on one. But there was one particular quilt that caught my attention. It was hand quilted and made from old seed sacks from the 1930's and 1940's. It had a wonderful story with it that tells of how an elderly man donated his wife's quilting materials to the Mennonites when he went into the nursing home. His wife had previously died, and he wanted her things to go to the Mennonites because they had assisted him at a difficult time in his past. After a severe storm hit the old man's town one year, the Mennonites had helped him clean up the debris in his field so he could harvest his wheat. He hadn't forgotten their generosity. This quilt that I was now looking at was made from the quilting items he had donated. I had been watching the quilt auction for some time when I took a break to get something to eat. While I was away, eating a bowl of chili, the "seed sack" quilt came up for bid. I had missed it. Although I knew I couldn't bid on it I had wanted to see it auctioned off. I asked my mother-in-law what it had sold for and she told me. It was definitely more than I could have paid. When things began to wind down, and the auction came to a close, Jack and Janice went to check out and get the items they had bid on. After they were paid up and had picked up their items, they came over to where my sister-in-law and I were sitting. Handing each of us a brand new quilt, they announced "Merry Christmas!" I was stunned! There in front of me was the seed sack quilt, now my seed sack quilt! While I had been away eating chili, they were bidding on the quilt for me! Tears came to my eyes as the surprise and generosity overwhelmed me. That afternoon on the way home from the sale, I read aloud the story of the old man who donated his wife's quilting items to the Mennonites and I cried all over again. It was so touching to hear the story, to know that these materials were 70 to 80 years old and to know that the memory of this little old man's wife was living on because he was generous enough to donate her things. The money used to buy the quilt will turn around and help more people through the Mennonite relief program, just as the old man had been helped.

On the way home from the auction we decided to take a different route home and make a special stop along the way. When my husband and I were married our wedding was in a small country church out in the middle of the country. The church was actually a one-room school house built in the 1800's. This last year, the church was destroyed in one of Oklahoma's fierce tornadoes. It was rebuilt, and although nice, not the same because it was now new and without its previous character. The church sign that stood in the front lawn had been salvaged from the storm debris and was back in its place when we pulled up to the church for this special visit on the way home from the relief sale. The pictures you see here are of me standing outside the church with my new quilt. The cows you see have special meaning to me as well because there were cows (who knows, maybe these cows) present at our wedding. That's a story for another time; maybe I'll tell it on December 18th which will be my 10 year anniversary!

For information on the Mennonite relief projects you can visit the Mennonite Central Committee website.

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