Hand-carved chair backs. (All pictures by Marylin Warner.)

Hand-carved chair backs. (All pictures by Marylin Warner.)

Hand-stitched dish towel.

Hand-stitched dish towel.

The sampler Mom began, and I finished.

The sampler Mom began, and I finished.

Dear Mom,

Let’s build on my assignment from elementary school. I was given the word “Home” to look up in the dictionary, and then I was to ask at least three people what the word meant to them. (For those of you who are wondering what’s going on, “Home is…” was the title of last week’s post.)

Let’s pretend that our assignment word this week is “CREATE.”  The dictionary definition is “…to generate, to bring into being, to shape or forge.”

Instead of interviewing people directly, let’s look at some examples of things created during your life, Mom.  First, in the picture above, is the hand carved chair top from your mother’s dining room set. Grandma’s dining room table and chairs now grace cousin Beth’s house in Georgia, where the “girl cousins” enjoyed our meals when we got together ten days ago.  We’re not sure who did the carving of the ornate faces, but Grandma’s chairs were a source of fascination for all her grandchildren and guests. Why have plain chairs, when you can create conversation pieces and works of art? (I always thought they looked like Old Man Wind blowing up a storm.)

While the cousins were sorting through and dividing the collectibles and keepsakes, we found examples of crocheted and tatted edges on pillow cases and sheets, plus stacks of hand-sewn dish towels. Some of the towels were hand-stitched in ornate details, but I chose the simple-stitch one of a nursery rhyme because of the creative change:  “…and the cup ran away with the…knife?”  Looks like a stitcher’s sense of humor to me!

And remember the cross-stitch sampler of your motto: My Days is Complete… I Heard a Child Laugh. When I moved you and Dad from the house to assisted living, I found the unfinished sampler tucked away for safekeeping. I got matching thread and finished it and had it framed. Now it hangs on the wall for your great-grandchildren to read and know how both of us love to hear children laugh and be happy.

This week when I came to visit you, Mom, I brought a quilt we found among the boxes of quilt pieces and handmade keepsakes. Your mother made this quilt many years ago, and the “girl cousins” send it to you with love, to cuddle beneath as you heal from your hip surgery. When I tucked the quilt around your shoulders, I thought of your “First” quilt that now hangs on a wall in our house. You were in your teens when you hand-stitched twenty different birds on twenty squares of cotton salvaged from your father’s and siblings’ white shirts and blouses. You, Grandma, and some of the aunts hand-pieced the squares with green and pink cloth, and then hand-quilted the entire quilt top to an under-side. You once told me it took you almost a year from start to finish, sewn in the evenings during the fall, winter and spring months. It was too hot to sew in summer.

Based on these and many other examples, I would add this to the definition of “CREATE”: “…to add artistic expression to the making of practical, useful necessities; to leave a uniquely personal signature on even common things.”

Maybe our blog friends will share their definitions and examples of the word “Create.”

While Mom recuperates from hip surgery, she stays warm under a quilt made by her mother.

While Mom recuperates from hip surgery, she stays warm under a quilt made by her mother.

The Bird Quilt, the first quilt Mom made.

The Bird Quilt, the first quilt Mom made.


Filed under art, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren, Quilting projects, sewing, Things to be thankful for

74 responses to “THE WORD IS “CREATE”

  1. juliabarrett

    I admire craftsmen and artisans. The closest in my family is my son who can make a book- paper, printing, cover– all of it from start to finish.
    The carving is wonderful – does look like Old Man Wind.

    • And you create with words, Julia. There are all kinds of creativity; it’s the doing and sharing and reliving through the memories of the creating something that make us appreciate the talent. Your son sounds amazing…and I imagined he inherited a great deal from you.

  2. When I first saw the chair, I saw the face of an old man also. I love the photo of your mother all cozy under the beautiful quilt her mother made. I hope she continues to heal, Marylin.

    My mother is the master of creation, she creates an atmosphere of love and kindness wherever she goes.

  3. I love this post Marylin, it captures a whole lifetime of everyday creativity and you can’t help but think of the woman who spent time lovingly making these things. But what’s also great is the fact that they’ve gone on to have different lives, whether the sampler that you became a part of by finishing it, or the chairs that are now part of another branch of the family.

  4. latinamamapr

    Nothing like the memories and projects we create with our mothers. Thank your for sharing.

    • You’re very welcome. Just remembering some of the things Mom and I made together–even little things, like frying dandelion flowers rolled in corn meal–it all brings back happy and grateful feelings.


    M: You are an inspiration to me and so is your Mom. Having hip surgery is no picnic! Hugs, Betty

    • Bless her heart, Betty, Mom still is uncomfortable even sitting in the recliner to eat, and she thinks if she can just get up to walk, it will all get better. She’s doing the best she can.
      Thanks for the kind words, Betty.

  6. What lovely works of creation. Susan loves to make things that she hands on. I hope they also find receptive hearts and minds that find in them the sort of treasure you have.
    For me creativity is about seeing what might be possible and then making it a reality, even if it turns out different from the imagined.

    • That’s a wonderful slant on creativity, Rod: seeing what might be possible and then making it a reality, even if it turns out different from the imagined. Thanks for sharing your definition!

  7. I have grown up surrounded with hands on creativity. Those in the family that think they didn’t get the creative gene are reminded of their many talents and gifts. Lovely post, Marilyn.

    • Oh, I agree, Lynne, sometimes it does take reminders to reassure those who don’t think they’re creative. My mom always thought that everyone was creative in some way, and the possibility was there and they owed it to themselves to discover it. She often helped others try one thing or another until a light went on and they were excited.

  8. Create–to make something, anything, that causes a pause to look or to see differently and with appreciation.

    The quilts are lovely…meaningful your mother is under the stitches of her own mother…I hope she heals well and feels the love in those stitches of her mother.

  9. The beautiful quilt must be so comforting to your mother! I’ve worn two quilts to shreds, both of them created by grandmothers of mine. I think the impetus to turn scraps into something both beautiful and functional is the epitome of creativity.

    • One of our favorite musicals is QUILTERS, about pioneer women who endured struggles and hardships as they established new homes. After each woman’s story, a huge “piece” of a quilt was added to the others, and the finale was displaying a full quilt that covered the back of the entire stage. Jim and I love quilts, and we have a beautifully framed section of a quilt in our bedroom, and the calligraphy says: “Those who sleep under a quilt, sleep under a blanket of love.”
      Like you, Tracy, I see turning scraps into something beautiful and function is the epitome of creativity.

      • I always have threatened to take up quilting, but I already have too many hobbies.

        I haven’t seen quilters. I’ll have to look for an opportunity. We’re quilt-lovers, too. Ken actually drags me to quilt shows (not the other way around) and he explains all the patterns and techniques to me. There is something about the making of a quilt that imbues it with love. I mean, has anyone ever made a quilt out of bitterness, with a resentful, vindictive spirit?

      • I think you’re right, Tracy. Only in a horror story could a quilt be made with malice, or maybe a story of a jealous sister who steals her sister’s dress before the wedding, and then years later, the disappointed bride finds a quilt made of pieces of her dress. Hmm…

        QUILTERS is a live musical and I don’t think it’s been made into a movie or anything. It appeared for awhile at the Kennedy Center and then had a short Broadway run. Because one of the writers was from Colorado, Jim and I saw it at a return performance, and we loved it. I learned quilting basics from my mother but have never made more than quilt wall hangings.

      • We have a great little performance venue here in Providence, and because it’s so close to New York, we often get live runs of things that aren’t playing in other places. So I’m hoping….

  10. Molly

    All of the women in the family are super creative and talented. I know we owe it to Grandma for instilling the desire to be creative and the patience to encourage it. I am glad she has a quilt from her mommy to help her heal, I know when I don’t feel well, I still want my mommy. 🙂

  11. I am admiring the creativity of frying a dandelion flower rolled in cornmeal.

    • We could only do it when dandelions first appeared (you fry only the blossoms), and we picked them from only the back yard because Mom didn’t allow spraying for weeds in the back yard where her gardens were.
      You wash the blossoms, shake them in a bag of cornmeal with salt, pepper and a little garlic salt, and pan fry/stir them in olive oil. Makes my mouth water to describe it. She and I were the only ones in the family who really liked them, and they were great with a cold Coke!

  12. Your Mum was obviously very creative Marylin and very talented. She must know that when things are made with love, for love that you were her greatest creation.
    I adore the chair back, it reminds me so much of The Green Man or Man of the Forest a sort of Demi-God of the Celts.

    I hope you can see the images from this link,especially a plaque above a brick arch called Green Man Entry.
    xxx Huge Hugs to you xxx

    • The image of the plaque didn’t come through, David, but I’ll take your word that the chair back reminds you of the Green Man or Man of the Forest. I always loved the hand-carved chairs around my grandmother’s table. I think they jump-started my imagination, but my mother laughs and says I already had plenty enough imagination!

  13. I love that you finished what your mother started…keeping the faith

  14. I always remember my tech teacher at high School (wood and metal work) saying to me, “Tommy, yes you are useless at these things, but so are lots of others, you’re creativity will spring forth in other areas and you will dazzle people with your talent, so who cares if the head of the hammer you made keeps falling off, I certainly don’t, so neither should you.” I used to get so angry and frustrated with myself in those classes and then at the end of that school term I won first prize of a book token for my oratory skills in reading (bible passages of all things) to assembly!

    Creativity, is a gift that everyone has, they just have to be patient it will show itself eventually……..

    • Oh, I LOVE these details about your life, Tom! Applause for your high school tech teacher who realized you had numerous other talents, and I wish I could have seen and heard you reading the Bible passages during assembly…and winning first prize! My mother would hug you and say, “See, Tom, you just had to wait for your creativity talents to bloom!”

  15. I think creativity comes from within each and everyone of us and presents itself in a myriad of different ways; whether it’s painting, crafting, writing, baking, gardening, teaching, parenting, playing an instrument – it just requires a little thought outside of the little box we all prefer sometimes to feel safe in.
    I absolutely love the dish towel running with the knife, Marylin, and I’m with David, above – as soon as I saw the carving on the chair, I thought of the Green Man.

    • Okay, now I’m going to have to research the Green Man–you and Tom have made me very curious. And maybe I’ll find out more about the carver of the chairs, too.
      Like you, Jenny, I believe creativity is an essential and natural part of our lives, and there MANY ways we express it. Actually, I can’t think of many things in life that don’t have the potential to be made better by creativity.

  16. Marylin, what a beautiful post! The pictures of your quilts and special creations remind me so much of my dear grandmother! She did embroidery often and her favorite thing to do was little table runners. 🙂
    I love to create special events from scratch, complete with food, small seasonal decorations, you name it. As I get older, I find myself embracing simplicity and still being able to create beautiful things, without so much fuss or anxiety on my part!
    I have left jobs because they did not allow for creativity. To me, the ability to create is an innate gift from God, because truly….He did it so well.
    xo Joanne

    • Beautifully stated, Joanne. It is an innate gift from God, because He did it so well. I love that, and I know my mom would agree wholeheartedly.
      And any job that doesn’t allow for creativity is a job that isn’t what it could be, or should be.

  17. Lovely reminders, Marilyn, of what’s really treasured. Those store-bought items can’t match the love that’s part of the crocheted, knit, embroidered, hand-carved, one-of-a-kind items that family members created for us. (That design on your chair does look like an old man blowing into the wind.) 🙂

    I still have the table cloth my Mom crocheted for me … and a little doll wearing the crocheted dress and hat that Mom made. A baby quilt blanket, stitched together by an Aunt, is still with me even though the “baby” it was made for is now grown with children of her own.

    • Your memories are perfect examples of the lasting effects of handmade gifts, toys, table clothes, and quilts, Judy. When I volunteer at the Thrift House, sorting through donations and preparing them to be displayed for sale, the hardest things to deal with are the handmade gifts that weren’t appreciated. One box, especially, contained a lovely crocheted infant sweater, cap, booties and blanket. The card from “Great-grandma, who loves you very much,” was still inside the box. One of the ladies who was working with me commented that she’d hand-knitted a baby blanket for her niece’s baby, and later learned it was sold at a yard sale for a dollar. She said this generation didn’t appreciate hand-made things. I hope she’s wrong; if she’s right, years from now this generation will have missed out on valuable links of love to ancestors.

      • How sad that those handmade gifts weren’t appreciated. My Mom used to make them and her co-workers lobbied to be the next in line to get one.

        Marilyn, my Mom crocheted an infant sweater, booties and a cap for a granddaughter that she never got to see. Mom died several weeks before. It is an item my daughter treasures. I also kept the crocheted infant sweater, booties and cap I made for my first born. But I had crocheted it so tightly that it might only have fit her the day she came home from the hospital. 🙂

      • Marilyn … the infant sweater, booties and a cap my Mom crocheted were for a GREAT-granddaughter who Mom never got to meet.

  18. I have a couple of pairs of slippers that my Grammie crocheted for me, I am afraid to wear them though since I don’t know how to fix them if they start to fall apart…I remember how she would have outlines of our foot so as to get the correct size for the slippers. What wonderful memories you have with those Items thanks you for sharing.

  19. Cheryl Maberry Blacklidge

    Marylin, your wonderful blog and each of the comments speak of so much creativity and love. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks, Cheryl. You and I both know what it is to be around mothers and relatives and friends who “create” via meals, flowers, thread or yarn…and life. Everything but hats. The hats my mom created made me glad your mother and mine decided to rebel and stop wearing hats on Sundays!

  20. Jane Thorne

    I love this post Marylin. I have a tapestry my Mum made when she was 15. A pair of bootees my Granny knitted and an embroidered pillowcase by my Great Granny, both for my baby brother. A bonnet my Mum made for my daughter, Emily. When I was in labour with Emily, my Mum finished quilting a blanket for her. Em still has that blanket. All created with love in every stitch. Golden family threads that hold us all together. Xx

  21. Marylin, I’m always drawn to art first. It speaks to me like the written word. Love the chair, it does remind me of an old man blowing into the wind. And of course, cross-stitching is my first love. So glad you finished your mom’s lovely piece. And quilts…well you must know I love them! Glad to see your mom draped in one. 🙂

    • What you don’t see, Tracy, is the fluffy blanket beneath the quilt. While Mom liked the feel of the quilt, it didn’t keep her warm enough (even in a very warm room), so we had to wrap her in a blanket first and then put the quilt over it. But we kept saying that this was one of the quilts her mother had made, and her nods and partial smiles sometimes made me think she understood.

  22. As I read this post, I’m sitting on my couch hugging a quilt made for me by one of my best friends. I feel her love through it, just as you must feel your mother’s love whenever you look at that beautiful “child’s laugh” quilt. My mother was creative, too. She would have turned 82 last Friday.

    • There is something about a quilt, Darla, that speaks of love, each stitch an investment in another’s life.
      I’m glad you’re surrounded by the love of a quilt now, this near to what would have been your mother’s 82nd birthday. On anniversaries of important dates connected to those we’ve loved and lost, we all need that quiet time and a quilt to comfort us.

  23. Home is where we have our family. Home is where we felt love , gave love. Home is where we always knew we belong. That during the times we are cold, alone, not feeling well, we have someone who will keep us warm in our hearts. All that, you post showed so beautifully and more . Thanks.

  24. Jim

    Marylin, your readers might appreciate knowing that you, our daughter Molly, and grandkids continue a long history of “creating” things for family and friends. Whether it’s your current project to make personalized microwaveable heating pads filled with rice and fragrant herbs for Christmas gifts, or hand-painted bird houses, or articles of clothing, your creative touch is much appreciated. I love the labels you have for clothing–“A Marylin Warner Original”! And Molly is a master at taking other people’s ‘throw-aways’ and turning them into artsy decorative articles for her and Trevor’s 1881 home. Grace and Gannon never buy cards to give for birthdays or special occasions; they create their own handmade originals. And our house is bedecked with various forms of ‘art’ created by Grace or Gannon specifically for Mor-Mor and Grandpa. Yep, Mary should know that the family’s love for ‘created’ objects is alive and well.

    • And my mother should also know that you’re the supportive, good-natured husband, dad, granddad who patiently puts up with all the creative messes that go with these projects, and then you applaud even the beginners’ efforts! Thanks, honey, for all you do for your family.

  25. Beautiful piece Marilyn, love the quilts and story of “create.” I hope you Mother continues to mend from her hip surgery. Somehow I know that if she understood what you have been doing, she would be very proud of her daughter and the most heart-warming letters always flowing with love.

  26. The quilt around Mother’s knees reminds me the story, The Keeping Quilt. Your mom is a talented artist! I love the dish ran away with the knife:)

    • When the cousins and I were going through all the boxes of hand made dish towels, quilt tops and pieces, etc., I really wished my mom could think beyond the dementia. We aren’t sure exactly who in the family made the “…cup ran away with the …knife” dish towel. I’d like to think my mom did it, but actually her sisters or aunts or friends or even my grandmother could have made it in a joking moment.

  27. Marylin, I am so touched by the love you have for your mother and how you express it. All those handmade articles in our homes, created by those who came before us, testimony of their care and love. I’m reminded of those of my mother’s. I have a number of her cross-stitched pieces, some tucked away as I’m afraid of them falling into disrepair. As I write, I remember her hands constantly moving, crocheting afghans or pieces for the furniture. We had doilies galore.

    • Oh, so did we, Diana. Even when she watched television, which wasn’t more than a few hours a week, my mom was mending or doing cross stitch or finishing a baby blanket for someone’s new baby. She stayed busy–“productive”–and wasn’t often idle. I think it was actually relaxing for her. And now I have dishtowels and doilies and lace-trimmed pillow cases, etc., to share with my daughter, grandchildren and great-nieces, but I don’t think they realize how special these handmade things are.

  28. Daniela

    I can never read any of your posts without been deeply touched by their humanity, warmth and sincerity … thank you -:)!

  29. And thank you, Daniela, for the sweet compliment. I appreciate that.

  30. Such a beautiful post, Marylin. It’s also an answer to prayer in my life. Long story. But that’s one reason why it deeply touches me.

  31. Whatever it was about the post that deeply touched you, L. Marie, and answered a prayer in your life, I’m very glad that it did. Thanks for telling me.

  32. Totally off the topic, Marilyn, but I’m going to do another bloggers’ community late this month, on the theme of “pumpkin party.” I’d like to feature you. Would you consider sending me a link to something you’ve posted or will soon post (related to food, pumpkins and/or community) and I’ll incorporate it in my blog and link back to you. Then you can, if you want, share or repost…

  33. What an amazing tribute and comfort – to travel in time through your family belongings and “recreate” those for your mother through your shared memory – that which she and the rest of the family shared with you when they could. And now you give back to her. To think she is comforted by the quilt her mother made… somehow in her bones this is known. You are creating a living tribute to the memories she gave you across generations. Beautiful.

  34. Pingback: The unexpected year | Harvesting Hecate

  35. My family members every time say that I am wasting
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