Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Minnie Steffens

Quilt Top Made by Minnie Steffens Erskine
Minnie Steffens Erskine made this quilt top and it was given to my grandparents Aldred and Bee Erskine when Minnie passed away. Aldred was Minnie's son. The quilt remained in Bee's possession after her husband Aldred passed away. In 1976 when my grandmother Bee passed away the quilt top was given to my mother Dorothy. Bee's full name was Frances Berniece Hartley.

Minnie and her husband Charles Clarence Erskine lived in Burbank, California, in the same neighborhood as my mother did when she was growing up. Grandma Minnie always saved the chicken legs for her granddaughter Dorothy, who remembers "popping in to see her" grandma Minnie often.

My mother has always wanted to finish the quilt, add the batting and the backing, then the quilting. I'm not sure why the quilt still remains unfinished. Minnie was born on 26 February 1873 in Davenport, Scott Co., Iowa. She was living in Iowa during the 1880 US Census and on 18 November 1890 she was married to Charles Clarence Erskine in Little Falls, Morrison Co., Minnesota. Their first seven children were born in Superior, Douglas Co., Wisconsin, including my grandfather Aldred Erskine. The last three children were born in Fairview, Richland Co., Montana. Three of the ten children died in infancy. Eventually the family settled in California.

The quilt top makes me think about all the unfinished projects I have that are stored in closets and boxes around the house. Some of my finished projects I have taken out of frames, folded them up, and placed them in my cedar chest. Will anyone wonder about my unfinished projects or about my finished projects that are tucked away out-of-sight? I wonder about great-grandma Minnie's quilt top. Was the fabric for each doll taken from scraps that she used to make clothing for her ten children? Or maybe Minnie made clothes for my mother when she was young and the scraps were used to make this quilt top? Minnie's two daughters died before they reached one year of age. Was the quilt started in the hopes of giving it to one of her daughters? Maybe after the loss of both daughters, Evaline Dorothy and Minnie May, my great-grandmother could never bring herself to the point of finishing the quilt. Did the quilt bring all the sad memories of her daughters to the surface?

I will never know the answers to my questions about my great-grandmothers unfinished quilt. The lesson I learn from this is that I should record somewhere the stories about my own unfinished projects. There are reasons why I hang on to the unfinished projects I have stored in boxes and closets. Maybe the reasons for my unfinished projects can be turned into stories about me. Will my great-grandchildren in the future wonder about the stories related to my unfinished projects?

I think everyone might have at least one unfinished project and a story to go with it.

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