Sunday, April 14, 2019

More Poetry from Sweetheart Pillows

In 2011 my book Sweetheart & Mother Pillows was published by Schiffer Publishing, Ltd. The other day, in going through my files, I found a few poems that were printed on some pillow covers that I would like to share with you today. These particular poems were not included in the book.

The first one is from Old Round Tower, Fort Snelling, MINN. It shows the image of a World War II infantryman, a tank, anti-aircraft, and a flying fortress. The poem is dedicated to "Sweetheart" and reads:  "Until you and I shall meet again/ Sweet thoughts of love to you I send/ And though I am so far away remembering/you day-by-day/ May all my blessings be with you/ Your sweetheart always true."

Another pillow cover is from World War II and has a blue background with 6 red roses and one bud and green leaves. The "Sweetheart" poem states:  "The hours I've spent with you, dear, /Are the happiest I've known. My happiest hopes and dreams are those/ I've shared with you alone / And as I wish you every joy.../ I'm looking forward, too / To all the future joy I'll find/ When I return to you."

Also, I saved the words from a WWI pillow pouch that shows three Doughboys carrying an American flag, Lady Columbia holding up a wreath and features a poem with the heading "Forget Me Not." It says, "O East or West/ it's home that's best./ The saying's surely True./ For when my thoughts would seek their rest, / They all come home to you."

Souvenir de France pillow cover that I acquired after publication of the book.
This shows soldiers marching through the Arc de Triomphe in Paris and is from WWI.

My book features hundreds of poems that appear on military pillow covers and pillow pouches that were sent home to loved ones, usually when military personnel was deploying overseas to battle areas, especially during World War II. Not all pillow covers featured poems; some just name the military base of origin.

I was just re-visiting my book in preparation for a presentation I am giving this week on the topic. I cannot help but be impressed by my own work and the photographs of pillow covers (and a quilt) taken by my husband for the book. It was a lot of work! Captions are very detailed and I researched every military base named on the pillow covers. The book serves as an historical document, a price guide and a care guide for these specialized vintage and antique items from World War I and II and the Civilian Conservation Camps. I am happy to have written this unique book on an obscure topic that most Americans today are not at all familiar.

Patricia Cummings

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Gift of Redwork

I am so happy to have just completed a small quilt based on a quilt block done in Redwork by my friend in Germany. Tamara Shpolyanska decided to take the photo I sent to her which depicts my husband Jim and I wearing Civil War costumes and turn it into an embroidered piece. We had dressed up in these clothes while giving a presentation about Civil War quilts in August 2011 to a local historical society. By Christmas, we decided to don the garments again to take a "selfie" in front of our Christmas tree to send as the front of our Christmas cards that year. It is from that card that Tamara got the idea to embroider us. She has been a big fan of Redwork and enjoyed my articles in The Quilter magazine and the book(s) I wrote on the subject.

I layered the quilt block, hand-quilted the block, and added borders which are tied. Of course, I added a sleeve for hanging, as well as a quilt label which gives credit to Tamara for the Redwork and myself for the finishing of the piece, the place(s) where this object was made, and the date it was finished. I am very grateful to Tamara for this gift!

Jim Cummings and Pat Cummings dressed in Civil War costumes

The original photo from which Tamara worked

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

The Wall

For those who pay attention to the latest cause and effect of government policies, the proposed border wall is the topic of conversation. To some who live in border states on the border between Mexico and the United States, a wall would be an answer to a dream, that dream being the keeping out of illegal immigrants that flock to their communities needing food, shelter, medical care, and education for their children. Others who look at the cost of a wall that would stretch across the total border (an estimated $50 to 60 billion dollars in all) see it as a foolish exercise because a wall can so easily be breached by tunneling under it, climbing over it, or (in the instance of steel slats) cutting through it.

We have to ask ourselves what would be the goal of the wall. It is clear that it could keep some immigrants out. As far as controlling drug traffic, it would be ineffectual as most drugs come through legal ports of entry, by land, sea and even by air. Most of the fentanyl is being flown in by China, for example.

The president is portraying asylum seekers from Central America as murderous thugs, rapists, terrorists, and other lawbreakers. In reality, crime by illegal immigrants is statistically much, much lower than the general population. For the most part, the individuals coming to the border are arriving with their children and it is true than many of the women have been assaulted or raped on the perilous journey north, seeking the promise of a better life only to find no such "promise" in place.

Many on the left have said that the Statue of Liberty is "weeping" over current immigration policies such as the inhumane separation of children from their parents. In essence, the tent cities are making a lot of money for those who administer them. Word is that in some cases caretakers are abusing the small children in their charge. I am wondering if those caretakers even speak a modicum of Spanish? In two instances, sadly, two children have died of causes potentially linked to lack of water and nutrition and care when they suddenly got very sick.

The president says that he is all for immigration but the policies of his administration say something entirely different. He has also made the remark of not wanting immigrants from "sh*thole countries" and only wanting new citizens who are "smart" and can contribute to fields like technology. So, I guess he is for selective immigration or what he calls "merit" immigration.

This is all part of his "America First" policy, a thought that had its roots in the 1880s Republican party and led to isolationism which just about kept us out of World War I. Isolationism is based on fear of "the other." Some have called the president a "racist" because the people being targeted are non-Caucasians.

Whether one agrees with the president's thoughts or not, it is clear to me that a wall across the entire southern border is not a feasible answer. With steel slats that can easily be cut with tools from Home Depot, it does not seem like such a bright idea after all. And then, there is the question of eminent domain:  the usurpation of lands that are privately-owned along the border. Some people do not want to sell, at any cost, and have their land divided permanently by an obstructive wall.

There is a lot to think about. Immigration and "the Wall" are thorny subjects and both have now indirectly affected hundreds of thousands of federal workers who are not being paid during this government shutdown. The president has threatened to declare a National Emergency. The problem is that while there is a humanitarian crisis involving people, there is no real "emergency." If anything, immigration numbers are way down from even 10 years ago. This is a manufactured crisis!

I hope that the politicians can figure out what to do. Meanwhile, while all this is in limbo, many people are being hurt while the president tries to bully others just so he can complete his ill-founded campaign promise. The result is chaos and disruption to the lives of many. It is a sad day when people who are mandated to work without pay have to resort to getting their food from soup kitchens and charitable pantries. Let's hope this mayhem can be resolved soon. May God bless America!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Christmas Seasons of Yore

Christmas will be here again in less than two weeks. Holiday shoppers are scrambling about, gathering gifts to be presented on that special day. My mother often left shopping until the last minute. I recall her bringing me with her to downtown Manchester (NH) on Christmas Eve to buy last minute gifts, sometimes at great mark-down prices. She had to be economical as she had so many people to remember, including some of my aunts and uncles. One time she got so distracted, she laid down her wallet on top of some dry goods and forgot it there. Luckily, someone retrieved it and gave it to store management, so she did get it back!

At that time, downtown Manchester was a hub of shopping opportunities. There was Leavitt's, Pariseau's and Hills for fine clothing, Lemay Jewelers, and Pandora Mills for great sweaters and knit goods. There was also a high end hardware store that sold kitchen goods (crystal, china, etc.) of great quality. It was the era before the malls that have taken over in recent years but which now seem to be in decline. Elm Street (the main street in downtown Manchester) attracted busloads of shoppers!

I enjoyed the shared excitement of finding gifts for everyone on her list. On one occasion, we ran into one of my maiden aunts who was in a frenzy trying to do some of her last minute shopping, too.

At home we always had a fresh tree nicely decorated with tin ornaments and shiny balls, garlands, lights and lots of tinsel! My mother has a plastic set consisting of a white sleigh, a Santa figure, and reindeer, attached to each other by ribbon. She displayed that on the fireplace mantel. There was a stocking for each "kid" - four of us in all and I loved getting stocking gifts that would continue to amuse me all the day. I especially liked plastic puzzles that featured separate tiles that moved around would make a "picture" of a giraffe or something. I also remember a clown that had bendable arms and legs that could be re-positioned.

Of course, food was a big part of the celebration. Mother always made Stollen. Her father was an Austrian-American. I loved smelling that candied bread baking. She drizzled a glaze over it and topped it with candied cherries. The two large loaves would be doled out, a few pieces at a time. She always made fruitcake, macerating her fruit in rum from about Thanksgiving. Santa always was treated to a white layer cake with peach preserves between the layers, topped with white frosting and sprinkled with coconut.

When I look back, I marvel at all that my mother accomplished and all she did to make holidays special. The family attended Midnight Mass at the cathedral which always had many poinsettias and a large creche at the front of the church. The kids would be bleary-eyed, staying up so late, and also "wired" thinking of Santa who would arrive so soon. On Christmas day the first one down the stairs from the upstairs bedrooms was my brother, Jack. He always swore that he had heard the hooves of Santa's reindeer on the roof! How my parents were able to get all those gifts wrapped and under the tree "in time" is nothing short of a miracle!

"Patti" at Christmas in 1956 with "Jill" the doll and a tea cup set

It is fun to reminisce about Christmases from years past. I remember receiving many practical gifts like socks, new pajamas, a wool shirt or other clothing. We were a big family and my parents needed to be reasonable in their gift-giving. I had a god-father who spoiled me with fashion dolls that were too nice to play with. One was a "bride" and another was a society doll with a dress, wearing nylons, high heels, and a hat! But, I received other dolls, too, all of which I still have!

I can't reclaim the total magic that was Christmas in those days when I believed in Santa - those dreamy days of childhood that can never return. I try to re-create my mother's traditions of Stollen, Coconut cake, and cookies but not the fruitcake! I now have some of the ornaments that were on those Christmas trees of the 1950s, a time of awakening for me, spiritually and otherwise. I would love to hear about your family traditions, if you care to leave a comment! Merry Christmas to all who celebrate the holiday!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

A Little Quilted Treasure

There is something enchanting about folk art themes! I found a mini-quilt to purchase at an antiques booth at a quilt show. The place where I bought it has long escaped my memory. I have had the little quilt tucked away in a drawer for a few years.

The main feature are two deer that are facing each other. Both are outlined by black quilting stitches that are very tiny. It is difficult to determine whether the background fabric is stenciled or printed, and/or if it is flannel, or is tea-dyed.

This mini-quilt measures 7 3/4" x 7 3/4" and is an example of folk art.
photo by James Cummings

A stone walk leads to a log cabin with a chimney and a very large star overhead. Two large fir trees that are outlined in green stitches are positioned on either side of the house. The border has tiny triangles that feature lines of tiny red stitches and there is a second border of triangles. In between the rows of triangles are tiny trees that are slanted this way and that. The back leg of each deer intrudes beyond the first triangle border.

The quilt is finished off with a gingham border that makes it look very "country" or like folk art. The back has two plastic curtain rings that are sewn on for hanging. All in all, this is a delightful little quilt! I am left wondering whether this is antique or just made to look like it. Nevertheless, I wish the quilter had signed the back so we could know who made it and give her credit!