When I arrived, Mama had everything together, all ready to go in a bag. Grandmother’s nursing cape was safely tucked inside a vintage leather garment bag that belonged to my PaPa. Her nurses cap, wrapped in the original plastic, sat on a stack of old photo albums and scrapbooks. “Look,” she exclaimed. “The cap still has the original bobby pins pinned inside.” When I’d asked Mama to gather a few nursing belongings of my Grandmother’s, I knew she’d deliver.
As I sifted through a few photos of my Grandmother as a young woman, suddenly there I was – a teenager, with my hair during an awkward bang phase and my wardrobe during the “tie a cardigan around your waist” what-are-we-even-doing phase. Taking my blood pressure, sat my Cherished Teddy-clad Grandmother. The other eye-catching photo Mama put aside depicted a redheaded toddler, looking very much like my Caroline, standing in a sea of thread cones. Some, appropriately enough, were lying in a pink medical wash basin. Boy, did Mama deliver.
We spent the next hour scouring through Grandmother’s nursing school scrapbook, her wedding photo album, her wedding memory album, and other memorabilia. We read newspaper clippings from 1955. We sifted through event programs, keepsake napkins from dances, and photographs of her singing as a member of the Nurses Quartet. Mama and I laughed, a lot! Grandmother was a character. Getting a glimpse of this era of her life was wild. We were transported.
Betty Louise Grant reported to Orientation at Greenville General Hospital School of Nursing on August 30th, 1954 with Martha, her cousin and lifelong best friend, by her side. Together, they embarked on their lifelong dedication to the healing of others. During those three years, Grandmother was active in the Baptist Student Union, serving as President her senior year, as well as singing at many events in the student Nurses Quartet.
Three years later, she married the boy next door (literally) on August 24 in a double wedding with her sister, Rachel. Thirteen days later, newlywed Betty Grant Scruggs graduated nursing school. From that moment on, her career entailed hospital work, school nurse rotations, methadone clinic work and numerous years volunteering for the American Red Cross, including disaster relief.
Mama even shared with me that when Grandmother went into labor with my uncle, she was on duty at the hospital. Naturally, Martha was on duty as well and assisted with his delivery. At Grandmother’s funeral, I was lucky enough to shake hands and meet a few of her Nursing school classmates. I remember being in awe of their connection and the respectful way they honored one another, even after fifty years. Nurses are lifers.
It was because of Betty’s Memory Craft 8000, an abundance of vintage patterns and notions, that I ever sat behind a sewing machine. She was known for crafting and sewing garments for herself and her children during her life, but sewing was not a topic of conversation that I ever initiated with her. In hindsight, it was a tragic missed opportunity. A circumstance where I deeply wished that life would have thrown me a bone, just a miniscule glimpse of what creative interests lie ahead. I would have asked questions. I would have written down what she said. Instead, she became ill with Alzheimer’s and Dementia and I packed up her machine and got to work. Truth be told, that’s probably all she’d ever ask me to do was to just sit down, turn the machine on and see what happens. I know that’s what Mama would say. Whether she mended a garment or a wound, Grandmother’s mark was made. Mama continued that legacy with her medical career and creative business. I’d say I’m on track to do the same.
Due to divine (or Grandmother’s) intervention, Nightingale by Lo and Behold Stitchery was the perfect pattern to honor her nursing career and in turn, her devotion to sewing. Being able to test this extraordinary pattern for Brittany was a true honor. After all, I discovered modern quilting because of her Vintage Lace pattern. If I was ever going to land a pattern test for her, this quilt was it.
The color palette came easy. I chose shades of blue to honor Grandmother’s eternal blue eyeshadow. She didn’t do anything without her blue eyeshadow. I mixed in pinks because I remember her most in the color pink. I chose yellow because, quite frankly, I can’t quit yellow. It’s how my heart communicates. To no one’s surprise, I selected fabrics from Art Gallery Fabrics. Bonnie Christine‘s Her & History collection, which is in honor of her own grandparents, topped my list of desired prints. As luck or divinity would have it, the collection color palette complimented my color selections quite well.
To add texture, I included a few coordinating colors of the Crossed Diamond Textiles, because apparently I can’t quit them either. For the quilting, I called up my trusty and talented friend, Melody. If you read my Vintage Lace blog, then you already know how we met. I sent her a few quilt design ideas and she suggested “Vermilion” by Urban Elementz, which was the perfect mixture of two designs that I adored. She totally gets me and I am so grateful for her intuition and knowledge.
Thus, an honor quilt for Betty was born. To comfort and heal, just as nurses do.