Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Surprise in Remembering Aunt Evelyn

My Mom's older sister, Evelyn Grace, was born this date in 1916 - five days after Thanksgiving that year, though there were years her birthday and Thanksgiving coincided. And as we usually all gathered at Grandpa and Grandma Ridnour's for turkey day, we also celebrated their firstborn's birthday at the same time.
While looking for pictures of Aunt Evelyn for this blog, I found this one still in the plastic frame from the years ago we had some family photos copied from Grandma's originals. The surprise came when I really looked at the people in the picture and realized it wasn't Grandpa Joe and baby Evelyn with great grandpa and grandma Ridnour as I'd always thought -- it is a four generation picture! My grandpa Joe is standing in back. His father, my great-grandfather, Rufus Ridnour is holding Aunt Evelyn. The woman on the left is my great-great grandmother, Susana Whipkey Ridnour - Rufe's mother. At the time we had the picture copied, I may have known this and forgot or Mom may have said it was her "Grandma and Grandpa Ridnour" without adding the great on grandma and I never questioned it.
Susana was 80 years old in this picture. She lived to be almost 94, dying two days before her birthday in 1931.

As the eldest of three girls, Evelyn probably did her share of taking care of the younger ones. There was a little over two years between Evelyn and Ruth and a year and half between Ruth and Lois. In temperament, Mom was the typical middle child - always the mediator. Aunt Lois was the fun loving baby, which left Evelyn being the responsible leader. To me, Aunt Evelyn always seemed more strict, rigid, no-nonsense. She wasn't my favourite Aunt. Though in this picture she looks very happy. Mom looks amiable, while Aunt Lois just looks baffled.

By the time this picture was taken, Aunt Evelyn was already on her way to becoming an accomplished seamstress. (No date on photo; I would guess their ages at Ruth on the left, 9; Evelyn on the right, 11; Lois, in front, 7-1/2.)
When I worked at the Adams County Free Press in '95-'96, I wrote a feature article about my Aunt Evelyn Roberts and her many quilts. I titled the piece "How To Make An Adams County Quilt" - a take on the book (1992) and the movie (1995) "How To Make An American Quilt" which were popular then.
While interviewing her for the article, I not only learned of the more than ninety quilts she had made, I learned that she had begged her Grandmother Matilda Means to teach her to sew when Evelyn was only seven. Her grandmother told her she would, but only after they had gone to town and bought her a thimble. She would not let her sew without one.
The first prom dress I wore was one made by my Aunt. It was worn first by her daughter, Glenna, but they let me borrow it for my junior prom. It was a light green, strapless confection of lace and net. I felt like a princess. Aunt Evelyn also made some of her daughters and grand-daughters wedding dresses and bridesmaid dresses as well as all those everyday clothes for four daughters and two sons when they were growing up.
Once the kids were grown and gone, her sewing passion turned to quilting. She always had a quilt in the quilting frame made by her Dad. It wasn't until after I interviewed her and wrote my article that I truly began to appreciate this aunt of mine - the life she lived, the sacrifices she made, the faith she abided by and the pleasures she found in the simplicity of needle and thread.

"Our lives are like quilts - bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, stitched with love."

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