This week I sewed a pillow for my mother’s birthday, and it helped me remember a great old family story about my grandparents.
Forrest Glass was a farmer. He raised chickens, cows and plowed the fields to grow crops. He played the ukelele.
As a young man he met a doe-eyed young woman named Esther Eby and fell in love. He became a Mennonite to marry her, and when my mother said that Glass wasn’t a Mennonite name (not like Miller and Oberholtzer and Stoltzfus), he said, “It is because we’ve made it one.”
Esther was a writer and a farm wife. She published a series of books for children and young adults and meditative writing for women. In between she wrote articles and short stories that were published in various periodicals for different age groups. All the while she gathered eggs, worked in the vegetable pouch, raised two children and made most of the clothes she and her family wore.
They lived on the gentle limestone-rich fields of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, where it wasn’t uncommon to be a farmer. But it was uncommon to be a woman writer.
Forrest, a gentle giant of a man, didn’t find his wife’s talents threatening in any way. He even referred to himself as Mr. Esther Eby Glass in a lighthearted manner.
But one story really shows me the type of man my grandfather was. And this is the story.
When plowing his fields each spring he always left a wide swath between two fields where Indian Paintbrush flowers grew. He knew Esther loved these wild blooming flowers with their moppy tops of orange and red. So he sacrificed another few rows of corn or soybeans to let the Indian Paintbrushes grow up between the fields so she could walk there and pick them. I don’t know if she could detect their cheerful blooms from her kitchen window or the window by her writing table. I like to think she could.
19×19″ pillow with raw edge applique design, using new and vintage fabrics and sewn onto a base of family linen that has been in cedar chests for the last 50 years or more.
The pillow is based on one that my aunt made for family members in the late 1970s. My mom kept the worn out cover after it tore and the stuffing fell out and I used it as the inspiration for this new design (the original pillow didn’t have a barn swallow or Indian Paintbrush flowers, and it was a much smaller pillow).