Aunt Martha’s Memory “Book”

Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile may recall previous posts I’ve written about my mom and her family. My mom was the third eldest of twelve children in her family born in the early 1900’s.

Mom and her siblings have all passed on, but “us cousins”  still gather yearly to carry on the family reunion that began before most of us were born. Motor Man and I were honored to once again host the reunion at our home Saturday. And one of my cousins brought a special treat for “show and tell”.

My Aunt Martha was the seventh born of the twelve and outlived all her siblings.  I wrote about her funeral back in January of 2011.  Aunt Martha’s talents were many,  including gardening, counted cross stitch and poetry. She was also an amazing artist.

Her daughter, Betty, brought to the reunion a memory book that Aunt Martha made in 1992, when she was 75 years old. The captions are done in counted cross stitch, and the scenes are a combination of fabric piecing, stitchery, quilting and painting. It’s difficult to tell the size from the pictures, and I didn’t think to measure it, but it’s approximately 18 inches square. I hope you’ll be able to click to enlarge the pictures in order to see the details.

The cover of the book is a scene depicting Aunt Martha’s parents, Ben and Mae (May) when they were married  in 1906.

The next “page” represents Aunt Martha’s birth in 1917. When she was born, there were already three girls, Mattie, Lucille and Donnie (Donnie being my mom) and three boys, Andrew, Charlie and Bob, in the family.

The next page celebrates the birth of the youngest sibling, Sarah, in 1925. The two girls in this scene are Margaret and Martha, and the three boys are Bennie, Thomas and Stanley.

This next page was really special to me. It’s Aunt Martha’s memory of the family moving into Bacon’s Castle (“The Castle House”) in 1923. They were living there when their Papa bought the family’s first car.

“Wash Day”.  Aunt Martha crafted this page in memory of her mother and in honor of her eldest sister, Mattie.

Brother Charlie and Old Tom, the mule. When Marshall and I saw this page, we immediately recognized the structure to the left. It was a barn with a “bell tower” that was located on the farm at Bacon’s Castle.  The barn was destroyed during a storm in the early 1990’s. (Because Marshall and I both worked as interpreters at the Castle, we had seen information and pictures of the barn.)

Brother Bob, Martha and Margaret. Apparently Bob was threatening to put out the fire in the nearby smokehouse. I love the image of the girls sitting on the fence.

We were all laughing at the caption on this next page. And I remember Aunt Martha telling me this story. Two of their cousins, Viola and Violet, were visiting the farm one day. Apparently whenever these two were around, they caused trouble. Here, the two of them, along with Martha and Margaret, were picking “sugar pears” and throwing them down the toilet hole. Aunt Martha, as always, just keeping it real.

I’m not sure of the memory behind this next page. Apparently Margaret and Martha (who by the way, were so inseparable that their mother sometimes called them “Mar-gratha”) once shot a chicken hawk. I’m guessing that’s Martha with the gun.

The caption on this next page reads: “Bob did not kill this hog with a rock. He killed it with a 2 x 4”. You just know there was a story there.

The final page in Aunt Martha’s memory book shows her and her husband, Joe. The caption is: Martha – Joe, 1935-1984, Love, Faith, Trust.  They were married in “the Castle House” on Christmas Day.

I thought it was interesting that Aunt Martha seemed to choose happy, carefree memories for her book. (Although she probably got in big trouble for that incident involving the pears.) We recall hearing our parents, aunts and uncles speak of their childhood, and we know that they all worked very hard, and life was not easy for them.

This book is a family treasure.

24 responses to “Aunt Martha’s Memory “Book”

  1. This is a most wonderful treasure – can you just imagine the love and memories that she has shared with the family! What a great post today, Dianna! Makes me wonder what kind of legacy we will be leaving our family…

  2. What a wonderful “memory book” and such an incredibly unique way of preserving all those special family moments through the years. That’s a real family treasure and thankfully it’s been kept and no doubt will be kept for generations to come.

    Pam (and Sam)

  3. Dianna, that is an incredibly wonderful and sweet Memory Book. And such humor included too! Aunt Martha. I would have loved to have met her.

  4. What a beautiful keepsake! Thank you for sharing with us! I really liked the girls on the fence too! I couldn’t imagine taking care of that many children, my goodness!

  5. Like others have said, what a keepsake! MJ

  6. What a beautiful and charming book of cloth pages with simple vivid images. The cross stitch journaling records such important information. I can’t help but think you are definitely carrying on the family legacy too, with your own gift for storytelling. How wonderful you have these pictures so you can pull them up and study them for even more details significant to you.

  7. Aunt Martha was a fantastic artist and always an “original”. Who else would have thought of depicting their life and family in this way but Aunt Martha?!

  8. This is a treasure for sure. I loved the “Wash Day” page. She was certainly a talented seamstress. What a labor of love.

  9. This is an amazing book! What a treasure to have. The talent of your aunt is outstanding!

  10. Your Aunt Martha was a talented and special lady. I know you treasure this sweet memory book!

  11. Such a talent put into wonderful memories for the coming generations. Aunt Martha had foresight for sure.

  12. What a labor of love! It’s like a quilt in book form. I wonder how long this took to complete?
    What a lovely heritage, and how nice that you’re able to stay connected with family! Thank you for sharing! ~ Sheila

  13. Oh that’s an absolute treasure!! And to think it’s done with fabric! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  14. Wow – this is an amazing treasure!! What tenderness and joy shared! I feel like it should be in a museum…it’s family and history and art all rolled into one! Thanks for sharing!

  15. The reunion was great, with fantastic weather … & as soon as I saw this being carefully removed from the bag, I knew something extra meaningful was on the way! .. And now I’m wondering if the smokehouse and ‘wash house’ were structures I should know from the Castle ???

  16. Dianna, this was so sweet….Mama would have been humbled by all the compliments. Everything she did was her original thought and design. She was one of the fantastic 12 that I am so fortunate to have had in my life. Thank you dear cousin for this tribute to our family!

  17. I do not know whether my mother (the eldest, Mattie) saw this book or not. She would have been very pleased with that Martha. They all would have enjoyed the reunion, that you and JR. hosted. It was again a lovely affair for to you to host for our cousins,,,,,,,,,,,

  18. Betty has a truly precious treasure in the book your Aunt Martha made. I’m blown away by the creative way she showed the story as well as the captions. (I do want to know about Bob & the hog lol) I love the way your Aunt mixed the mediums to create such pretty pictures. She must’ve been a wonderful lady to put so much time and heart into recording her memories for her family in this manner. Awesome! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  19. Oh, Dianna, this is indeed a treasure! I just loved it! How thoughtful Martha was to make such a wonderful book of her memories for her children and grandchildren to enjoy…and really for others. Now that you have shared it in the blogosphere I know how many people have appreciated and enjoyed this marvelous work of art! How it encourages me to maybe do the same with my own memories. It won’t have the early charm of this awesome book (or the tie to Bacon’s Castle, which is also priceless) but mine would be treasured I think by my family. Thanks for sharing this treasure! I know how much you must have enjoyed the reunion as well!

  20. What a fantastic family heirloom! And what skill and time to make it. Thank you for sharing.

  21. What a treasure, Dianna! Thanks for sharing it with us. She must have been quite a character, a quite artistic, too.

  22. Shirley Matthews Dunn

    What a blessing and heirloom this is for your family Dianna.
    Your Aunt Martha had to be a vey special woman.

  23. What a treasure, indeed! So sweet.

  24. I hope this is kept in a fire proof safe! It is a treasure in oh so many ways. Maybe you could make picture books with your photos for all the family!

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