Grandma’s Quilt, Saginaw, MI, and Maculan Brentino

Posted on: July 8th, 2013 by

quiltLately I’ve been marveling at this quilt that belonged to my Grandma. It’s something I’m sure she made, but a recent (less than 24 hours ago) conversation with my Mom opened the door to the possibility it was made by my great-Grandma. Regardless, it’s a treasure of a family heirloom. Each colorful hexagon is made up of scraps of clothing and fabric, a nod to, and artifact of, an era where nothing was wasted.

This quilt was given to me by my Mom’s cousin Kathy, who wanted me to have something of my Grandma’s. It also reminds me of one the last times I saw her. My grandmother (Ruby, who also had a sister named Opal) had recently moved into an assisted living home in Saginaw, MI. (I was born in that town. There’s even a Lefty Frizzell song about it. Well, it’s not about my birth, but rather Saginaw.) Family on my mother’s side still resides in the area, too. I flew out from Seattle to visit her for her birthday and take her out to dinner. She wanted to go to Red Lobster and eat shrimp. And have those biscuits.

serious biscuit businessWhat is it with Red Lobster biscuits? Can you believe that between all their restaurants they bake 395 million cheese biscuits a year? And why are they called Cheddar Bay Biscuits? I thought bay leaf would be involved in some way. Or bay as in a body of water? An homage to Michael Bay?

My grandmother suffered from macular degeneration, which robbed her of her eyesight. That, and the onset of forgetting things leading to dementia, made it a challenge to go places, but neither of us were deterred. And so it came to pass that many shrimp were enjoyed. And we rejoiced.

I recall getting ready to leave the restaurant, standing up and waiting for my grandmother to slide out of the booth so I could give her my arm and help her up and out. A fresh-faced waitress asked me, “How was dinner?” I explained that it was my grandmother’s birthday and Red Lobster was her dinner destination of choice. And we had a great time. She gave me a look that, if I wasn’t so clueless, I would have recognized as the equivalent of having hearts in her eyes. She said something along the lines of, “You are the sweetest grandson ever.” I think if I would have proposed marriage at that moment she would have said yes. Or maybe it would have been a better idea to start by asking her out on a date? (Confidential to Red Lobster waitress: I’m still single. Find me on Facebook.)

After dropping off my grandmother at the assisted living home, I went back to her condo, which was now pretty barren of furniture. I felt like drinking some wine, so I headed to the nearby party store. I don’t know if this is a Midwestern thing, calling a liquor store a “party store”; I guess it sounds more buoyant and festive rather than grim and depressing. But someone at sometime had spent some money on wine for this party store; there were some back vintages of some pretty fancy Napa Cabs and other things that had not been touched for years. I spotted a (couple vintages past) bottle of one of my favorite Italian reds: Maculan Brentino. Hailing from the Veneto region of Northern Italy, this Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend really reminds me of a Bordeaux, especially after the passage of a year or two. It’s the kind of wine to buy by the case, and drink a bottle every two months.

maculan torcolato

Say, what’s for dessert?

Maculan also makes a very fun and lively white wine, Pino & Toi, made from a blend of Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco, and (the grape formerly known as) Tocai Friulano. (There was some legal wrangling over the name “Tocai” because of Hungary’s Tokaji region/wine. The info on the Pino & Toi from the importer, Winebow, states that they now call the grape “Tai”. I’ve just seen it as “Friulano” without the Tocai part.) And if that wasn’t enough, Maculan makes a knockout dessert wine from partially dried grapes, Torcolato. Oh, and one of my favorite rosés made from, of all things, Merlot, called Costadolio.

Maculan stitches together a diverse patchwork of wines from red to white to rosé to sweet. And while their vinous achievements are impressive, I’m sure they won’t mind if they have to take a back seat to the emotion and inspiration I feel every time I unfold my Grandma’s quilt.

Update: My Mom just spoke with her cousin Kathy, who confirmed the quilt was started by my great-Grandma and finished by my Grandma over a period stretching from the 1920s to 1940s. It being a mother-daughter collaboration makes it immeasurably more treasured.

Serious (Biscuit) Business courtesy Chelsea Gomez (Oakes). Drying grapes from Maculan.

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8 Responses

  1. LOVE this post! Amazingly enough, my father’s baby quilt looks almost identical to yours! His grandmother made it for him over 70 years ago. He also loves Red Lobster 😉

    I never knew you mid-westerners call liquor stores party stores. Learn something cool and new every day!

  2. Gail says:

    I love old quilts and the stories that are behund them. My grandmother quilted as your’s did. Nothing went to waste, everything recyled when another quilt was needed. I still remember noticing that some of the fabric of clothes we had over the years always showed up in her quilting. She had 11 boys (the oldest being my father) and three girls, and numerous grand children, great grandchildren so the recycling went on and on. In fact I have her “button jar” which I in turn gave to my own grand daughter. Wonderful memories. btw, I will try your wine selections.

    • Jameson says:


      Thank you for your wonderful comment. It means a lot to have my post resonate with you and others. I appreciate you sharing your memories as well.



  3. What a lovely thing to have this quilt! I can almost see you getting excited but trying to mask it from the guy selling these wines. He probably didn’t know about the good stuff he had in his ‘party store’ (weird name indeed)

  4. Jameson, the quilt is beautiful. I love the story about your grandmother wanting shrimp and biscuits too. My own great grandparents were huge for shrimp, and it was understood that any time we went out for dinner fried shrimp was their order.

    Thanks for the post!

    • Jameson says:


      Thank you for your sweet comment. Wish we all could have gone out for fried shrimp together. Possibly with some sparkling wine, too.



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