When I was age 15, my parents sent me from our Alaska homestead to a Mennonite boarding school in Corn, Oklahoma. Needless to say, this was a cultue shock – red dirt, thick humidity, bobby socks, girls playing softball in dresses, discussions about class rings and if they were sinful, curfew, boys in tight wheat-colored jeans and buttoned shirts, and girls with short hair with a curl on the side of their cheeks taped down at night. I cut my hair and at night rolled it on huge plastic curlers. For the first time in my life, I ordered off a menu, at Tina’s café. I experienced chocolate Dr. Pepper and cherry Cokes.
I was not allowed to make phone calls home because my father said they were too expensive. Likewise, I was not allowed to go home at Christmas. My mother wrote me two to three times a week, and sent me care packages of cinnamon rolls and canned moose.
I made friends who invited me to their homes for weekends and holidays, and I was given my last name was Gaede (GAY-dee), I was nick-named “Gator.” thrived in the Mennonite environment and savored puffy zwieback with melting butter, listened to the people speak Plautdietsch, including the older classmates, and I rode on motorcycles and in ’57 Chevys down dirt roads between wheat fields.
After the first year, I returned. Two years, I graduated in a class of 16. Unlike any other class, our class has had a reunion every five years, and we are always eager for the next.
One of my friends was Judi Harms, who married another classmate, Dave Harms. Our families skied together and our children became friends.
Thus, when I had the opportunity to bid on a quilt made by Judi and her daughter, Jenni, I knew I had to take it to the top! Here is the story:
In 2009, Judi Harms and her daughter, Jenni, used the “Kansas Troubles” pattern of “Pinwheels in my Garden” for their Hutchinson, Kansas, Mennonite Central Committee Relief Sale quilt. They picked that pattern because Jenni likes pinwheels, and they wanted to try appliqué for the first time. The quilt sold for $7,100.
Ten years later, they chose that pattern again for their 2020 quilt. They shopped for the fabric on Mother’s Day weekend of 2019. Judi started piecing and sewing the appliqué flowers for the quilt in July, and finished the end of August. In January 2020, she started hand quilting and was finished February 24, 2020. Whenever Jenni drove home from Wichita, to visit her parents she helped with the appliqué and quilting.
In March 2020, they took the quilt to the MCC office in Newton, Kansas, for the MCC sale. Unfortunately, the MCC sale was canceled because of COVID.
That was not the end of the story. The Hutchinson committee decided to have an online quilt auction. Naomi Gaede Penner learned that her classmate, Judi, and Judi’s daughter, had a quilt in the sale. She knew she had to bid on the quilt, which she did. In the end, Naomi acquired the quilt for $1,900; much less than the first, similar quilt went for in 2009; yet, it took the highest dollar of all quilts sold in the 2020 auction.
The president of the KS MCC Quilt Auction, Charlene Jost Driggers, made arrangements for the quilt to be shipped to Naomi. Charlene had been a classmate of Naomi’s at Tabor College.
Now the quilt is happily in Naomi’s guestroom and makes her smile every time she walks past the bedroom!
Naomi loves these kinds of stories, and she looks forward to seeing Dave and Judi’s family at Fun Valley in Colorado in June; and sitting with Judi and Jenni at the in-person Kansas MCC sale in July.