Category Archives: We Are Artists in Our Family

Valma and Valerie

BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  West Valley City, Utah  I  20 July 2016

DSCF1514Gloria’s Approving Gaze/1514BB

Valma. She finished the quilt 93 years ago, she did.

She and two friends, Del and Pearl, carefully embroidered the just off-center patch in pink floss with their names, the completion date of March 20, 1923, and her group’s initials, SCG. Then, perhaps (let your imagination enter, stage left) it was sold or auctioned for benefit.

They made the quilt that I, Valerie, I slept under three nights ago, on 17 July 2016, while still on vacation at my childhood home. I marveled at the quilt’s comforting softness and fine, impeccable condition, with no rips or tears or stains.

I slept in a beautiful four-poster bed, the nicest one I’ve ever had, chosen by my sister Cheri. I slept upstairs in a bedroom which faces warmly west, with orangey pumpkin-pine floors, the Winter Bedroom of the V House, located in Columbia County, New York, God’s gorgeously green upstate.

The house was built at the dreary beginning of the Great Depression, in 1930, built by hard-working Germans, the V Family, on land purchased from the nearby S Family, both lots originally part of the B Farm. My dad says they used scrap from Meltz Lumber, a local lot, and finished the upstairs much later than the downstairs, adding two large dormers and reversing the staircase to make a separate apartment with its own entryway.

Thank goodness, downstairs Mrs. V had a cheerful yellow Formica kitchen counter to look at and wipe down carefully, and an immaculate white porcelain sink with large drainboards on either side (and a brass drain), at which to wash her dishes.

She also had a neat kitchen floor to sweep and mop, made of sturdy linoleum squares of white, with the palest-of-pale chunks of pink and green and gold sparkly flecks.

But more about that later, right now let’s focus on my precious quilt…

I remember when I first saw it.

I was living in Provo, Utah and bored out of my mind, having graduated college and watched all my favorite roommates, The Rockets, move away and leave me. To pass the time on weekends off, I liked to make trips up to Salt Lake City to shop for frivolous things like cowboy boots and antiques.

Pretty things to try and fill the gigantic hole in my heart at having been left behind by my best friends, and to kill the pain of not yet being married and having the children I always knew I wanted, a family of my own.

When I stumbled upon the quilt in a stack of bed linens in an armoire in an antique shop in Midvale, I knew, I just KNEW, it had to be mine. I kind of started to sweat a bit, because It was around $250, and, even though I had a good job, I really couldn’t afford it, at least not all at once.

But I simply couldn’t leave that place without making it mine. The shop’s owner let me make payments, a layaway of sorts. And so, $20 here and $25 there, I slowly made it mine. I was grateful and gleeful upon making the final payment, and took the quilt carefully home, packing it away for someday.

The reason I had to have the quilt was the signatures, of course. Each nine-patch was signed and dated with red or pink embroidery floss, covering carefully penciled script, dating even further back, to 1921. The squares were made of simple checked and striped or polka-dotted material, bordered by ecru flour sack material.

DSCF1550Mystery Quilt/1550BB

When I sleep under this quilt I feel of these long-gone ladies’ love and creativity, industry, frugality, and sheer determination.

To create beauty out of something useful and utilitarian. To use the contents of a sack of flour to make loaves of soul-sustaining bread and fluffy celebration cakes and dozens of oatmeal raisin cookies, and then to be provident enough to save the sacks, recycling pioneers, and cut them into squares, which became nine-patches, which became my beautiful quilt.

The quilt I slept under in the Winter Bedroom of my childhood home in July of 2016. My beloved boys, a mother after all, they slept under the eaves of the twin bedrooms at the other end of the house.

And Thing 1 slept under a new quilt made with imagination and love by his Aunt Cheri. 

Popcorn Vampire/4035BB


First two photos: Carrigan Buhler, Germantown, New York.
Last photo and Interior Design: Valerie Belden Wilder, Ghent, New York.

The last photo, Popcorn Vampire, did not appear in the original blog. It was added to the post on 27 October 2017. I’ve also made extensive edits since the original posting.

The Rainbow Comes and Goes, by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt. HarperCollins Publishers, 2016.

The World of Gloria Vanderbilt, by Wendy Goodman. Harry N. Abrams, 2010.

To read more about pumpkin pine flooring:


People Who Fly, 2016


BY VALERIE BELDEN WILDER  I  Salt Lake City, Utah  I  Thursday, 30 June 2016

Vicki sat speechless, released, overwhelmed. So this was flying. This was what people talked about with shining eyes and never were quite able to express. This wonder. This miracle. This beauty and power and awe-struck joy at being set free in the air.
-Silver Wings for Vicki, by Helen Wells

On Saturday we fly, and my soft pretzel money is burning a hole in my pocket. Our suitcases, the Scarlet Samsungs, are out of storage and ready to earn a few more scuffs.

As I type this, I’m propped up on my Water Garden bed, wearing a simple, silky black A-line nightie with a pattern of roses. I’m sure I bought this nightie more than twenty years ago. I remember wearing it when I was pregnant with Thing 1.

I’m also wearing that poncho, you know the one, the brown-striped one my sister Cheri gave me last November as I returned from my fall trip to New York. I like throwing it on when my shoulders are a little bit cold.

I can smell my cherry almond candle burning in my adjoining Beachy Bathroom, the candle I bought at the Salt + Honey craft show a few months ago. Cherry almond is one of my favorite scents, plus it came in a vintage deep red glass with a gold band around the top. Yes, please! How could I say no to THAT?

I can hear the planes, I can. The window behind me is open a few inches, and the planes are descending at Salt Lake International Airport. I love the sound, I do, it’s been a part of our lives for so long now. My children have grown up with the white noise of planes as the subtle soundtrack of their lives, since we moved to this neighborhood when Thing 1 was only one, and Thing 2 was yet a twinkle in my eye.

A lot has happened since my original post called People Who Fly, back in June 2015. Thing 1 is now graduated from high school and taking a year off from school, to work at a wonderful movie theatre (the snack bar offers great food like locally made gelato and handmade Asian salads and twisty bread sticks) and Thing 2 is going into eighth grade. My, the time does fly…(Pun intended!)

Last year, when we came home from our Seven Weeks of Summer in upstate New York, I didn’t know when we would fly again. I didn’t even know if Thing 1 would be able to go with us to New York next time, now he’s an adult and has a job and an active social life.

But this Saturday, at 7 am, we fly. We’re going back to New York, to my beloved Columbia County, for 17 days, and I can’t wait. To see the lush green landscape again, the shimmering Hudson River, and the gentle Catskill Mountains. To sit on the screened-in porch and be surrounded on three sides by more green. To sleep in the Winter Bedroom with the French door and orangey-brown pine floor, worn smooth with age, sleep in my new four-poster bed.

To see how my children’s faces glow around the roughly made fire pit in the back yard, where magical fireflies dance at the tip-tippy-top of trees, trees which touch the starry canvas of jet-black sky.


For the plane ride I have our adult coloring books all rounded up, accompanied by my still-wrapped set of Prismacolor pencils. Thing 2 will be coloring the national parks. As for me, I’ll be colorizing a copy of Little House in the Big Woods, with wonderful black-and-white illustrations by Garth Williams. I also have a cool New York City coloring book…

And Thing 1, he’ll probably be working on his figure drawing in a small black sketchbook he purchased at a technology college, when he was there a few months ago, representing his technical institute at a computer game design show.

I still remember, right after I separated from my kids’ father, Thing 1 went out and bought a composition book in which to practice drawing manga faces. He bought it with his own money, and at that point I knew he was going to be okay. Okay as a child of a single parent. Okay enough to safely express himself through art…

Did I mention we have TOO MANY art supplies at our house? Ha!

Anyhoo! Back on topic, the topic of flying.

The other day Thing 2 and I rode green TRAX, the light rail train, out to the airport for a look around. It was my day off and we’d been at the Department of Health, replacing the kids’ state-issued birth certificates. Dang it all, they’ve been in that Rubbermaid file tote for YEARS (the birth certificates, not my kids, ha!) and now, when I need them to get photo IDs for flying, they’re gone? What the, what the, what the heck? So, anyways, after this we decided to ride the train to the airport before going home.

It’s fun to gawk at all the different kinds of people who make up this world. The first people I saw were a group of brightly dressed Asian tourists. I kept seeing them everywhere, travelling in a colorful clump.

The next person I noticed was a beautiful flight attendant. I really wish I could have taken her picture, but doing that without her permission would have been kind of creepy, right? So, what IS it about flight attendants? Are they all born naturally beautiful and calm and poised, I wonder? They’re like models who serve you Sprite and peanuts as their silver-winged planes slice though the sky…

So, this lady. She wasn’t one of the younger ones, she was in her fifties, I bet. She was gorgeous and wearing a classically cut and very elegant looking navy-blue uniform. Her silvery blonde hair was pulled up and held in back with a clip, and her face was perfectly, but not overly made up.

I think it was her pearls that made me notice her, her long strand of big white pearls. The way she had it looped was so pretty, shorter around the neck and then hanging down long, with her name tag clipped to it.

She didn’t seem to notice me staring at her, thankfully, but I was wondering how soon I could get home and try something like this out with my own pearls…


Silver Wings for Vicki, by Helen Wells. Grosset & Dunlap, 1947. The first of a 16-book series about a young lady, Vicki Barr, who becomes a flight stewardess and flies around the world, solving mysteries. I loved these books when I was young!

People Who Fly. Find the original post here: