But not mine, this time.
The collection at the museum in Smock was enough to make my visit to Pennsylvania especially memorable. But then, on my last day, my grandmother's friend Sue invited me over to see some "family things" she thought would interest me.
Sue's life had a romantic beginning. Her mother, an Englishwoman, was in the RAF. Her father, an American, was in the Army. Her mother outranked her father, but they fell in love and married before her father was shipped back to the United States.
Sue was born in England, and at six months old sailed to America with her mother on a ship chartered specially for war brides. Sue still has their orange cardboard "WAR BRIDE" identification tags. From the ship they transferred to the train that brought them to Pennsylvania and Sue's father. According to Sue's mother, she was so excited to see her husband again she nearly left her daughter on the platform.
Sue's grandfather, a native of the Cotswolds, was a stone carver and a fanatic for historical relics. He kept a museum of artisanal implements and antique farm machinery, and also acted as de facto curator of the family memorabilia. Much of it came to Sue, who shared it with me.
There is so much beautiful stuff in her collection (she has four christening gowns, the oldest of which appears to me to date from the 1840s) that I'm going to confine myself to showing you the highlights, which she kindly allowed me to photograph.
The first thing she pulled out was a black silk apron, intended to jazz up a plain dress for calls or company. The lower part is worked with a series of floral sprays worked in ribbon embroidery.
There was also a rather spectacular silk choker with an ornamental bib worked in a combination of silk and metallic threads with some bead embellishment.
On the christening gowns and many other pieces (including a petticoat and a piece of lingerie made for her grandmother's dowry) I noticed a lace pattern that appeared several times over the generations worked in different threads and at different sizes.
Sue says that her family claims descent from the first marriage of Catherine Swinford, who was the mistress and then the wife of John of Gaunt, uncle of Richard II. Her mother taught her that the Tudor Rose in the pattern is intended as a reminder of Catherine.
Out of more recent history, but no less fascinating to me, were textile souvenirs sent back to England from Sue's grandfather from France and Belgium during World War I. There are two handkerchiefs like the one at right, but what really caught my attention was an album filled with dozens of embroidered post cards.
I've seen embroidered cards before, but most of them were cheap and utterly graceless junk from China. The level of creativity in Sue's postcard album was astonishing.
The last of the pictured postcards is, Sue says, a portrait of her grandfather. The images themselves are slightly smaller than actual size.
And finally, she pulled out something that had been specially made for her during her English babyhood by her mother with help from friends. It's a simple but sweet dress with a beautifully smocked bodice. The material? Sky blue silk–from an RAF parachute.
We'd finished with the textiles, but before I left Sue showed me a set of astonishing mementos actually made by her grandfather. During the war, stuck in the trenches with restless hands, he turned shell casings into matchbox covers to send to the family.
My favorite shows, on one side, Sue's worried grandmother on the home front, thinking "I wonder how my dear boy is in France."
On the back, sitting in a trench, calmly picking lice out of his uniform, is her grandfather, with the reassuring message, "I am all right."
Sigh. Do you think they loved each other?