The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Patchwork Floors

By Sylvia Sampson © 1990

Issue: May, 1990

Photograph of Sylvia Sampson (left) and her older sister Gainelle Murry, taken in June of 1959.Photograph of Sylvia Sampson (left) and her older sister Gainelle Murry, taken in June of 1959.Editor's Note... The Mountain Laurel would like to say a special Happy Mother's Day to Margaret Gainelle Murry, of Big Stone Gap, Virginia. Besides being an occasional contributor to The Mountain laurel, she is the owner and publisher of "Writer's World Magazine", and the founder of The Citizen's Action Committee in Big Stone Gap. She grew up the oldest of nine children in her family.

The following story was submitted by her sister, Sylvia Sampson, who says of Margaret, "My sister, "Jib" as we called her, has done much more than dream. She has helped her family and community to dream as well."

I remember two little girls sitting in the front porch swing, sharing secrets and dreaming of a wonderful future. In the mountains of Southwest Virginia the coal mines dominated everyone's lives. If the coal was running good there was plenty of food and sometimes a new dress, but if it wasn't everyone suffered through what our father called the dry seasons. One way to escape during the dry seasons was to swing and dream.

I dreamed of leaving the mountains and seeing the outside world in all its glory. My sister, Gainelle, on the other hand, built dreams around the mountains.

Gainelle's dreams were of a big fine home just like those of the mine owners. Her home would have a huge front porch with fancy white banisters. The unbelievable part of her dream was that her home would have thick soft carpet in every room. Looking inside our small house at the bare wood floors Momma polished so faithfully I knew Gainelle was asking for something she would never get.

Gainelle's dream included a young man and that part came true much too soon, Johnny Murry swept my sister off her feet and promised to give her everything she ever wanted. I remember thinking he didn't know what he was promising.

They moved into a small house next to his parent's home. The first time I went for a visit I couldn't understand why Gainelle seemed so happy. Her new home was nothing like the one she had dreamed of for so many years. The bathroom like ours, set about twenty feet away. The water was caught from a small spring that ran close to the back door, but mostly the floors surprised me.

Where Gainelle dreamed of soft thick carpet, she lovingly swept and mopped the worn rugs. They were so thin in places the wood floor could be seen below and the large flowers, still intact, were faded.

Months later Gainelle came to visit us. She was excited about something but wouldn't tell me what. She insisted that I go home with her because she had something to show me.

I wasn't to excited about seeing her house again. Especially after all the long talks and beautiful dreams we shared before she married. Reluctantly I went and when she asked me to close my eyes, I did that too.

As she led me through the door something felt different. When she let me open my eyes I couldn't believe what I was seeing. There, spread across her floors like a patchwork quilt, was the soft, thick carpet of her dreams. Each square was different and their vivid colors brightened the whole house.

"Where did you get it?" I stammered.

"I bought them each week when I went into town for food. The man at the carpet store let me have them for a dime apiece." She answered so proudly.

Taking a closer look I saw the small metal rings in one corner of each square. They were samples used to show the different colors, but here on her floors they were as beautiful as one of Momma's patchwork quilts.

The rest of her home was the same as before but now I had no doubt that Gainelle would one day have all the things she dreamed of.

That was thirty years ago and she has her dreams and more. Gainelle and Johnny have the home of her dreams. Most of it built by Johnny's loving hands. They have raised two children and taught them to dream too. I am so proud of those few like my sister who stayed in the mountains even through the dry seasons and made their dreams come true.