It’s not an unusual sight to see a bubbe sewing, knitting or crocheting a special something for her grandchild. But for Nita Quint, who has 43 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild, sewing personalized fabrics for them is an extraordinary feat of patience.
Quint, 98, embroiders challah covers and tablecloths for her great-grandchildren as future wedding gifts.In total, that’s 86 legacy gifts — and counting. One of Quint’s daughters brings her mother tablecloths and challah covers from Israel, to which Quint then adds her special designs and patterns.
Each is stitched with a Hebrew bracha, which she always threads in blue to contrast with the white background.
Though she often repeats patterns, each one is uniquely personal. She creates flowers in different colored threads, usually in the evenings of her Philadelphia, Pa., home with the sounds of Dr. Phil comforting a hysterical guest.
“If they have troubles, I don’t,” she laughed.
She started embroidering the tablecloths about three years ago. At the synagogue she belongs to, Congregation Beth Hamedrosh, she would make a few tablecloths as gifts for wedding showers, and congregants loved them.
“Who gets handmade stuff anymore?” she asked proudly. Each great-grandchild will receive one tablecloth and one challah cover as future wedding gifts, and even her grandchildren are requesting some new Quint originals to replace old ones.
“I always wanted to give other grandmas the idea — maybe they knit something, maybe they paint something,” said the Conservadox bubbe. Regardless, leaving her legacy is the ultimate goal.
“Grandparents should look toward the future,” she continued. “The kids can hold something [tangible that] their grandmother held. If it’s a pair of beads, their grandmother made it. If it’s a yarmulke, their grandmother crocheted it. It’s a legacy; it’s an attachment; it’s a connection.”
She frequents her local Kohl’s to shop for necklaces, ties, coats, pants, skirts and the like to send to her great-grandchildren.
“Because I never get it there in time [for birthdays], whoever comes to visit me takes it back,” she said. “And with 43 of them, I never remember.”
And she plans ahead for the literal growing family.
“I’ll start in January or the beginning of February buying winter coats. If they’re [size] 14, I buy a 16. If they’re eight, I buy a 10. I buy shorts, I buy overalls, I buy dresses, and if one doesn’t like it, the other one does,” she laughed. “They’re happy with whatever I send because nobody else has it.”
In the meantime, she’s made her own makeshift family with Kohl’s employees since she’s there so often. They often greet her with “Here comes my grandma!” and plenty of hugs.
“Money goes through the fingers and I don’t know where it’s going. But when they call and say, ‘Bubbe, I love the blouse you sent,’ that to me is nachus.”
Quint has been sewing for most of her life. “I used to sew the kids’ clothes,” she noted. “I made my daughters’ wedding gowns. Cost me $11 apiece” for the fabric.
Volunteering and giving back is important to Quint, too; she used to bring Passover-friendly food to Jewish prisoners at Graterford State Correctional Institution when it was open, and she volunteered her time with the Israel Defense Forces twice. At 69 years old, she went to Israel and packed medicines for soldiers during an intifada.
In return for her generous gift-giving, her children and grandchildren give her an album for her birthday each year with photos of each great-grandchild lined in rows like a school yearbook.
“Every year, I get an update,” she said.
Quint’s recipe for long life: attitude and gratitude, she said. “Not too bad at 98,” she said. JN
This article first appeared in the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent, a Jewish News-affiliated publication.