#49 The Old Quilt

by Lee Wright

The quilt was made by great-grandmother, a lady I barely remember. She turned ninety-nine the week before I was born and didn’t live to see my fifth birthday. To me, she will always be a short, stooped, wisp of a woman with thin, silver hair, a hard jaw, and cloudy blue eyes. Dressed always in a simple, gray housedress, she was a quiet, near-ghost, still and introverted, somewhat frightening to us children. I never knew her as the woman who lost three sons to war, two to the mines, one to drink, and one in youth to God only knows what. I have only vague, sometimes contradictory, three-generation-old stories of her time at the front tending the wounded. I’m told that, somewhere, in a trunk at my aunt’s house, there is a yellowed letter from a President now decades dead thanking my illiterate great-grandmother for her service.

Remembering bulbous purple knuckles, barely capable of pinching a cheek, it’s hard for me to imagine her sitting, night-after-night, in a hand-hewn rocker, working by candlelight to assemble this quilt from the scraps of the hand-me-down and homemade clothes her ill-fated children had worn until they could be worn no more. But, nearly a century later, the stitches are tight, the edges only lightly frayed, the colors muted but warm.

My child, born to a child, will know even less of me, but I take comfort in the fact that, before saying goodbye, I swaddled her in the colors of a hundred autumns.

13 comments:

Dino Parenti said...

Love the time span in this story, as well as your restraint. Beautiful work.

Bruce Roush said...

This is a lovely story. As a quilt lover, I can really relate to it.

Anjali said...

An engaging love story among generations. Love it!

Madeleine Sara said...

I like how you used the prompt photo for your quilt theme to create your flash story and gave it a satisfying conclusion.

Sam Knight said...

This echoed my own thoughts on the history of my family and resonated well with me. Thank you for being able to draw me into that feeling of nostalgia so quickly and easily.

Daisy said...

Fantastic! You tell such a deep, rich story with so few words!

JT Lawrence said...

Nice touch in the story telling and the ending was sharp and tight. Liked this one

Janna Qualman said...

Beautiful.

Lee Wright said...

Wow. Thanks for all the wonderful comments. I just checked this page and was blown away but the positive response. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Jade said...

I like this patchwork of quilty imagery. The end feels sad, but also gives greater weight and import to the quilt.

My one suggestion: remove a lady I barely remember, unless it is very important for this statement to reflect the fate of "My child." The narrator evokes so many details, bits of overheard family stories, and small pieces of memory elaborated with time---I feel like the narrator "knows" a lot about this lady, even if she's not able to recall first-hand details from "memory."

Lee Wright said...

Jade,

That is an excellent suggestion. It's obvious that the narrator barely knows the grandmother but knows a lot about her from others. I'm always looking for ways to tighten up a story and I will definitely be removing that line for future versions. I really appreciate the comment.

- Lee

Anonymous said...

great line...swaddled her in the colors of a hundred autumns

Catvibe said...

Wow, this is so evocative! The ending made me cry, but before that I was just wrapped up in the life colors of this story. What a beauty!