Read The Quilt Online

Authors: T. Davis Bunn

Tags: #Patchwork, #Quilts & Quilting, #Crafts & Hobbies

The Quilt

BOOK: The Quilt
10.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

© 1993 by T. Davis Bunn

Published by Bethany House Publishers
11400 Hampshire Avenue South
Bloomington, Minnesota 55438

Bethany House Publishers is a division of
Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Ebook edition created 2011

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of the publisher and copyright owners. The only exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

ISBN 978-1-4412-7086-3

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is on file at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.© Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The “NIV” and “New International Version” trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

Verses marked KJV are from the King James Version

This book is dedicated to
the memory of my grandmothers


and to my mother


with love and thanksgiving.



Title Page

Copyright Page



Other Books by Author

Back Cover

Light is sown for the righteous,
And gladness for the upright in heart.
Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous;
And give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.

ONCE UPON A TIME, not so very long ago, there was a little girl who grew up and had a family and tried to raise it as she thought the Lord would want. After a while, in the ways of this earth, she found herself growing old. The seasons seemed to whirl by with ever-increasing speed. The older she became, the harder it was to stop and savor each little moment, because all the moments that had come before were now ganging up on her, pushing her with ever greater pressure toward that final door. Life's current became so swift that the days and weeks and months which used to mark her passage no longer held any meaning. They all flowed together into a kindly pastel blur, with little flecks of light every now and then to illuminate the world before her failing eyes. Grandchildren were born, other little girls to help take the first fragile steps upon life's way. Lifetime friends passed on to that higher ground, their absence like vacuums in her world. And the faster the currents seemed to flow, the more still she seemed to become. All her remaining energy became focused on that which lay ahead.

There came a time when her hands grew swollen and twisted by arthritis. She would look down at them and have difficulty seeing them as they were. Somewhere deep inside, she knew, was captured the fragile beauty of a seventeen-year-old farm girl who had given her life in holy matrimony to a man now eleven years in the grave. Sometimes she would look away from the window by which she sat, or look down from the television that kept her company between visits of her beloved family, and she would knead and squeeze her hands, one with the other.

There were so many skills within those hands, so many memories, so many stories to tell. And something would touch her heart then, a gentle yearning, the whisper of a melody she would strain and still not be able to hear. It was like waking in the middle of the night, lying there in her lonely darkness, staring at the ceiling overhead, and listening to the laughter of children who had now grown up to have children
of their own. Yet she could still hear her young children and feel them so close that it was almost as though they were there in the room with her. Exactly what it was they said, she could not make out. But somehow she felt it was important, as though these gentle ghosts of a time long gone were there to remind her of something. And during her days, as she sat and pressed and kneaded her fingers, she would hear a gentle voice calling to her. There was something left undone.

When the neighbors talked of her, which was often, they all used one word to describe her. The word was

They would even say it to her face, some of them. “Mary, you are the most beautiful woman I've ever laid eyes on.” And they'd mean it.

Her reply was always the same. “Honey, your eyes are worse than mine.” Then she'd peel off her trifocals, blink in that fragile way of very old ladies and pass her glasses over, saying, “Here, see if they help you any.”

And the people would always laugh and change the subject, wishing there was some better way to tell her what the feeling was they had right then in their hearts.

Even Everett, her son the businessman, would come in and sit longer and quieter than he'd ever sat in his life. Wednesday morning was Everett's time, on account of his having to be at the farm-machinery auction on that side of town. He'd come in and pour himself a cup of coffee and lean over and kiss his mother very self-consciously on the forehead. Everett had always been self-conscious about any show of emotion. His wife had once confided to Mary that Everett was the only man she'd ever met who could get red in the face hearing the preacher talk about love.

“Everett is about the strangest child I've ever seen,” Mary replied.

“You mean
the strangest child,” Lou Ann, Everett's wife corrected.

“I mean just exactly what I said. That man has still got a three-year-old child walking around inside him. Don't know
a single man that doesn't.” Mary lowered her head so as to get Everett's wife fixed inside the proper lens of her trifocals. “That's the only thing that makes most men worth living with, fact that they've got a little bit of the little boy inside them. Keep that little boy laughing and you've got a happy man on your hands.”

Lou Ann took that and told it all over town. And everybody she talked to shook their heads and smiled and said something like, yes sir, that's just like Mary, isn't it? That's one of the finest women God ever set on this earth.

Then somebody else would nod like they were thinking it for the very first time and say, yes sir, a real beautiful woman. And no one would dispute it. Of course, they weren't talking about any beauty that you could see. Sometimes somebody would talk about how she'd been a real beauty when she was younger, but it was all hearsay. There was nobody alive anymore who had known Mary as a young girl, except some people as old and doddery as Mary, and they had more sense in their heads than to talk about something that didn't mean two shakes to anybody anymore.

Whatever it was, that beauty kept people stopping by. Friends of her children and their wives and sometimes even their children would stop and say something like, I was over in the neighborhood and I thought maybe I'd just drop in and say hello. It was all just pure silliness, what they said, because Mary didn't live in the neighborhood of anybody except a couple of tobacco farms and the town's dairy. But like most people, they were embarrassed to say what was on their minds—or even admit it to themselves.

And these visiting women would prop up their children on their laps and hope that the young ones would behave, because for some reason that they couldn't explain, what Mary thought about their children was very important. And Mary would smile a little smile that barely turned up the edges of her mouth but brought such warmth to her eyes that even the most rambunctious of children would quiet down and
smile back. And she would reach out one shaky bent hand and run a finger down the side of the young one's face and then say something like, I believe there's some homemade butterscotch in that jar in the kitchen by the window. Can you be a big boy and lift off that top real careful? And the child might not even know what homemade butterscotch tasted like, but there was something about Mary that made them pretty doggone sure that whatever it was, it was good. So they'd make round moon-eyes and nod solemnly, and if they were real polite they might even answer with the best yes, ma'am. Then Mary would run her finger down their cheek one more time, as though she was trying to draw a little of their beauty and joy out and hold it in her own hand. Go on then, she'd say. And when you go back outside, mind you stay off the grape arbor.

The mothers would have some question they'd probably thought up on the way out there, like, I just had to have your recipe for homemade peach jam. Or maybe it was, I can't seem to get my lemon chess pies to set up right. Or their husbands would stop by because they thought maybe Mary could use a couple of their extra geraniums, and the wives would just come along for the ride. But sooner or later, the real reason for their visit would come out.

Maybe it was a sick child. Maybe a husband couldn't seem to hold down a steady job. Or perhaps it was some real deep marital problems. There was trouble with loved ones and ones that weren't loved at all, with jobs and houses and money and people. There were worries and fears and doubts and terrors that woke them up in the middle of the night, leaving them teary-eyed and heart-sore and sweaty-palmed and shaky. Sooner or later, those problems all came out.

And Mary listened. She didn't often say much, and when she did speak, it wasn't for very long. Mostly she just sat and looked at the person there beside her with those expressive eyes of hers. Even as they swam behind her trifocals, Mary's eyes held more love than most people ever thought existed on
this earth. And when it came time to reach out and comfort those burdened with the world's woes, Mary's eyes filled the room with light.

After the words and sometimes the tears had passed, folks tended to sit for a time, sharing in Mary's silence. And when the outside world called them back again, to stoves and jobs and restless children, they carried a bit of Mary's stillness along with them.

The strange thing was, people rarely talked about sitting there with Mary. To their closest friends, they might say something like, I stopped by to see Mary today. She gave me her special recipe for German chocolate layer cake. And they'd smile in an almost embarrassed fashion, as though there was something to be ashamed about in being so touched by something they couldn't put into words. The closest they ever came to explaining it was by describing something external.

For instance, Everett kept telling his wife Lou Ann that he ought to have those seven Bibles his mother kept stacked by her television rebound. They were so ragged and worn with age and use they had to be held together with binder twine. Someday they're gonna be all that is left of that woman, Everett would say, and right then and there Lou Ann would make him stop. She just couldn't bear to imagine a world without Mary.

One young man was just out of seminary school and real worried about getting sent to a good church. He found himself driving out by Mary's one day, kind of meandering all over the county before deciding what he wanted to do with his afternoon. That evening he told a couple of his buddies it had seemed as if the old needlepoint that hung above the hall door, the one that said “In Everything Give Thanks,” had shone in his eyes the whole time he'd sat in Mary's front parlor. The next day the young man was real embarrassed about what he'd said, even though nobody'd laughed at him. He promised himself never to talk about stuff like that ever again. He called it conduct unbecoming to a minister.

The first Wednesday after the young minister's visit, Everett stopped by Mary's as usual, to find his elder brother Jonas working out by the woodshed. Jonas was the son who most resembled their father, big and gangly and silent, a real lover of the land. Jonas had stayed where he had been born, building his own farmhouse down at the base of the hill, tilling his garden on land that his father's father had first cleared and planted, making his living as a joiner and cabinetmaker.

BOOK: The Quilt
10.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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