Snow angled itself in the corners of each window. Frost crept across the panes. The driveway filled with drifts three or four
feet high. The doors were nearly frozen shut.
We dressed in layers and hurried to the barn.
We rushed from stall to stall, using screwdrivers to chip
away the layer of ice in the red water buckets hanging inside the cows’ stalls. The horses stamped their feet and blew frosty
breath through their noses. The chickens
huddled up close. There was no time to
scratch the back of the pigs; no time to pet the cats. We were cold.
We hurried back inside.
My mother had a fire going.
She put on a pot of tea. My
sisters and I huddled on the couch around her, listening to her read Little
Behind the couch, she'd set up her quilt frame. From time to time that winter, my sisters and I would sit with our mother around the quilt, an hour here, an hour there, carefully balancing
our stitches on a line marked in blue. Our
early stitches were inconsistent: some tiny and tentative; some
overly-confident, overly-long. Our
stitches turned in then out like a row of crooked teeth. But every so often, we’d get ourselves on the
right path and our stitches would be sure.
And eventually, we learned to stay there, occasionally straying from the
path, but always finding our way back.
That winter, my mother taught my sisters and me, we three little
women, how to appreciate classical music.
She taught us to drink tea from cups and saucers. Around the quilt, we learned to talk. We learned to listen. Tracing the quilt’s pattern, so carefully
pieced together by our mother, we learned to think about the patterns in our
lives. And we learned that whenever we
strayed from the path, we could always find a way back on.
That winter, the winter of ’78, pulling the thread through fabric
and batting, we stitched that quilt together and it is those same stitches,
taken over cups of tea, taken amid laughter and conversation, that bind us
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Labels: Creative non-fiction, farm life, Growing up