Winter, 1978

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 Women. 

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 together still.


This has been linked to Yeah, Write.

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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Winter, 1978

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Winter, 1978

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 Women. 

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 together still.


This has been linked to Yeah, Write.

Labels: , ,

32 Comments:

At May 24, 2012 at 7:53 PM , Anonymous Deborah Batterman said...

Here we are in the height of spring and you're drawing me into a very evocative winter. Memories have no season, do they? I love the way quilting and classical music and sipping tea (and little women) are intertwined here. On a possibly spiritual level, I'm reminded of a quote from a favorite yoga teacher of mine: 'the greater the external darkness, the greater the internal light.'

 
At May 24, 2012 at 8:10 PM , Anonymous Cindy Brown said...

I remember that winter. It is no lie that the drifts were that high! I didn't learn to quilt though. Bummer.

 
At May 24, 2012 at 8:35 PM , Anonymous Leslicollins said...

Brilliant.

 
At May 25, 2012 at 3:36 AM , Anonymous Mary said...

How lovely!!

 
At May 25, 2012 at 4:04 AM , Anonymous KellyHashway said...

I was born in December 1978. Don't tell, though. ;)

 
At May 25, 2012 at 4:51 AM , Anonymous jaum said...

Kelly one of your best pieces! Nuff said!

 
At May 25, 2012 at 5:53 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks for reading, Kelly - How is your program coming along?

 
At May 25, 2012 at 5:53 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks!

 
At May 25, 2012 at 5:54 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I was thinking about making a quilt yesterday and this came out. Didn't make it to the fabric store, though.

 
At May 25, 2012 at 5:54 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks!

 
At May 25, 2012 at 5:55 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

I think '77 was also a really tough year for us. I have my quilt frames in the basement and I'm thinking about setting them up.

 
At May 25, 2012 at 5:56 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Very lovely quote, Deborah! Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

 
At May 25, 2012 at 5:56 AM , Anonymous KellyHashway said...

Which program?

 
At May 28, 2012 at 12:25 PM , Anonymous Erin @Momfog said...

Lovely imagery. My grandmother taught me how to sew and cross-stitch. We never made a quilt but we did lots of small projects. It was so much fun picking out the fabric and having something she did only with me (I was the only girl in a long string of boy cousins.)

 
At May 28, 2012 at 12:35 PM , Anonymous idiosyncratic eye said...

Aw, what a lovely time! You described it perfectly that you had me there with you all. :)

 
At May 29, 2012 at 4:20 AM , Anonymous Vivian Pitschlitz said...

Lovely I think most families have that special something that they love to do together. My childhood it was building large puzzles. When my daughters were growing up we would connect up all the pcs in the house and play Age of Empires for hours trying our best to beat my husband who would always win.

 
At May 29, 2012 at 4:22 AM , Anonymous SisterhoodoftheSensibleMoms said...

How lucky you were to have this time. Much more creative and meaningful time than I had in the winter of 1978. But I remember the snow!
This was simply a lovely piece. Ellen

 
At May 29, 2012 at 6:29 AM , Anonymous Alison@Mama Wants This said...

I always think of quilts as a patchwork of memories. Lovely memory you have here!

 
At May 29, 2012 at 7:38 AM , Anonymous Stephanie Brennan said...

Nice metaphor. Beautifully woven story. I remember winters like that, as well.

 
At May 29, 2012 at 9:17 AM , Anonymous christina said...

lovely.

 
At May 29, 2012 at 10:09 AM , Anonymous Carrie Sieffert said...

I love how your mother expertly included you in her hobby and taught you all something along the way. I only hope I can do this with my own children one day (perhaps not quilting) but listening and talking and learning that although are paths are rarely straight there is always a way back home.

 
At May 29, 2012 at 11:01 AM , Anonymous Kathy Kramer said...

I love your descriptions! That's one thing I have to work on in my creative writing. I could feel the cold in your words. I have "description envy". :)

 
At May 29, 2012 at 1:12 PM , Anonymous Aidan Donnelley Rowley said...

We three women... Just beautiful.

 
At May 29, 2012 at 3:19 PM , Anonymous Shannon Vander Meulen said...

Lovely descriptions here woven into a memorable story. Is this part of something more? It feels like it could be the beginning of a short story or novel.

 
At May 29, 2012 at 4:10 PM , Anonymous Mayor Gia said...

Awwww, what a nice story. Very sweet.

 
At May 29, 2012 at 7:55 PM , Anonymous kdwald said...

I want to be that mother. And I want to be one of those children.

 
At May 29, 2012 at 10:38 PM , Anonymous Robbie K said...

beautiful and now i want to go back and watch that movie How To Make An American quilt.

 
At May 30, 2012 at 4:54 AM , Anonymous Kristin Ireland said...

So sweet.

 
At May 30, 2012 at 3:32 PM , Anonymous Adrienne said...

This is beautiful! I loved the paragraph about the quilt stitching! The parallels of life and the stitches was so perfect. I loved it!

 
At May 30, 2012 at 6:36 PM , Anonymous Ladygoogoogaga2011 said...

That sounds like a very special memory:)

 
At May 30, 2012 at 7:44 PM , Anonymous Amanda said...

This sounds so lovely. I love little women, and I desperately want to learn how to knit. And I dream of cold winter days when my girls are a bit older, and getting to create memories such as this.

Beautiful story, beautifully written.

 
At May 31, 2012 at 12:21 PM , Anonymous IASoupMama said...

What lovely images!

My favorite book is Little Women and I cannot wait to introduce it to my children. My son has started reading my other favorites (Laura Ingalls Wilder) and he is full of questions about the prairie and farm life -- which is one of the reasons we moved out here with our chickens and ducks and garden and the acres of farmland surrounding us.

 

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