Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: White (10/29/09)
TITLE: What Lies Above
By Brenda Shipman
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One lady talked about a letter she’d just gotten from her son, while another passed on the latest gossip she’d heard down at Pauline’s Beauty Shop. The voices lowered to whispers when the conversation drifted into “As the World Turns”. I strained hard to hear but never could make out all the details, just a lot of giggling.
The wonderful aroma of Grandma’s vegetable beef soup and sweet yeasty cinnamon rolls wafted its way down to my little den beneath it all. My mouth began to water and my stomach rumbled in anticipation of a feast later on.
Grandma had given me a pillow, a blanket, and a small pile of fabric scraps. She’d also entrusted me with a real grown-up pair of scissors, some pins, a needle and thread, and some cotton stuffing.
Being a pretty short kid, I could still sit up and not bump the white sheet that stretched out overhead. I looked around at each pair of legs and feet that encircled me, noting all the similar features: black chunky shoes, thick stockings with a seam running up the back of the leg, and hems of calf-length calico dresses. A few of Grandma’s friends had their legs crossed with one foot swinging up and down to the rhythm of the silver needles that poked in and out of my white cover.
Finally, I got bored enough to finger through the scraps of fabric. Grandma had just said, “Let’s see what you can make out of these. I bet you could sew me up a little pin cushion.”
I picked up the heavy black scissors and cut what I thought was a square, then another one. Taking the needle and thread in hand, I put the two pieces together and started to sew - long uneven stitches and crooked as a dog’s hind leg. Once I finished that part, I snipped off the leftover thread then picked up a wad of cotton stuffing. Oops, I forgot to leave an opening for the filling. I sighed in discouragement and picked up the scissors. Snip, snip. There, that should be a big enough hole.
I crammed my little square so full of stuffing it sort of looked more like a ball. I tried to close up the opening by pushing the needle up through the fabric, then poking it back down - ouch! A small drop of blood oozed off my fingertip and onto my precious pin cushion. Then I noticed the stuffing was falling out in between the carefully sewn stitches. Tears filled my eyes and I threw the tiny pillow - needle, thread and all. It hit one of the ladies’ legs.
“What’s going on under there, Annie?”
“Nothin’,” I said, choking back angry tears.
Grandma bent down and looked at me. Her face was kind and soft and I suddenly wanted to ball my eyes out.
“Come ‘ere, honey, and bring me your pincushion.”
I grabbed the mess I‘d made, crawled out between a couple of ladies and sat down in the chair next to Grandma. All of the women continued to sew and toss smiles of encouragement my way. I started to feel better sitting there in the midst of these kind old ladies while I watched Grandma take out my awkward stitches and rethread the needle.
My eyes dropped to the huge kaleidoscope of stars, squares and rectangles stretched into the frame. The blues, reds and creams blended into the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. A tiny seed of hope and hunger sprouted in my heart. I crawled back underneath the quilt, gave the white ceiling one final glance, then gathered up all my scraps of fabric and placed them in Grandma’s lap.
“I don’t know what to do with all this, Grandma.”
She dried my tears with her soft embroidered hanky and said, “Oh but I do, honey. Here, climb up in my lap and I’ll show you how we can turn all these pieces into something really pretty.“
And I believed her, because I was sitting there looking at what she could do with a bunch of scraps.
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