It was Melanie’s first “quilting,” but Grandma and Mamma both thought it was time. Mamma was hosting the Wednesday ladies’ group for the month. Melanie was included because she, her older sister Beth, Mamma, and Grandma had spent much of the long Nebraska winter piecing this particular quilt. It was a simple nine-patch pattern, but was a four-generation collection of fabrics entirely made up of scraps from dresses they had worn. Looking at the quilt top, Melanie remembered the fun of picking and matching colors, then cutting and piecing them together. But now, all those quilting stitches seemed like an endless job. Some magazines were predicting the entire task could be machine-done by 1890. Melanie doubted Grandma would stand for that.
Grandpa had assembled the quilting frame to hang from hooks in the ceiling. Together they had attached the lining, batting, and the quilt top, pinning them together snugly. Grandpa, carefully pulling cords, had drawn it upward out of the way, then proudly lowered it again this morning for all the ladies to admire the pretty quilt and handsome frame.
Melanie was glad it was only a neighborhood “quilting,” and not the community Quilting Bee that lasted all day and through late evening. This would end by noon with a “potluck” lunch. Now, that she would enjoy.
“Mel, start like this,” Beth began, making a knot in the end of her thread, then pushed the needle up from the bottom. She carefully pulled until the knot popped through the lining but not the batting. It was important that all knots were hidden but firm enough to hold the tiny stitches taut, yet smooth.
The four neighbor women gathered around the quilt in light-hearted fun, except for Mrs. Percy, who was hardly ever cheerful. They discussed their children, gardening, and other things a bit boring to Melanie.
Mrs. Percy, however, soon captured the conversation with her “announcement.”
“That Garrison girl, Liza, appears to be in ‘the family way,’ if you know what I mean,” she proclaimed, glancing around for reactions. “ I told you she was spending way too much time hanging around that new young doctor. I knew we should have been satisfied with old Dr. Hayes. We don’t need this young upstart with questionable morals,” she sniffed.
“Ouch,” Melanie yelped, as her needle pricked her thumb and blood began to ooze. Her eyes were wide in disbelief at Mrs. Percy. Liza Garrison was fifteen, a year older than Melanie herself. Did Mrs. Percy mean that Liza was going to have a baby? And surely Dr. Jason, one of Melanie’s favorite people in the world, would have nothing to do with that.
“Melanie, watch what you’re doing,” Grandma fussed, dabbing blood with her hankie.
Mamma pursed her lips, quietly changing the subject. Once again, the friendly neighbors chattered about recipes, tomato plants, and Spring weather.
“Hmph” Mrs. Percy pouted, “Time will tell, you’ll see.”
The following two Wednesdays, the quilt made beautiful progress, but conversation was always sprinkled with Mrs. Percy’s barrage of personal information about community residents, especially Liza and Dr. Jason Walton. Melanie could tell Mamma was increasingly annoyed. She’d privately instructed Melanie and Beth to forget the rumors, reciting Bible verses about the harm of slander and gossip, and hurting folks’ reputations. She seemed to feel quite responsible, since the “quiltings” were in her home. Melanie thought she saw a glint in Mamma’s eyes, the kind she got when she was about to make a strong point.
On the final Wednesday, the quilting all finished, they were attaching the binding when there was a knock at the door. Answering it, Mamma calmly ushered in three people.
Melanie and Beth looked at each other and gasped. There stood Dr. Jason, Liza, and a lovely stranger.
“Dr. and Mrs. Walton, please meet my mother, my daughters, and our neighborhood quilting partners,” Mamma smiled. “Liza, I believe you know everybody.”
“Thanks for inviting us to lunch.” Dr. Jason spoke up. “My wife Jane just arrived yesterday, since it has taken me so long to find us a house. Her parents will bring our kids tomorrow and the family will finally be together again.
Liza eyed the dessert table longingly, but Jane cautioned her with familiarity.
“My little sister,” she smiled to the group, “is officially off sweets. I’m helping her shed some of those extra pounds, now that I’m here.”
Mrs. Percy gulped.
Melanie snorted, and Beth kicked her to silence beneath the quilt.
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