Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: MAP (01/31/19)
- TITLE: Stitchin' the Way
By Yvonne Blake
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Ruby shooed a fly off her sweaty forehead and bent over the little triangles of cloth. Lila had gotten a new bundle of scraps from the big house and was teaching the younger girl how to make a quilt. Ruby loved the array of reds, greens, and yellows, but it seemed the tiny squares and triangles had a mind of their own. Between the threads tangling into knots and the stitches waggling up and down, it was a rare occurrence when both pieces of cloth met together at the end of the row.
Auntie Lila arranged the squares and triangles into bigger squares, called blocks, each one telling a story. They started with the Wagon Wheel, followed by the Crossroads. Others looked like log cabins or winding paths. Today they were working on the Flying Geese blocks; they needed three of these, according to Auntie Lila. It would take many more weeks before they finished all twelve blocks.
Ruby stood up and stretched. “I’s done with this one, Auntie.” She held out the sky blue triangles. “What you say it is?”
Auntie examined the stitches, turning the cloth over to inspect the back. “Tis geese that shows the way to freedom, just like the Good Lord showed Moses the way to the Promised Land.” She put the blue triangles in a bag and pulled out two more. “We be needin’ eight geese for this block. I’s makin’ a yeller one; now you make a red one.”
Ruby sighed. “When is we goin’ to be all done?”
“Be patient, young’un. Quiltin’ takes time, but ‘tis a good important job. This will help some’uns to get to freedom.” Auntie Lila leaned back against the plank walls, all the while she kept her needle going in and out of her yellow pieces. “You’s too little to know of freedom. You been born a slave, just like all the young’uns around here. But someday, you’s goin’ to be free. You’s goin’ to have your own house, and do what you wantin’ to do – not havin’ to keep house or fields for no one else . . .”
Lila talked of freedom often. So much so, that Ruby could quote it right along with her. “When you’s free, you can own a fine carriage and even a fine house. You can walk down the street just like everyone else.”
They worked on the quilt until the summer sun gave way to the indigo evening sky and the men returned from the fields. After a supper of pigeon peas and rice, Ruby sat on Pa’s knee listened to his deep voice, “Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt land. Let my people go.” He looked down into her bright eyes. “Keep praying, Chile. Keep trusting. When the Good Lord calls, we will answer.”
Ruby leaned into his strong shoulders and listened to the big folk talk of Tubman, Turner, and Lincoln. She listened until her head drooped and she dreamed of wearing fancy blue dresses and living in a big house of her own.
Summer harvest past, and it wasn’t til the cool winds of autumn blew over the tobacco fields that Auntie Lila and Ruby finished their quilt. Ruby ran her fingers over the colorful blocks that mapped out the path to the Promised Land. It told of treacherous mountain paths and refreshing, but deep, flowing rivers. It led the travelers to friendly homes and warned of dangerous cities. The flying geese showed how far to go, with the North Star guiding them on. Ruby traced the dark blue square with bright yellow points.
There was a restlessness in the air. Women whispered, men gathered, and children wondered in silence. Night after night, Pa and Ma seemed to be always listening, always waiting. As Ruby lay on her mat near the crackling fire, she closed her eyes and listened. She couldn’t hear anything but the crickets and Ma humming a soft lullaby.
Then Pa’s chair scraped the floor as he stood up, and Ma stopped humming. Ruby held her breath.
There! She heard it too – a whippoorwill’s whistle, not from the woods or fields, but close by between the shacks. It was the Lord calling. It was time to answer – time to follow the quilt path to the North Star.
Job 14:5 (KJV) “Thou shalt call, and I will answer Thee.”
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