The Story Quilt

By Lori Stevens

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We as the children can seek out our loved ones, Preserving their names and their memory (Children’s Songbook, pages 90–91).

Grandma lifted little Jesse to her lap and gently wrapped him in the Story Quilt. He was droopy-eyed, and his hair was still a little damp from his bath. He let his head fall gently against her and enjoyed the warmth that was beginning to spread over his body.

Michael and Jenna, who had been sitting this last hour in front of the fire, turned to face Grandma. Jenna smiled and moved closer to Grandma when she saw the Story Quilt. She had always loved the quilt. It had been in their family for a long time. Every square of material told a different story from their family’s past. She softly ran her fingers over a square she had not noticed before. “Tell us a story of this square, Grandma,” she begged.

“Oh,” Grandma said, looking down. “That square tells the story of my Uncle Bo.”

She shifted Jesse’s weight slightly and began to tell the story:

“His real name was Robert Hanely, Jr., but everyone called him Bo. He was my mother’s brother and the first child born in her family.

“His hair was as red as the old bantam rooster that woke them up each morning. His eyes were as blue as the Nebraska sky. And he had a streak in him that was as stubborn as his hair was red.

“When he was a baby, he had a favorite blue blanket with white bunnies on it, and he carried it around wherever he went. When he was two years old, his father decided that his son was too old to still be dragging that blue blanket around, so he took it away.

“He folded it nicely and placed it in a cupboard out of Bo’s reach. Bo cried and hollered until his father returned the blanket about four in the morning. There were other attempts to separate Bo and that blanket, but none of them ever worked.”

“Did he ever give it up, Grandma?” Michael asked in a tone that told her that he had never needed to carry around a silly blanket.

“Yes, he did,” Grandma said, “when he was about three and a half years old. One day his mother brought home a brand-new baby girl. She sat Bo down and told him that he was a big brother and that it was his job to protect his sister. Later that day he touched her tiny hand and felt that it was cold. He fetched his blue blanket with the white bunnies and wrapped her in it. From that day on, it was her blanket.”

“Did he protect his sister?” Jenna asked.

“He most certainly did,” Grandma said. “That little girl was my mother, and he looked after her the whole time they were growing up.”

“What happened to him, Grandma?” Michael asked.

“He was a fine boy,” Grandma told them. “He helped his father on the farm, helped his mother look after the younger children, and did his best to keep Heavenly Father’s commandments.

“When he was twenty-one, he met a beautiful girl and they became engaged. Before they could marry, World War II broke out and Bo joined the navy. He went overseas to fight in the war, and he died on the beaches of France. When the news of his death reached his mother, she got out that old blanket and cut a square and added it to the Story Quilt so that Bo would always be remembered.”

Grandma reached down and placed her hand over Jenna’s, which was still fingering the cloth.

“If you look closely,” Grandma said, “you can see a faded white bunny.”

Now it was Michael who reached out and pointed to a square. This one was solid white.

“What about this one, Grandma?” he asked. “What’s the story behind it?”

“That,” she said, noticing that Jesse had fallen asleep in her arms, “is a piece of cloth from my grandmother’s wedding veil.

“My grandmother Nellie was the daughter of a farmer. Money was scarce for farmers in those days, and things like fancy wedding dresses were for the rich. But when Nellie became engaged to her beau of three years, she was determined to have a white lace dress.

“Not far from their farm lived an Italian woman who made the most beautiful lace that Nellie had ever seen. Now, because lace-making is a time-consuming and delicate work, it is quite expensive. When Nellie learned the cost of making an entire dress of lace, it seemed that she would have to give up her heart’s desire. Even though she had scrimped and saved for three years, the amount that she had was not nearly enough for the dress. In fact, it wasn’t even enough for the veil!

“Nellie was heartbroken. She lay in her room and cried for hours. Finally facing reality, she dried her eyes and went to talk to her mother. Together, she knew, they could make a pretty dress for her wedding day.

“With the money that she had saved, Nellie bought the material for her dress and some fancy beads to sew onto it. When it was finished, she was pleased. It was pretty and fit well.

“But as it turned out, Nellie was in for a surprise. Her mother, knowing how badly her daughter wanted a lace wedding dress, had been secretly learning to make lace. The Italian woman was her teacher.

“It had taken her over two years to learn the art of lace-making well enough to begin work on the dress. She worked late each night after her family had gone to bed and was still up before them each morning to prepare breakfast. She worked each chance she got, but, because it was such painstaking and delicate work, she had only been able to complete the veil before the wedding.

“Nellie was so touched by her mother’s sacrifice that she saved the veil for over sixty years. When she was very old, she cut a square of lace and sewed it onto a piece of material she had saved from her wedding dress, and added it to the Story Quilt.”

“So the story of her mother’s sacrifice will always be remembered by our family.” Jenna pointed out.

“That’s right,” Grandma told him. “And over the years I added many pieces of cloth to this quilt before I finished it.”

“Is there a piece of cloth in the quilt that tells a story about us?” Michael asked.

“No,” Grandma told him, “but I have saved pieces of cloth from your mother’s childhood so that she can make a story quilt for your family. As you children grow up, your lives will be filled with many stories, and some of them will be sewn into a quilt to be remembered by your children and your children’s children, just as I can tell you the stories of my grandmother’s family.”

Illustrated by Bethany Scow