I wrote “The Old Quilt” for one of Lascaux’s flash fiction contests and, to my surprise, I was one of seven finalists out of more than 240 entries. The story was based on a visual prompt—a color collage that looked a lot like a stained-glass window.
Originally published on LascauxFlash.com, Sept. 2012.
The Old Quilt
By Lee Wright
The quilt was made by my great-grandmother. She turned ninety-nine the week before I was born and didn’t live to see my fifth birthday. To me, she will always be a short, stooped, wisp of a woman with thin, silver hair, a hard jaw, and cloudy blue eyes. Dressed always in a simple, gray housedress, she was a quiet, near-ghost, still and introverted, somewhat frightening to us children. I never knew her as the woman who lost three sons to war, two to the mines, one to drink, and one in youth to God only knows what. I have only vague, sometimes contradictory, three-generation-old stories of her time at the front tending the wounded. I’m told that, somewhere, in a trunk at my aunt’s house, there is a yellowed letter from a President now decades dead thanking my illiterate great-grandmother for her service.
Remembering bulbous purple knuckles, barely capable of pinching a cheek, it’s hard for me to imagine her sitting, night-after-night, in a hand-hewn rocker, working by candlelight to assemble this quilt from the scraps of the hand-me-down and homemade clothes her ill-fated children had worn until they could be worn no more. But, nearly a century later, the stitches are tight, the edges only lightly frayed, the colors muted but warm.
My child, born to a child, will know even less of me, but I take comfort in the fact that, before saying goodbye, I swaddled her in the colors of a hundred autumns.
© 2012 Lee Wright