By Adina Senft
Every piece of fabric held a memory.
Amelia Beiler paused in her sorting of scraps to finger a piece of purple cotton. Sometime last spring in a moment of resolution she’d cut it up into squares, but she knew every mark. This piece had lain under Enoch’s suspenders—the cotton was worn down to the weft threads and half the dye had rubbed away. It had been his favorite shirt—the one she’d made for him in the weeks before their wedding ten years ago. The collar had never sat properly around his neck, so he couldn’t wear it to church, and the side seams had a maddening way of twisting to his left. But every time he put it on he’d kissed her and said, “You’ve wrapped me in love, Liewi,” and worn it to work in the pallet shop.
She’d learned a thing or two about sewing since then. And about love.
Her lips wobbled and, swallowing hard, she set the scrap aside. It was really only good for the rag bag. But maybe she’d make a quilt just for herself out of such pieces. After all, the things in the rag bag tended to be what you loved the most and wore out, didn’t they? Then she could be wrapped in love, too.
It had only been eleven months since the buggy accident had taken him away, but the tears lived close to the surface where the silliest things would make them well up. The song of the wrens in the trees that woke them up on summer mornings. The way his drinking glass still sat next to the kitchen sink, unused, because she always used the glass in the bathroom. His straw hat on the spindle of the rocking chair as though he’d just hung it there. The wrens still sang and woke her up, and the boys used the glass and the hat, but the fact that Enoch was missing from all of them was enough to make the mourning begin all over again.
She could stand here feeling sorry for herself all day, or she could get all these scraps and squares into her basket and get over to Carrie’s. Because it was Tuesday afternoon, and she, Emma, and Carrie would have two blessed hours all to themselves to plan the next quilt. The boys were in school, the pallet shop would run itself without her—she always left David in charge on Tuesdays, never Aaron—and Emma’s sister was probably already at the Daadi Haus to spell Emma and give her a bit of a rest from caring for her parents.
Two hours. In that amount of time you could plan a square, visit and catch up, and remind yourself that you were a woman with a soul that needed feeding.
Amelia laced up her sturdy Oxfords—no sneakers on this blustery day on the bare end of October—and wrapped her knitted shawl over her chest, tucking the ends into her black belt apron. She checked that her hair was tucked neatly into her Kapp by habit and that its three straight pins—one on the top and one on each side—were in order by feel. A pan of cinnamon buns and two jars of applesauce went into her carry basket, wrapped in plastic and towels. Then she left the house and let herself out the back gate into the fallow field that separated the last of the ten-acre places on the edge of town from the big farms that spread themselves along Edgeware Road.
The air smelled of wood smoke and crabapples, spiced with the tang of frost. Amelia breathed deeply and set her thoughts on Carrie and Emma and their two hours. If they saw her tear up, they got distressed and fussed with cups of coffee and worried voices. That wasn’t what she wanted for their time together. It was sacred to everything light and good, and she wouldn’t bring a rain shower in with her if she could possibly help it.
Enoch would understand. He had loved a good laugh and the small moments that God gave a person to appreciate His gifts.
Five minutes’ fast walk across the field and a hop across the creek that formed the east boundary of the Stolzfus farm brought her within sight of Emma, who waved from the front porch of the sturdy little Daadi Haus as though she were on a train leaving for Philadelphia. She disappeared inside and a moment later ran out the back as Amelia passed the big farmhouse where Emma’s sister Karen lived with her husband John and their young family. Like Amelia, Emma had a shawl wrapped tightly around her and a big bag suspiciously weighted at the bottom with the rounded shapes of canning jars.
“Hallo,” she said as she joined Amelia. “Do you have all your squares ready? I tell you, I’ve been looking forward to this for days. Our quilting frolics are the only good thing about this time of year.”
Amelia opened the access gate between the Stolzfus place and Moses Yoder’s pasture and closed it behind the two of them so they wouldn’t accidentally let his cows out. “The only good thing? I’d think that finishing up a winter’s worth of canned fruit, pickles, and vegetables would be a wonderful good thing. It took me twice as long this year because of having to run the pallet shop. I had to get the boys to help me wash jars and cut beets and apples, otherwise I’d be standing in front of that stove yet.”
“All right, two good things.”
“And what’s wrong with fall? It’s my favorite season, with all the colors and things slowing down a bit. Well, except for the—” She stopped. “Oh.”
“Ja.” Emma kicked a stone out of their path. “Wedding season.”
© 2011 by Shelley Bates. Used by permission of Hachette Book Group USA. All rights reserved.