The quilt came the winter following the two best years ever for the grove, and not just for Jacob’s grove but for everyone along the Ocklawaha Valley. Steamers increased their runs from Eureka and even farther up river for more than six weeks to get the picking down to the St. Johns, then to Jacksonville and north by train. A boat captain told Jacob one morning that the oranges he was loading, the ones Jacob picked the day before, would be sitting in a silver cup on a white table cloth in some fancy hotel restaurant in New York City in less than four days. Jacob was stunned.
With the money from the second good year, Inez insisted that some be set aside for new winter clothes. She ordered the fabric and worked on the clothes through the summer so come fall each girl would have two new dresses and the boys a couple of new shirts. She also started collecting scraps of clothes and some flour sack towels that were worn out beyond patching for a new quilt for the winter.
When she finished it, just before Thanksgiving, she and Jacob had one particularly delightful evening looking at the quilt. They sat up in bed with it spread out over their legs and laps, rubbing their fingers along the varying textures and colors, along the seams, some deep and others subtle, and telling stories. Each patch stirred memories and a story and often another. By the end of the evening, they counted up ten people whose stories were woven in the quilt. They sat quietly, then slid down under the covers and slept soundly.
Labels: Short Fiction