Travel Quilt Trade

The Travel Quilt Trade

“You’re such a neat freak,” I muttered while shoving the vacuum around the dining room furniture.
“Excuse me!” Mom gasped, feigning surprise at my attitude.
“Mom, why do I have to vacuum?” And I hadn’t meant that as the outright whine it sounded
“LOL I asked your grandmother the very same thing when I was your age,” called Mom from behind the fridge door, elbow deep in her own chores.
Now it was my turn to gasp, “Moms shouldn’t say ‘LOL’!”
Then she paused in her cleaning, sitting back on her heels, she slowly corrected her answer, “Because we are lucky enough to have carpeting.”
“That’s silly. Everyone has carpeting,” I was determined to argue with Mom’s suddenly reverent tone as much as with the task at hand.
“Exactly what I said to your Grandmother. But she schooled me…”
Arg! Mom’s shouldn’t say ‘schooled!’ was what I thought. But instead, I maneuvered ahead. Anticipating what was coming next, “Let me guess, Grandma told you a story,” I interrupted.
“The very same one I’m going to tell you now,” laughed Mom.
“Fine! I’ll vacuum!” I fairly shouted, doubling speed, trying to Hoover my way out of the living room before another of Grandma’s stories caught up with me.
“You started it,” warned Mom. “Don’t be-a askin’ ifn you ain’t prepared ta take da answer,” Mom recited the old family mantra, complete with Grandma’s Texan drawl and wooden spoon wagging.
That convinced me. Recognizing the sign of the serious wooden spoon, I shut off the vacuum and put the kettle on for Mom. When we were settled on the porch with her tea, she began…
You know, your Grandmother traveled a lot when she was younger. Once her girlfriend, remember “Auntie” Angela? Angela asked your Grandmother for a ride over the border, to visit a cousin in Mexico recently married. Angela hadn’t been able to attend the wedding, something like that, near as I can remember. Anyway, you know your Grandmother never turned down an invitation for a drive, so there they went in an old truck, off somewhere west of Juarez.

The two girls stopped at many roadside stands and shrines to ask directions, and found their way through the tiny towns to tinier roads, and finally, at the end of a dirt street in the late afternoon, they came to the newlywed cousin’s home. It was a plain adobe brick house, but with proper wooden door and window sills, even new glass panes in the windows. The girls waited in the truck, as is the old rural custom where visitors are scarce. Not too long before a very pregnant (you know your Grandmother would say, “ve-ry pregn’t”), and proudly beaming girl of their own age gladly welcomed cousin and stranger into her home.

But inside, Grandmother was surprised to find (or rather not find), that there was no flooring in the house. Just the same dirt as the road outside, but packed hard like tile. And only one room, with a linoleum topped kitchen table near the door. A tiny jar of rosemary bloomed blue over the table. Your Grandmother always favored rosemary, for its skill of making anyplace smell like home. There was an old couch in the center of the room, facing the window for entertainment. And in the corner there was a small bed, neatly made. That’s about all they had.
The guests were ushered to seats of honor on the couch. Bride and groom stood beside the table. Rapid Spanish followed. Your poor Grandmother, despite all her travels, she never was very good with languages. Great effort was made to send the man of the house off to a market for barbeque provisions. Surprisingly, Angela refused the invitation. Luckily your Grandmother realized in time, before agreeing to some extravagant fare, the couple was too poor to cook for surprise company. Although they gladly would have, your Grandmother was proud to tell me. As dinner was graciously refused, drinks were negotiated. The company would have water, thank you very much.
With clay mugs at last in hand, Angela and her cousin talked of…wait…it was Guadalupe. Now I remember her name! Imagine that, after all these years…Where was I? Your Grandmother and her slow language skills followed along in conversation, keeping up as well as the long day’s drive and the peaceful Mexican sunshine permitted.
The wedding had been ideal. There were roses, yes even in winter! Somehow, plenty of beer for all. And her dress, borrowed, but so beautiful. Next was news of all the Texas cousins: who had work, who had moved, new babies, graduations, and like that.
“Thank you for welcoming us,” your Grandmother at least understood the preparations of goodbye from her friend. But Guadalupe had more to tell. She proudly fetched a broom unnoticed from behind the table. The handle was broken, but it was still long enough for her to use, and with great flourish, and now talking faster and happier than ever before, she swept a patch of dirt floor. Angela turned to your Grandmother to explain the gesture, “She is proud of her new home..and works to keep it clean..” Guadalupe interjected with even more cheerfulness, the young Groom nodding vigorous ascent, “her baby will be lucky to have such a nice home…there is still a little time to sew some things for the baby.” And then they all joked, how would they ever make room for a crib?
With that joyous proclamation, everyone walked outside to Grandmother’s truck. Parting hugs were exchanged, even among strangers. There was more said about, “wish we could stay longer, but it is such a long journey...” Grandmother wanted to say thanks to this couple she would never see again. Gracias didn’t seem like enough. So she simply turned to leave. Then, opening the truck door, your Grandmother sees a gleam of sunset shone on her old traveling quilt that she always kept behind the seat.
It wasn’t too pretty, but clean at least, and the binding was strong. A Carpenter’s Wheel of red and white diamonds with a deep evergreen background, now an old car quilt. Like the one we keep in the trunk, for emergencies and impromptu picnics. Remember how your Grandmother liked to quilt the Carpenter’s wheel? Oh she made more than a dozen, for every charity raffle and new baby. Made one for you when you were born. I always meant to ask her, was this story the reason it became her favorite block?
Well, do you know what your Grandmother did next? As soon as she spied that old quilt, she pulled it right out of the truck and gave it to Guadalupe.
Everyone stopped talking and looked at each other. Grandmother started to worry. Had she made an impossible error of manners? These people had been so kind with what little they had. And now she was offending them? Desperate to explain, for once your Grandma got the words right, “Para su Nino.”
Guadalupe smiled, and lovingly accepted the old quilt. More Spanish, praising the gift, then quick words to her new husband sent him back into the house. He returned with the broom, and presented it to your Grandmother. He did! No doubt with that aire only a gentlemen can manage, when giving a toast or such. Grandma looked at her traveling companion for approval. Yes, Angela nodded confirmation, there was to be a happy trade of household treasures. “For your home. Someday may you have a baby and be as happy as I am,” Angela translated Guadalupe‘s blessing.
A hot desert breeze crossed the porch following the clouds of dust from Grandma’s pick-up truck out of my mind. Mom pulled my apron from my lap saying, “Go find your friends, it’s too late in the day for chores now.” She smiled, .“Carpet won’t be going anywhere. You can finish later”
Likely, someday, I’ll have a child. And I already know just what I’m going to say when she asks me, “Mom, why do I have to vacuum?”



  1. Wow, so touching! :) and that carpenter star is simply gorgeous!

  2. Gracias to you both! I seriously appreciate your taking time to share in our works.

  3. Darnit, bringing tears to my eyes with your wonderful story telling! Thank you for sharing, now I want to start making some carpenter's stars...


  4. Brandy, that is so kind of you to take time to say. Thank you very much. Please share your Carpenter's Star here when you get started on it!!


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