Mrs. Crabtree looked at the seven muffin tins lined up on her kitchen island. The chocolate cupcakes smelled heavenly, if she did say so herself, Mrs. Crabtree was an excellent baker. Regardless, on this Monday, she was not enamored with the chore of finishing seven dozen cupcakes for the PTA bake sale that afternoon. Eighty-four cupcakes, she couldn’t resist calculating, to fill with cream, frost and decorate. Trimming all these tiny cakes would take the entire morning, she had better get started. But the last tin had just come from the oven and still needed to cool some before meeting their filling and frosting. Enough time to tidy around the downstairs. And hadn't she promised Rose that yard sale quilt for her bedroom? She could wash it while the baby slept, and surprise Rose by having her bed made with it when she returned from school.
She found the quilt on the living room couch near a medieval castle of blocks, complete with parapets, drawbridge and Rapunzel towers. To Mrs. Crabtree, the old quilt looked like a veritable tea garden in a peaceful green meadow. Cup of tea would be lovely, she mused to herself, hoping there would be time for tea before frosting and loading cupcakes into the car for their final destination at the bake sale. As she picked up the quilt, Mrs. Crabtree was suddenly very tired. Too tired for cleaning, or laundry, or...yawn...frosting. She would rest right here on this sofa, with the morning sun flooding the family room windows, and this lovely cozy quilt. She had to rest. Now. Isn't it nice to have a lap quilt long enough to cover your toes when you just need a rest? was the last thing Mrs. Crabtree remembered before peaceful rest clouded her thoughts with tea gardens and meadows, and she was fast asleep.
Mr. Crabtree sneezed mightily, recovered himself somewhat, and then added an entire box of tissues to his briefcase. His head felt like a bowling ball underwater. He had given up all attempts at normal breathing, and was concentrating only on normal walking. He found his wife having a cup of tea at the kitchen table, with what appeared to Mr. Crabtree as an ocean of beautifully frosted cupcakes covering the kitchen counters.
"Ah, I see you are ready for the school, ah, the school.....thing." Mr. Crabtree's attempt at interest in his wife's affairs faltered under the haze of his cold.
Mrs. Crabtree smiled understandingly. "Apparently," she said in a bemused tone.
He couldn't tell if she was pleased or making a joke, or if he cared which. A pun he had missed, possibly? "Don't joke with me, Dear,” he said, “I’m not up to funnies just now.”
"No joke, Brian," she replied. "The last thing I remember is taking a little lie down on the sofa. When I awoke, the cupcakes are finished, and here is a pot of tea as well, all made perfectly." She waved her arms expansively, showcasing the accomplishments like a Price Is Right model, amazed at her own kitchen.
"You must be coming down with this infernal cold, too," said Mr. Crabtree, "Maybe Mother stopped by and helped out," he offered, the most real possibility of the moment being the ache in his head.
Mrs. Crabtree, never one to overlook gift horses, let explanations pass. "Have some tea, Dear? And a cupcake?"
"I'm -achoo- sorry dear -achoo- no time. I must get to the office. The Abramson account, you know, presentations today," and he closed his sentence with another stifled sneeze.
"Then here you go," Mrs. Crabtree said, wrapping the yard sale quilt around her husband's shoulders. "This will keep you warm," she said comfortingly before kissing him good by and helping Mr. Crabtree, briefcase and quilt out the kitchen door.
Standing on the train platform in the spring sunshine, wrapped in a quilt, Mr. Crabtree was beginning to feel better. People stared. And they kept staring at him, on the train, and in the elevator too. But the quilt was so cozy, and the bright green tartan backing reminded him of a story about swashbuckling highlanders and their brave deeds, which although he couldn’t quite recall, he was sure he had loved when he was younger. By the time he entered his downtown office building, he felt equally brave to face the Partners, the Abramson clients, and the whole 76th floor. He wore his quilt proudly all the way to the board room, where he let it adorn the back of his chair as he opened his brief case, smiling to himself as he passed out his reports.
“Forgot to make your bed today, Crabtree?” quipped a senior partner.
“Haven’t seen this fashion at Brooks Brothers,” joined a law clerk good naturedly.
“Achoo,” said Mr. Abramson.
Mr. Crabtree handed him the tissue box from his brief case.
“I -sniff-, thank you. I appreciate a man prepared for every eventuality,” said Mr. Abramson.
“Well it has to be here somewhere,” complained Grandma Crabtree, yet again turning over cushions, this time searching the family room furniture for the Lucky quilt. Then pausing in her exasperation, “I can’t go to Bingo -on St. Patrick’s Day no less!- without that Lucky Quilt.”
“Rose Dear,” asked Mrs. Crabtree of her daughter, “Did you ever get hold of that lovely quilt to redecorate your room?”
Rose’s reply was interrupted by the doorbell. As she was closest to the front door, Rose went to answer, as Mr. Crabtree entered the kitchen.
“Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all!” proclaimed Mr. Crabtree, happy to be feeling better at last. He stopped his wife midway to the basement door with a big hug and a kiss.
“You are the best wife ever! Hey, where is that lucky quilt? We should have it out when the Abramsons come to dinner tonight.”
“Mom,” called Rose from the living room. “It’s Mrs. O’Leary. She needs her quilt back.”
“Lucky?” said the Baby, and started to cry, loudly.
“That’s what I’m talking about,” said the older Mrs. Crabtree, returning from her search under the sofa and going to comfort the Baby.
“You see, my family relies on the luck of that quilt,” explained Mrs. O’Leary, following Rose into the kitchen.
“Mom, Mom, guess what?” Zac and his tall classmates, now in Varsity uniforms, burst into the kitchen, all talking at once, “coach wants us to bring that quilt for scrimmage tonight!”
“Once my great-grandmother Kate lost that quilt, in 1871 it was, oh the tragedy, you can’t imagine…” continued Mrs. O’Leary, wringing her apron in her hands.
A more beautiful spring afternoon was never had in all of Chicago, Darren was positive. Nor had there ever been a girl as beautiful and as sweet as Colleen, he was equally sure. Darren watched transfixed as the pleasantest of breezes curled Colleen’s dark hair around her shoulders before moving on to buoy a pair of ducks on the pond in the center of the park. Lazy sunshine mixed with the smell of warm grass and the fried chicken in Colleen’s picnic basket. . Her blue eyes twinkling, Colleen smiled patiently until the first lady bug of spring tickled his shirt collar and returned Darren from his reverie.
“Please, Colleen, sit here,” said Darren, spreading the shamrock green Irish Chain quilt atop a hill under a budding dogwood.
For Tommy, a genuine Chicago Fireman
and a great neighbor