Confessions from the Quilting Circle - Maisey Yates
March 4th, 1944
The dress is perfect. Candlelight satin and antique lace. I can’t wait for you to see it. I can’t wait to walk down the aisle toward you. If only we could set a date. If only we had some idea of when the war will be over.
The word whispered through the room like a ghost. Over the faded, floral wallpaper, down to the scarred wooden floor. And to the precariously stacked boxes and bins of fabrics, yarn skeins, canvases and other artistic miscellany.
Lark Ashwood had to wonder if her grandmother had left them this way on purpose. Unfinished business here on earth, in the form of quilts, sweaters and paintings, to keep her spirit hanging around after she was gone.
It would be like her. Adeline Dowell did everything with just a little extra.
From her glossy red hair—which stayed that color till the day she died—to her matching cherry glasses and lipstick. She always had an armful of bangles, a beer in her hand and an ashtray full of cigarettes. She never smelled like smoke. She smelled like spearmint gum, Aqua Net and Avon perfume.
She had taught Lark that it was okay to be a little bit of extra.
A smile curved Lark’s lips as she looked around the attic space again. “Oh, Gram...this is really a mess.”
She had the sense that was intentional too. In death, as in life, her grandmother wouldn’t simply fade away.
Neat attics, well-ordered affairs and pre-death estate sales designed to decrease the clutter a family would have to go through later were for other women. Quieter women who didn’t want to be a bother.
Adeline Dowell lived to be a bother. To expand to fill a space, not shrinking down to accommodate anyone.
Lark might not consistently achieve the level of excess Gram had, but she considered it a goal.
“Lark? Are you up there?”
She heard her mom’s voice carrying up the staircase. “Yes!” She shouted back down. “I’m...trying to make sense of this.”
She heard footsteps behind her and saw her mom standing there, gray hair neat, arms folded in. “You don’t have to. We can get someone to come in and sort it out.”
“And what? Take it all to a thrift store?” Lark asked.
Her mom’s expression shifted slightly, just enough to convey about six emotions with no wasted effort. Emotional economy was Mary Ashwood’s forte. As contained and practical as Addie had been excessive. “Honey, I think most of this would be bound for the dump.”
“Mom, this is great stuff.”
“I don’t have room in my house for sentiment.”
“It’s not about sentiment. It’s usable stuff.”
“I’m not artsy, you know that. I don’t really...get all this.” The unspoken words in the air settled over Lark like a cloud.
Mary wasn’t artsy because her mother hadn’t been around to teach her to sew. To knit. To paint. To quilt.
Addie had taught her granddaughters. Not her own daughter.
She’d breezed on back into town in a candy apple Corvette when Lark’s oldest sister, Avery, was born, after spending Mary’s entire childhood off on some adventure or another, while Lark’s grandfather had done the raising of the kids.
Grandkids had settled her. And Mary had never withheld her children from Adeline. Whatever Mary thought about her mom was difficult to say. But then, Lark could never really read her mom’s emotions. When she’d been a kid, she hadn’t noticed that. Lark had gone around feeling whatever she did and assuming everyone was tracking right along with her because she’d been an innately self focused kid. Or maybe that was just kids.
Either way, back then badgering her mom into tea parties and talking her ear off without noticing Mary didn’t do much of her own talking had been easy.
It was only when she’d had big things to share with her mom that she’d realized...she couldn’t.
“It’s easy, Mom,” Lark said. “I’ll teach you. No one is asking you to make a living with art, art can be about enjoying the process.”
“I don’t enjoy doing things I’m bad at.”
“Well I don’t want Gram’s stuff going to a thrift store, okay?”
Another shift in Mary’s expression. A single crease on one side of her mouth conveying irritation, reluctance and exhaustion. But when she spoke she was measured. “If that’s what you want. This is as much yours as mine.”
It was a four-way split. The Dowell House and all its contents, and The Miner’s House, formerly her grandmother’s candy shop, to Mary Ashwood, and her three daughters. They’d discovered that at the will reading two months earlier.
It hadn’t caused any