Mama’s Warm Hugs

A Mother’s Day Tribute

It was a cold gray morning in February, 1998. Charlie had built a fire in the big north fireplace of Stone Gables early that morning. He wanted to cheer us for the task he and the other four brothers had asked us five sisters to do: go through Mama’s things and distribute them.

It had only been a few weeks since Mama died in December. It was still impossible to believe she was gone. Why should it be so hard? After all, she was 93 when she died and all ten of us had children and grandchildren of our own. But Mama had still been giving us strength and wisdom and encouragement right up to her last week. Yes, we could live without her soft voice on the phone, her joy in living, her prayers. But it would be dreary, comfortless. We would miss particularly Mama’s delight in giving and receiving surprises, whether a book or a cookie, or a memorized poem. And we’d miss so sharply her warm hugs!

We methodically sorted Mama’s many handkerchiefs, making little stacks for each recipient. We went through her cupboard and her linen closet, pausing nostalgically over a teapot or an embroidered pillow case that brought a spurt of memories and sometimes tears and hugs.

It was time to go upstairs. Though Mama hadn’t been able to climb the stairs for a long time she knew where everything was up there. She could send for a pair of scissors or a skein of yarn, telling the fetcher, not just which drawer it was in, but whether it was left, right, back or front. She knew what was in the cedar chest and every box and drawer or corner of the closet, or the contents of Grandfather’s big black trunk.

After several hours we had orderly batches of treasures all over the beds and even stacked in window ledges. But we hadn’t tackled the trunk yet. It sat huge and solid in the closet, the same place it had been all my life. The trunk’s hinges groaned as we raised the heavy lid. We began pulling out the expected old coats, a party dress, a box of baby sweaters. But–what was this?

Underneath everything else covered by an old sheet was a quilt none of us, even Pat, the oldest, had ever seen. We squealed like children in the excitement of discovery as we spread this beautiful velvet quilt between us, perfect tiny squares of rich burgundy, greens, gold, blue, and brown. Then one of us pulled out another quilt. It was entirely different, an interesting pattern of bright calico prints sewn in triangles but, again, one we’d never seen before. One by one we unearthed five quilts. Our ecstatic cries would have made a person believe we’d struck pure gold!

We took the quilts down to examine more closely by the warmth of the fire. Ginger voiced our curiosity. “Why didn’t Mama tell us about these quilts?”

“She knew they were here,” said Suzanne. “She had to know.”

“Five quilts, five girls,” added Pat in awe.

“She’s still surprising us,” breathed Jackie.

“And hugging us!” we all exclaimed as we wrapped ourselves in quilts.

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