For the first grandson, Nona's last quilt.
- Posted on Feb 15, 2018
Disappointment was all too clear in my husband’s eyes when I came home from the store empty-handed. “I just didn’t come across anything special,” I said. “Don’t worry. I’ll try again tomorrow after work.”
Tom nodded, but he was out of ideas too. This gift was important for both of us. The very first birthday present for his very first grandson, Vito. But I felt added pressure as Tom’s newlywed. Tom was a widower when we married. I wanted so badly to please him, impress him, to be the kind of loving, capable wife he was used to. Vito had been born on the third anniversary of his Nona’s death. Now, as Tom’s wife, I was stepping into his grandmother’s shoes. I didn’t want to fall short.
“Maybe we could get him another book?” Tom suggested. Vito and his family lived in Northern California, 500 miles from us. For Christmas, we’d sent a treasury of nursery rhymes that seemed to go over well.
At times like this I realized how little I knew this family I’d married into. Tom and his wife Bennie had been married for 34 years. I was still learning his tastes and idiosyncrasies. His children’s likes and dislikes, their parenting styles. It wasn’t like buying a gift for my own grandkids. I knew them inside and out. But little Vito...There had to be something else. Something inspired. But what?
“We should get something to eat and then sleep on it,” I said to Tom.
The next morning, while I was dressing for work, worry rose inside of me. I sat down on the edge of the bed. Lord, point me in the right direction, and help me to feel like a real member of this family.
I forced myself to get on with my day. I’d recently taken a position as front desk manager of a grand, historic hotel, with its gorgeous gardens, elegant restaurant and a sweet gift shop filled with unique items.
Just before lunch the manager of the gift shop came by to introduce herself. Her name was Sally. “I know your husband,” she told me. “I was in a quilting group with Bennie.”
“Oh, yes,” I said. “I know all about Bennie’s quilts.” They were truly beautiful. She liked to focus on creating the tops, Tom had explained to me, and let others add the bottom and finish up.
“She stayed active with our group up until she died,” Sally said. “She was so weak from the cancer, but there was still work she wanted to get done.” Then she hesitated, as if she wasn’t sure that she should go on with the story.
“When Bennie died, I had one of her quilt tops to finish,” Sally said. “But I just never got around to it. The quilt top is still in my sewing room. Do you think Tom would want it?”
Of course I knew he would want to keep Bennie’s last quilt. But when Sally described it, I realized it was meant for a little boy instead—yellow, tan and blue colors with animals scattered about.
I told Sally about Vito’s first birthday. “Can we get the quilt finished right away?”
A week later I showed Tom the finished product. He ran his fingers over the stitches. “You know, maybe this is the reason we couldn’t think of anything else.”
Tom wrote a note to go with our gift: “Dear Vito, this is the last quilt top your Nona ever made. She is the grandmother you will never know personally, but you will learn all about her from the loving family that surrounds you.” And that family included me.
We sent the quilt by express mail. The return label said from Grandpa and Grandma DeMarino in Washington. But we both knew it was a gift from heaven.
Did you enjoy this story? Subscribe to Angels on Earth magazine.