Summary: Christmas is a season for surprises, especially when one of Ben’s hidden talents helps out two special ladies in his life.
Written for day 16 of the 2021 Advent Calendar.
Word Count: 2485
~*~*~ Advent Calendar ~*~*~
* Day 16*
A Stitch in Time
The front door clicked closed, shutting out the bitter cold and restoring silence through the Ponderosa great room. Ben breathed deeply, basking in the peace and quiet. With his hand still resting on the rich wood of the door, he paused to listen. He could actually hear the clock ticking and the fire crackling. The last hour had been filled with a joyful cacophony of children’s squeals of delight and adults’ shouts of instructions and rules. Ben smiled as the final moments reminded him of past Christmases and the annual search for the perfect Christmas tree. Now that Adam, his three oldest children, and his brothers were all on their way to locate that proverbial tree, Ben released a small sigh of relief. With a slight shiver from the waning cold air at the door, he turned and paused to observe his daughter-in-law settling into the red leather chair and spreading a small quilt across her lap.
“Didn’t you tell Adam you had some hats to knit?”
“Yes, I did, but I will work on those later. This is a gift for him and I must finish attaching this border before he returns.” Ana’s soft accented voice floated across the quiet in the room as she expertly pinned the fabric edges together.
“I see. How about some refreshments while you work?”
“That would be lovely. Gracias.”
Ben gave his head a single shake as he headed to the kitchen, still finding it hard to believe that it had been only a couple of weeks since Adam had shown up unannounced with his wife and four young children. Having not seen his son for several years, joy overwhelmed him as he ushered them into the house just in time for dinner.
While he prepared the tea and coffee, he recalled the many letters that had traveled between Spain and Nevada, through which Ben had learned of his son’s marriage to Ana, and his four grandchildren, the oldest only four years old, the twins age three, and youngest being a mere seven months old. Despite their sudden appearance they had all settled in well, as if they had always been there, and he had to admit he was growing accustomed to the mix of Spanish and English used frequently by Ana and the children.
Ben found Ana to be a delightful woman, full of grace and quiet insight. Every time he observed Ana and Adam interacting, it was something magical to behold, and it warmed his heart to see his son finally at peace.
Returning to the living room, he placed a tray of tea, coffee, and sweet bread on the table and poured their drinks before settling on the settee to watch her work. “You do that so well. Have you been quilting long?” He drew a long sip of his steaming coffee.
“Since I was a child. My mother taught me. However, I have not worked on anything since Aaron was born. He was only three months old when we began preparing for our trip to come here.” Ana paused to check her progress then laid the fabric aside and reached for her cup of tea and a slice of bread. “After arriving in Boston and taking time to rest and visit with his friends, an idea came to me to make a small quilt for Adam to reflect what was meaningful to him there.” Her dark eyes held a wistfulness as she continued. “I have tried to work on the quilt whenever Adam was out, but it has been difficult since we arrived here considering Aaron has not been sleeping well.”
Ben nodded in understanding and sympathy as he sipped his coffee. He’d observed Aaron to be a naturally calm child but with all the traveling and changes in sleeping arrangements his schedule had been turned upside down.
Just as Ana reached for the quilt once more, Aaron announced his wakefulness to the world. Ben watched Ana’s hands go limp and her eyes close for a moment. With a sigh and a wane smile she packed the quilt away. “Perhaps another time.”
Ben rose. “Why don’t you continue with your work and let me see if I can get him back to sleep.”
Ana touched his arm. “Gracias, Ben, but I think he might need his mother this time.”
“Of course.” He watched her gracefully make her way upstairs and soon the silence had returned.
With nothing much for him to do, he sat in the chair Ana had vacated and picked up the fabric she had been working on. Holding it up his heart swelled at the design. Small squares were filled with embroidered or appliqued items that Adam would recognize from his years in Boston – roses and lilacs which were his mother’s favorite flowers, and a cradle under a blue sky with fluffy clouds, and Ben swore one looked like an elephant. A college bell tower and books represented his years at school, and a ship’s wheel for his grandfather’s and father’s sailing days. Ben fingered each image, realizing just how well Ana knew and understood her husband, his son.
Noticing how much of the border remained, Ben flicked his eyes toward the stairs and tilted his head to listen. A rhythmic creaking told him Ana was rocking Aaron back to sleep. He studied her stitching on the completed parts before picking up the needle and thread. In no time he was lost in the rhythm of the needle, his thoughts floating through the years, following a dusty memory.
Ana’s call and Aaron’s cooing brought him back to the present. Her voice was calm but Ben didn’t miss the anxiety in it upon seeing him with a needle in one hand and the quilt in the other.
“I…was looking at it…and, well…” He secured the needle in the fabric and rose to take Aaron in his arms. “I saw how much needed to be finished and I wanted to help.”
Ana’s eyes continued darting between her father-in-law and her gift for Adam, uncertain what to make of the situation.
“Go on, take a look.” He shifted a squirming Aaron in his arms to keep a better grip on him.
Ana picked up the fabric and saw another part of the border had been attached. While her fingers explored the part Ben had done, he could tell she was checking the quality of work while trying not to insult him.
At last she turned to him with a cautious smile. “This is very good, but I do not…I mean…”
Ben chuckled. “You can’t figure how I, being a man, could do any form of needle work?”
“Well, yes.” She blushed, a burst of understanding crossing her face. “There is a story here. Will you tell me? Por favor?”
Ben’s warm laugh filled the room as he handed his grandson over to his mother. “I’d be glad to but give me a moment.” He raced upstairs and soon returned with a linen-wrapped package. Spreading it out on the settee he gently revealed a well-used quilt.
“The story begins with this.”
Ben reached one again for his grandson. “It’s okay to touch it.”
Ana reverently touched the old quilt, noticing it was sized for a lap or perhaps a child. The background was yellowed, but at one time must have been white, and there were star shapes in faded hues of green and red placed around the quilt.
Enraptured by the quilt and the prospect of a family story, Ana made herself comfortable on the settee.
“This little one and I will sit over here as I tell you the story,” Ben announced as he settled into the blue chair letting Aaron chew toothlessly on his fingers.
“The location was Boston and the time was Christmas. Elizabeth, Adam’s mother, and I had been married only a few months, and I was working at the Chandler’s shop alongside her father who had finally retired from the sea…” Ben’s face took on a distant expression as his soft voice drifted around the room.
One day I arrived home early for lunch and was surprised not to find Elizabeth in the kitchen, for she, being a Captain’s daughter, was a creature of habit and routine. With a touch of concern I rushed upstairs and found her in our room crying over a piece of fabric in her lap. When she saw me she made a futile attempt to hide it from me.
I knelt down in front of her, taking her quivering hands in mine. “Liz, what’s all this about? Why are you crying, my love?”
She brushed her tears away and tried to give me a smile. “I wanted to surprise you with this for Christmas but I realized there is still too much work to do and it won’t be ready. Oh Ben, I’m sorry. You must think me a silly woman to cry over something like this.”
“I think you are a bright and lovely woman who desires to make something special for her husband.” I stood up and sat on the bed. “Bring it over here and tell me what you’re trying to make.”
Liz’s warm smile broke through and her misty eyes now sparkled. “Ever since you shared with me your dream to go out west I’ve been wanting to make a quilt for our travels. I’ve enjoyed hearing you talk about the stars at night and showing me all the patterns they make. That’s when I knew it had to be a star pattern. By the time I started on it, Christmas was drawing near and so I chose to make it a small quilt to lay across our laps to keep us warm by the fire.”
She began to fidget with the fabric once more and I saw tears appearing. “I needed to get it finished by this weekend so my friend could quilt it for me. But as you know I’ve not been feeling well lately and I couldn’t work on it. Oh Ben, I wanted so much for this to be finished by Christmas. What can I do?”
I wrapped my arm around Liz and whispered my solution to her, “Let’s work on it together.”
I don’t think I’d ever seen her eyes grow that wide. She jumped up and began to pace the small space between our bed and the window, laying out one reason after another as to why that was a ridiculous suggestion.
As she made another pass by me I reached for her hand and guided her back to my side. Then I searched for the needle and began to continue the stitching she had begun around the edge to attach the border. I must admit that as loud as she was in giving me her excuses, she was just as silent as she watched me finish the border along one side of the quilt.
“How, Ben…how do you know what to do?”
I put everything aside and rested my hand upon hers. “As you know, I’ve been a sailor since I was a lad. One thing I had to learn early on was to repair sails, and my own clothing. Learning to work on the sails was fairly easy compared to my clothing. Well, one of the crew was the son of a tailor and he taught me how to repair everything I wore, and even to mend my blankets to make them last longer.” I picked up the quilt again to show her my handiwork. “What do you think? Can we finish this together?”
Liz’s hug and kisses were all the answer I needed, but we were interrupted by Abel’s bellow about lunch not being ready.
Recalling Abel’s loud voice, Ben blinked and became silent until he remembered he was in his own home with his grandson fast asleep in the crook of his arm. He smiled up at Ana who had pulled the quilt over her lap during the story.
“There you have it, the story of how I learned to sew and how that quilt came to be.”
“Thank you, Ben, for sharing that with me. May I ask, did you and Elizabeth finish this quilt in time for Christmas?”
“We did indeed. In fact, after Liz took it to her friend for the quilting, I never saw it again until Christmas day. Along with the surprise of seeing it completed, she also suggested it might make a nice baby quilt come springtime or summer.”
Ana’s head snapped up. “This was for Adam?”
“Well, for all of us but I used it for Adam for many years. The day I found Liz so upset over the quilt was also the day she had just learned she was with child and she wanted so much to have the quilt finished so she could surprise me with it as well as the news.”
Ben watched as Ana gently fingered the quilt that had been wrapped around her husband when he was but a babe in arms. Ben rose carefully so as not to awaken Aaron, and slipped onto the settee by his daughter-in-law.
She glanced up at him, beholding his warm brown eyes.
“I’d like to give you this quilt, since it truly belonged to Adam. And I’d like to offer to help you with the other one if you like.”
With a misty warmth in her eyes and a loving smile, she leaned over to place a kiss on Ben’s cheek. “I would be honored to accept the quilt and your offer to help. You are a special man, Ben. Thank you.”
Ben placed his free arm around Ana and drew her in for an embrace. “You are a special woman, yourself, my dear, and I’m proud to have you part of my family. Merry Christmas, my daughter.”
After a few minutes of enjoying the silence, Ben wrapped Aaron in the quilt and placed him by the fire so he and Ana could finish sewing the quilt. Their mirth and joy were eventually interrupted when they heard sleigh bells and singing outside. Ben picked up Aaron, who was just beginning to stir, as Ana scrambled to clean up the sewing area and hide both quilts.
When the door flew open the peacefulness was replaced with exuberant adults and children. Adam appeared in the doorway with snow on the brim of his hat and all over his coat, and was sporting a lopsided grin. Ben and Ana exchanged their own grins and both glanced toward the area where the quilts were hidden. They joined hands and entered the celebration at the door, content in their joy that the past and the present had come together to make this the merriest Christmas of all.
Merry Christmas to one and all!
Character – Ben
Activity – Sewing a quilt
Link to Day 17 of the Bonanza Brand 2021 Advent Calendar: Snow Angels – Part II by Sierras
Other Stories by this Author
- Card Trick aka The Card Trick Quilt (by AC1830)
- A Dream Come True (by AC1830)
- Christmas Child (by AC1830)
- Christmas Spirit (by AC1830)
- Circle of Life (by AC1830)