Becca walked in the door and sank into the chair next to mine at her dining room table. Three-year-old Adler was “napping” upstairs, and I could hear him alternately singing a rousing rendition of “Jesus Loves Me” and an out-of-season “Jingle Bells.”
Becca looked at me and simply asked, “Do you think you might have one more baby quilt in you?” Code whispered; code deciphered. Grandchild #8 was on the way.
Suddenly, I was transported nearly fourteen years back to the day we found out our second son, Adam, and his wife, Debby, were expecting our first grandchild. Their squat little dachshund, Oscar, came trotting around the corner into our family room wearing a shirt that said “Big Brother.” I am still ridiculed to this day at my reaction. I thought they were getting another dog, the basset hound that Debby had talked about.
The very next morning, I called my mom, the knitter of adorable, soft, pastel-colored baby sweater sets and receiving blankets for each of her grandchildren in a panic. “I don’t know how to knit because you’re left-handed and couldn’t teach us,” I choked. “What am I going to do for my grandchildren?”
“You stitch,” she calmly replied. And so it began. I found a very cute baby quilt top, complete with thread, needle, and instructions, and the tradition was born. Two months after Adam and Debby’s announcement, our older son Christopher and his wife, Maureen, gave us the happy news that they, too, were expecting, and I returned to the store for a second quilt cover.
It’s not a difficult thing to stitch little x’s onto a piece of fabric, just time consuming, and the confusion between thread colors can be mind-boggling. Was the color of that group of threads light apricot or pale pink? What about the palest yellow versus the off-white? I’m pretty sure I stitched a whale on the Noah’s Ark quilt for grandson Conor in oyster instead of pewter, but no one has turned me into the stitchery police yet.
I’ve carried baby quilts to work with me, using lunch hours and stolen moments to stitch on them, and taken them on long vacation drives, pricking my fingers too many times to count as we hit a bump on the highway or I shifted in my seat.
Not one was ever finished before the baby who was to be the recipient arrived. But each of our seven grandchildren has their own memento.
I learned very early into the quilt stitching process that it wasn’t just a mechanical effort, and I told my Mom that. “Every stitch is a prayer,” I whispered. “It’s a kiss, a hug, a touch for that sweet little soul that’s finding its way to the world until I can actually hold him or her.” She just smiled her Mom smile. “So was every knit and purl and click of the needles,” she said.
As I questioned Becca about her choice of quilts for grandchild #8, I asked if she’d like me to wait until they knew if it was a boy or a girl. “No,” she said, “the farm animal one is gender-neutral and I really like it.”
I didn’t tell her how happy I was that the teddy bear baseball players I’d stitched for their son Adler four years ago, wasn’t going to be my last grandchild quilt as I’d sometimes thought it might be.
I so wanted just one more chance to stitch prayers and kisses and hugs for another miracle.
On the morning of their first ultrasound, when she sent me the picture, I screamed “Oh, my God!” to my husband John, who was in the other room. “It’s twins! They’re having twins!”
I ordered the safari animals baby quilt that very afternoon for grandchild #9. Forest green and crocodile green look pretty darned similar, even with my glasses on.
And every stitch is a prayer, until I can hold them both in my arms.
Vicki Bahr is a newly retired mother of four, grandmother of seven, and wife of forty-five years. She is an incurable optimist, lover of words, and inveterate story sharer.