The Moonglow Sisters

GRANDMOTHER’S FLOWER GARDEN: a popular and traditional quilt pattern made using clusters of hexagons to create flowers.

My Dearest Darling Granddaughters,

As I write this, I sit on the back veranda in my Adirondack chair. Draped across my lap is the triple wedding ring quilt we started for Madison’s marriage. Pyewacket lazes at my feet, occasionally batting the seat cushion’s dangling tie. I watch the waves break against our stretch of shoreline and recall, in the misty way of old people, how everything fell apart.

It is a familiar spot. I’ve sat here countless times, inhaling the salt air, listening to the immutable lull of the rising tide, and fingering the raw edges of the unfinished quilt.

But today is different.

I remember too much, and yet, oddly, not enough. How we spent months collecting just the right fabric scraps from bits and pieces of clothing that meant something special to us. But then I forget where the pink seersucker came from. Is it from Shelley’s Easter dress, or your mother’s apron? Or is it a piece of the table runner from Gia’s sixth birthday? A tea party theme, I believe, but it could have been Holly Hobbie. She adored that doll.

At my age, memory is unreliable, but in the files of my mind, I excavate a few treasures.

Gia flying her kite on the beach for the first time, her head thrown back, laughing so hard she shivered. Shelley giggling over her cold bottom as she sat on the old-fashioned ice cream freezer so it wouldn’t walk off the porch as we took turns cranking the handle. Madison getting up early on Easter morning to hide the eggs she’d colored the night before for her younger sisters to hunt. The three of you in harvest season, picking lush ripe Moonglow pears from our trees, then later, in the kitchen blasting NSYNC from the windowsill boombox and singing at the top of your lungs while we canned pear preserves.

            These are the things I miss. Laughter. Giggles. Singing. You girls lying on a quilt in the backyard underneath the stars, sharing your hopes and dreams. It seemed those lovely summer days would never end.

            Sadness fills me now as I look back on what we’ve lost. Our sense of family. Our close connection. Evaporated like morning sea mist burned off by the sun.

            My fingers caress the edges of the unfinished quilt made for a wedding that never took place and my eyes well with tears, but I’m not writing for pity. I made my choices, some smart, some dumb, and I’ve found peace with how things turned out.

            But I do regret what ruined your relationship and I hope you will honor my wishes.          

            This quilt is important. Family is important. Please my sweet girls, come together. Finish the quilt. Repair the riff. Sew. Heal. Bloom. Grow. This is my last request. All I want in this world is to see the Moonglow Sisters happy and whole again. —with all my abiding love, Grammy

            Helen Chapman finished writing the letter, set down her pen and turned to the gray-haired woman sitting beside her.

            Darynda Fox had once been a stunning beauty. Even now, in her mid-seventies, she was still a striking woman. Tall. Fit from daily jogs on the beach and nightly yoga stretches. She possessed patrician cheekbones and piercing blue eyes that took Helen’s breath away.

            Silently, Darynda read the letter and when she looked up, a single tear slid down her cheek. “You should let me call them. You should tell them in person. They have a right to know.”

            “It’s better this way.” Restlessly Helen folded the edge of the quilt inward.

            “I’d accuse you of taking the coward’s way out, but you are the bravest person I’ve ever known.” Darynda reached for her hand and squeezed it tightly.

            “They must figure things out for themselves. I can’t spoon feed them. If I could fix what went wrong, I would have done it already.”

            Darynda held up the letter. “You think a note is enough to change minds?”

            “I’m hoping.”

            “Those girls can be stubborn.”

            “I know. It’s why I’m doing things this way.”

            “They’d want to be with you during the surgery. They will feel guilty that they weren’t there.”

            “Maybe a little guilt is what they need to bring them together. I hate to resort to manipulation, but I’ve stayed out of it for too long. It seems they can’t or won’t fix this on their own.”

            “What if—” Darynda paused, gulped, lowered her voice, “—you don’t come out of surgery?”

Helen smiled gently at the woman she’d known for fifty years. “Then they must deal with each other to handle my estate.”

            “And if you make it?”

            “Then perhaps, the four of us can create one last quilt together.”

            Darynda was full-on crying now, tears slipping down her face in a steady stream. “I hate cancer.”

            “C’mon.” Helen patted her arm. “Don’t cry. You’ll stain the letter.”

            Darynda heaved a heavy sigh. “Oh you, practical as always.”

            Helen leaned over the quilt to hug her friend, the effort taking all her strength. “Call them when I go into surgery. Not a minute before.”

            “They will be so mad at me.”

            “Tell them it’s my wishes.” They’d been going around and around about this since Dr. Shelton had given Helen the bad news. Darynda had wanted to call the girls immediately. “When they get here, give them the letter. Make sure they’re all here first.”

            “What if Madison doesn’t come?”

“She will.”
“What if we can’t find Shelley?”
“You will.”

            “Are you sure?”

            Helen met Darynda’s eyes. “You’ve never let me down.”
            “I wish I had your faith.”
            “Those girls are so different, but they have one thing in common.”

            “What’s that?”

            “Moonglow Cove is home. They’ll return.”

            Darynda looked dubious, but said, “I’ve chosen to believe that you will pull through, and assume you’ll be here to whip them into shape.”

            “I like your optimism.” Helen cupped her friend’s cheek. “But just in case it all goes south, you know what to do.”

            Then she sank back against the Adirondack chair, pulled the quilt to her chin, closed her to eyes to the sound of the ocean and dreamed of three little girls building sandcastles on the beach.