Nightgown Quilts

Nightgown Quilts

by Shellen Lubin

March 12, 2021

Once in a far-off time and place with no phone, no television, no computer, and no internet, there was a young girl named Lydia who had a very terrible disease that meant she could not walk or even stand up, and she could never never go outside—any touch of light from the sun would kill her. She had no sisters or brothers, only lived with her mother and father, and they were the only people she ever saw, except for the doctor who came in periodically to mutter and sputter and say that yes, indeed, she could live if she only stayed inside and never came in contact with any other young people. She read, but most of the time reading just made her sadder for all the things she couldn’t do. She looked at pictures, but the pictures just made her long to be anywhere else but where she was. In the summer, she heard the children playing in the field all day and late into the evening, but her parents wouldn’t even lift the shade because they were afraid of any sunlight touching her. The winter was easier, because everyone spent more time inside, but still there would be those days when she would hear children squealing as they raced down a hill on their sleds with dogs yapping and lapping at their heels, and she was so sad because she could never do that. One night, after a particularly hard and lonely day, she cried to her mother, “I think I would rather die than stay inside any longer; I think I would be glad to die for one day in the sun.” Her mother held her as Lydia wept, but then her mother stayed up very very late into the night trying to figure out what she could do to give her daughter more joy and connection
without jeopardizing her health. And this is what she did.

She told Lydia that there were some poor little boys and girls in town whose blankets had grown threadbare and that those blankets did not keep them warm enough on cold winter nights and
their families could not afford to buy new ones. Then she brought Lydia a bag of their own nightgowns that they had grown out of. And she helped Lydia take those lovely old nightgowns and cut them into beautiful squares of silk and satin and gingham and flannel of so many different colors. Then, over the summer months, they sewed all those squares together into child-sized sheets. And that whole summer Lydia was a little bit happier, because she felt like she had a secret, and a purpose. Then, that fall, they took pairs of those nightgown-square sheets and sewed them together on three sides and then filled them with their own old blankets, sewing up the fourth side and quilting them together until they were quite magnificent and fluffy and warm and also very beautiful. And all that fall, Lydia was a little bit happier, because they were making something wonderful, and because they were almost done and she was excited for the children to have the blankets. By December, Lydia and her mother together had made six beautiful nightgown quilts, each of different colors and fabrics, and each one more magnificent than the next. Then, her mother brought them to town and gave them to the children who needed warm blankets because theirs were threadbare and they did not have enough money to buy new ones.

And the next time she heard the children going out to play, Lydia felt some sadness, but she also felt joy, knowing that she had made blankets for those children to keep them warm, and that, in some way, with those blankets, she was with them.

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