My grandmother was making me a quilt with a scene she remembered from her childhood—tree trunks rising grey, smooth, and straight like old bones out of a curving turquoise lake. She said quilts were something our people took very seriously, going beyond pattern to panorama, and that art was most beautiful when it kept the cold off. She said she liked sharing the sight with me, even from this distance.
It was only half done when she died.
She left it to me to finish, but I’d never been taught how. My mother had worked hard to forget all about it when she’d moved somewhere she could buy quilts two-for-twenty.
On YouTube I found a woman who sounded a little like my grandmother and wore shawls she made herself and never looked directly into the camera. I practiced in front of her in the evenings after class until I no longer stained old tea towels with the blood from my soft weak fingers.
I gave the finished thing to my mother for her birthday, a thing of two halves—on one side a smooth summer shoreline with trees tall and proud, and on the other a winter storm, trees leaning, shoreline ragged with stitches that were snagged and uneven, but holding strong.
'Passed-On' was previously published in Flash Fiction Festival Three.
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