Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Unfinished Quilt

From the web archives: The Unfinished Quilt

Snip, snip, snip went my scissors as I cut six-inch squares from my son’s old clothes.  He was eighteen months old and I was pregnant with my second child.  We collected sixty squares over a couple of months.  I was going to make a baby quilt.  But ... 

I enrolled in my first writing class – writing for children.  And I loved it.  After years of doing science and scientific writing, it felt good to return to my childhood dream of becoming a writer.  I wrote stories about my son, our cats and my childhood.  And the six-inch squares lay in a box.  All sewing came to a standstill. 

After the course was finished, I made an apron from those squares for my son’s second birthday.  He deserved one for being such a good helper (he still is).  I was heavy with child.  Two months later, I gave birth to a ten pound baby girl.              

Pure happiness.  Pure tiredness. 

For six months, I wrote only grocery lists.  Sleep became a high priority.  Then I began to flex my writing muscles. 

My teacher had said, “Write what you know.”  So I wrote a short story about a little boy and his mother who cut up six inch squares from old clothes that don’t fit anymore.  The boy receives a quilt on his birthday.  My first version was longer, with details.  But I pared the story down to its bare bones, about one hundred words.  After reading it over I thought it would make a good rebus (story with pictures to help the beginning reader) so I submitted it as such to Ladybug

Four months later, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, my SASE arrived.  I expected another rejection.  I had submitted about fifteen stories to various magazines that I enjoyed reading and they had all been returned, some with a form letter, others with a note of encouragement scribbled on them.   

I ripped open the envelope and unfolded the letter.  It said, “Thank you for sending Six Inch Squares for our consideration ...” and I thought, Oh, a personal rejection letter.  But by the end of the first paragraph I felt my grin spread across my face as I read, “ ... I’m happy to tell you that we would like to accept it for publication in Ladybug.  This is a wonderful presentation of old things begetting new memories.”

Waving my acceptance letter, I ran to the backyard where my family was picking the last of the blackberries, shouting, “An acceptance!  An acceptance!”  I got blackberry kisses.  Later we had a celebratory reading of Six Inch Squares. 

My children still don’t have a home-made quilt with all their favorite pieces of clothing.  But they’ll get to read my story in print instead!

Six-Inch Squares has been published in the Oct. 2005 issue of Ladybug with darling illustrations by Sylvia Long.   

What is a rebus? 

A rebus is a picture puzzle originating from ancient Egypt and hieroglyphics, which by the sounds of their words suggests words or phrases.  For example: Johnny Carson = jaw + knee + car + sun.  These are fun, but for children learning to read, a rebus is not meant to be a pun, but a tool.

Ladybug substitutes pictures for concrete nouns within the sentence.  An illustration shows the key.  Highlights for Children has a picture next to the noun.  Generally a rebus has 5-10 picturable words that are repeated a couple of times in a very, very short (75-125 words) and satisfying story.

"The Unfinished Quilt" was first published in August 2004 issue of Kid Magazine Writers.


Mirka Breen said...

No quilt, but the quilt story made it!
Maybe now, with first-born so grown, go back to the quilt?...

Unknown said...

Such a sweet story. I love those rebus tales!

Vijaya said...

Mirka, I figured a quilt story is better than no quilt at all. Alas, I wish I enjoyed sewing more because it's so useful, and esp. now with today's dreadful fashions. But I admire my sister and friends who've sewed beautiful clothes for me and the children.

Katie, thank you. Rebuses are fun and they are such a great help for kids. Once they become fluent, they like to make their own.

Johnell said...

I haven't read the story yet, but your post makes me want to. So warm and inviting.

Barbara Etlin said...

Fun story!

Vijaya said...

Thanks Johnell and Barb.