Joe hasn’t been home to Smoky Hollow in a long time. But one day Granny gets a letter with (another) promise from Joe, that he will be home for Christmas.
“The Christmas Quilt” is not as much a story about a quilt as it is about growing up in Smoky Hollow.
Granny, the mainstay of the family, is ill. After she receives her latest letter with Joe’s promise, she decides to start a quilt for him.
I really enjoyed this quietly told, warm Christmas story. Told from the perspective of the main character, a 12 year old boy growing up in the Smoky Mts, each chapter reminisces a down-home mountain memory. There is a variety of both small and large events in a country boy’s life; both good and bad. There are stories of summer-time, of hard work and hard play. There are stories about baptisms in the creek, and church suppers, picking blackberries and harvesting the apples.
And there is good old-fashioned American ‘make-do with what you got’. After all, who ever invented tree stands? who needs a tree stand when you have the outdoors and a barn?
“Daddy told Mildred to go and fetch some water from out back, and while she did that Daddy placed the bucket in front of the window, and the two of us placed the tree in the bucket. Daddy had cut it just right – there wouldn’t be any need to cut any of the lower branches to make it fit in.
Mildred came back with the water, and Daddy poured it in. Then Daddy said, “You two go and fetch some rocks now, and I’ll make shore the tree don’t git up and walk away.” So we did that, too, same as every Christmas I could remember since I stood big enough to gather up rocks and bring them in.
Mildred and I went back to the barn, got another bucket, and went to pick some of the good-sized rocks up in our road and up near the main road, filling the bucket almost full – it didn’t need to be all the way full, because the tree trunk would take up some room.
Doing something for Christmas like we were doing made the work seem more like fun. We practically ran back to the house with our rocks, feeling all good about them like it was something special to be able to pick up rocks off the road.”
There are days spent in the one-room schoolhouse, and caring for loved ones’ resting places on Decoration day. There are long, hot summer revival-time nights and Sundays listening to the tough, hard-nosed Preacher and quiet, star-filled nights coon hunting with childhood friends like Bobby. And interspersed with these, there are more sobering vignettes about wartime. Bobby’s brother is home with a bad leg and shell shock. And the draft system has begun:
“Well looky here,” Daddy said. “They finally stopped volunteer enlistment. Says here the president has tolt folks that the Selective Service System has to be used to fetch recruits.”
“Reckon folks’ll fight as don’t want to ?” Aunt Lois asked Daddy.
“Put ‘em in a place where they’s people shooting at ‘em, and don’t matter much whether they want to or not. They will.”
A book not only about a twelve-year old boy (turning thirteen) with a busy childhood, it is also a book about a time in America’s past that is forever gone:
“Turned out the Gilmer County sheriff had resigned to go fight. Course, he could, him being awful young to begin with. Ed Rackley’s daddy had been sheriff, and when he suddenly died everybody reckoned he had trained Ed good enough to be sheriff, though Ed had barely reached eighteen.”
Most of all, “The Christmas Quilt” is a story about Granny who never gives up looking for her son to come home. Her unflagging perseverance and spirit shine through this novel, teaching a young boy that what has to be done can be done.
A poignant, touching story that reminds us all of what we most look for no matter where we are; a place to come home to.