Stitches in Times

Updated: Nov 8, 2021

By Jenny England

Mary turned up the wick of the lantern and placed it on the table beside the window. Outside, the grey mist was beginning to gather around the tips of the parched landscape across the valley. She drew together the curtains she had just finished making from some flour sacks and settled into her favourite chair. The stillness in the cabin was broken by a soft whimper from the cot beside her. Mary reached over and with three tender pats, the quiet resumed. Will looked up from the floor where he was busy building a tower from some rough blocks rescued from the woodpile.


Image: National Galleries of Scotland

The lantern flickered, caught by a wisp of cool air from the window. Mary reached over and closed it tight. With Maggie still asleep and at least an hour before the men would be back with the horses, Mary scooped the piece of cream linen cloth from her sewing basket and gently released the folds, taking care not to unravel any loose edges. She ran her fingers across the delicately embroidered sketch in the centre then down to her initials underneath, M. McM. Only the date to go and the apron will be finished. Mary pencilled 1880 into the waiting space. The eights might be a little difficult to match exactly, she thought before reaching into her basket to retrieve a skein of black thread. She carefully threaded it through the eye of the needle.


The fire crackled and danced, casting shadowy, magical shapes on the ceiling. With a sudden clunk, Will’s tower fell down, scattering blocks all over the floor. Unperturbed, he pulled them together and began building again.


“Pa be home soon?” Will quizzed his mother without looking up.


“Soon enough. I need you to fetch some more wood for the fire, but put your coat on as it is getting cold outside,” she replied.


Mary watched the boy silently pull his coat down from the back of the door and disappear into the early evening. She returned to her needlework and drew the first stitch through the cloth. She continued down the 1 with one eye on the door and her ears attuned to the cot. She glanced across to her wedding dress hanging on the far wall. I’ll get to that tomorrow, she thought. It will only take a week or so to rework it into a Christening gown for the baby.


Will smiled and disappeared outside again. Mary rolled the needle and thread neatly into the sampler and placed it on the table. The stew needed a stir but before she had time to see to it, the sound of approaching horses caught her attention.


Maggie woke suddenly. Mary reached into the cot and lifted her young daughter onto her hip. She made her way to the front door and watched as Will was pensively drawing circles in the dirt with a stick. The thunder of approaching horses filled the early evening air. A dog yelped in the distance. Within a few minutes, Mary stepped inside the door, gathering the hem of her skirt up.


“Wooo..ah,” came a cry as James pulled his stallion up by the shed. “Hey boy,” he called to his young son, “come and help your Pa tend the horses.”


Will leapt to his feet and joined his father and Uncle Ormand as they lead the horses behind the shed to the holding yard. Mary, now back inside, sat Maggie into her cot and took her place by the stove.

O


Mary-Ann switched on the desk lamp by the window. Outside a row of cars, barely visible through a dusty haze, ground to a halt at the nearby traffic lights. She could just hear a soft whimper from the cot as she settled down into her favourite chair. Mary-Ann reached over and with a few tender pats, Meg settled. Billy looked up from the floor where he was busy building a space station with his Lego.


She reached over and closed the venetian blinds. With at least an hour until Jim would be home from the office and the baby still asleep, Mary-Ann scooped the piece of cream linen cloth from her sewing basket near the table and gently undid the folds. She ran her fingers across the finely embroidered design in the centre then down to her initials underneath, M-A J. Only the date to go and the cross-stitch design in the centre of the apron will be finished. The craft group will be so pleased, it will be hung at the Bi-Centennial Exhibition alongside the other one handed down through the generations. Mary-Ann pencilled 1988 into the space waiting beneath. The eights might be a little difficult to match exactly, she thought before reaching down to retrieve her black thread.


She glanced across at her sewing machine sitting proudly next to a roll of cream satin on her kitchen bench. Tomorrow I will finish the Christening outfit for the baby, she thought, when Billy starts pre-school, the baby goes to day-care and I go back to work at the library.

Mary-Ann stopped for a second and glanced up at the exquisitely framed apron on her wall. A little bit tattered around the edges, she thought, but still a beautiful piece. My great-great-grandmother was a fine needleworker and seamstress, she continued to muse, with such a strong spirit to be able to survive, raise a family in the Australian bush and craft such exquisite pieces.


O


“Close the shutters, adjust the lighting to setting 3 and set the temperature to 25 degrees, Alexa,” Mari said as she plonked into her favourite cocoon chair in the lounge module. Even after nearly a year living at the settlement at Lunar Central, she had still not adjusted to the different light and darkness cycles which were so different from the days and nights she had grown up with on Earth. A quick glance at the Nursery Monitor reassured her that Mae was sleeping soundly and Bil was still engrossed in the 3D world he loved exploring.


She reached over and retrieved the hand-stitched apron she had been working on for a few weeks on her days off from her job at the Radio Telescope. It was the perfect way to relax and unwind. She ran her fingers over the embroidered lettering. Only the date to go and it would be complete. She pencilled 2088 into the waiting space. Eights were a bit tricky to embroider, she reminded herself, especially two of them side by side.


The apron was something she longed to complete and hang next to the other two on the wall delightfully and lovingly crafted over the last two centuries by her talented ancestors. She had taken great care to pack and bring them with her when they relocated to the Moon.


Bil suddenly popped his head around the corner breaking her concentration.


“Will dad be home soon?” he quizzed his mum, “I’ve got something to show him.”


“He’ll be home soon,” she replied. “Is Mae still asleep?”


“Yep.”

Image: Gods and Idols

Mari picked out the black thread from the basket and began stitching the date onto the front of the apron. She paused for a minute to admire the roll of glorious silk she had recently had sent from Earth to sew Mae’s outfit for her Naming Ceremony, now only weeks away. She still had the pattern for a christening gown she inherited from her great-grandmother. It was going to be perfect!


Such a legacy to have been able to keep and continue to pass down to my daughter, the aprons and the Christening gowns from times and generations past, she mused.


Mari’s concentration was once again disturbed. This time, by the distinctive sound of the SkyRider landing on the roof.


“Dad’s home,” she called out to Bil, then quickly went back to her embroidery to get a bit more finished before their evening meal.





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