Contest #135 winner 🏆

Home of the Brave

Submitted into Contest #135 in response to: Write about a casual act of bravery.... view prompt

225 comments

Bedtime Western Indigenous

A mom’s job is never truly finished—Elise knew this instinctively when her son was born. For at least the hundredth time, she sat next to his bed in that chair mending his quilt. There was no way of knowing, the day she bought it at a flea market, that it would become her son’s most valued possession. 


To call it a quilt stretched the definition as it was nothing more than a thousand pieces of oddly shaped swatches stitched together, layer after layer, until the whole of it was thick enough to hold in the warmth of a small boy's body as he drifted off to sleep. The person who pieced together this labor of love must have spent countless hours shaping the useless remnants into a usable blanket. Elise felt it was her duty to repair the inevitable rips as an homage to the unknown creator and as a manifestation of her adoration for the little boy who cherished it.


“I love how cool it feels when I first get into bed,” her little man observed the first night he wrapped himself in the old quilt. “But before long, it warms up, and I’m snug as a bug in a rug. Where did you get it?” 


The question was one whose answer was too mundane to inflict on a wide eyed little boy, so Elise stretched the truth just a little. “It was brought over on the Mayflower by the Pilgrims,” she answered to her son's delight. “It’s made from pieces of fabric from all over Europe and is the first blanket used by the first Americans.”


It was just a little white lie, but it was also the beginning of a cherished tradition. As stitches unraveled and as tears ripped the quilt and the little boy's heart, Elise sat by his bed and mended the heirloom. Then she would continue the "true" story of how the quilt had found its way to her son. 


“During the Revolutionary War, your quilt was captured by General Cornwallis and used to keep his legs warm on the cold winter nights.” Elise said, weaving a story as intricate as the blanket itself. “It wasn’t until the surrender at Yorktown that it was returned.”


“Yorktown?”


“Yes, Yorktown,'' she said smiling, “George Washington took it from Cornwallis and used it during his eight years as president.”


“You mean my blanket has been to the White House?” 


“Of course it has,” Elise answered with a wink. “But not because of George Washington, silly. John Adams was the first president to live in the White House.”


“Who then, Mom? ``The little boy asked., “Who took my blanket to the White House?”


“That’s a story for later,” Elise replied, kissing her son on his forehead. “Now you get some sleep, and I’ll continue the story next time.”


Elise, unfortunately, had far too many opportunities to continue the blanket’s tale as her son was given to debilitating headaches. At first, the doctors thought he was prone to systemic migraines, but the truth was much worse. Many nights, too many, the little boy would curl up in pain, his teeth clenched in a faux smile. The headaches were excruciating, only soothed by a cold wash cloth, his mother’s gentle voice, and the telling of the quilt’s tale as he drifted off to sleep. 


There were also many a night where Elise would sit with her son as he slept, meticulously piecing back together the tears that threatened the blanket entirely, wishing there was a way she could also mend her son. The room would be completely quiet save for the sound of Elise’s song. It was something she had done since she was his age. Inadvertently yet intentionally she would let the air slip through her lips, creating a tune just for him that would live for that moment, replaced the next time by one equally beautiful and equally unique.


“As it turns out, the first time the quilt made it to the White House was just after Abraham Lincoln was elected president,” Elise said the next night, continuing the story from where they’d left off. The pain had become more frequent and more intense, requiring more chapters more often. The story's continuation, however, had the desired results, a distraction and a smile.


“Abraham Lincoln, he used my quilt, too?” her son asked, too young to doubt his mother. 


“Of course he did,” Elise responded, tickling her son just to hear him laugh. “It’s a little known fact, but Mount Rushmore was actually created to show all of the presidents who used your blanket.”  


Elise always had a basin of cold water by her side whenever she sat with her son. Very early on she learned that the coolness of the cloth would help quiet the pain in his head. It was her greatest joy to moisten the cloth keeping it cold throughout her story. The little boy’s head still throbbed, but while his mom was telling the story she would gently wipe his forehead with the cold cloth, and it was almost as if he forgot the pain for a time. If all went well, he would fall asleep listening to the tale of his blanket, as sleep was becoming his only relief from the pain.


“Did you know your blanket went to the moon?” Elise asked one day when her son seemed particularly down. “Neil Armstrong may have been the first man to set foot on the moon, but he laid out your quilt so he and Buzz Aldrin could have a picnic.” 


The idea of two astronauts having a picnic on the moon resulted in spontaneous laughter for both mother and son. 


“Is Buzz Lightyear named after Buzz Aldrin?” he asked his mom, as both continued to laugh.


“As a matter of fact he was,” Elise replied with a smile. “If you must know, Buzz Aldrin presented your quilt to Buzz Lightyear as a gift which means your blanket has been…”


“To infinity and beyond!” 


“Exactly,” Elise confirmed as she refreshed his cloth and placed it back on his head.


Day after day she would take her boy to doctors and then specialists and eventually to the hospital. Then, night after night, she would sit by his bed and tell the story of the quilt. Elise did everything she could to stretch out the story, and as each new adventure was passed from mother to son so too was hope, in the only way she knew how.  


The night that she finished the story was, in so many ways, just like most of the other nights. Elise was home in her favorite chair next to her son’s bed. Her breathing was labored and her voice unsteady. “And then I stopped by a flea market on my way home from the store and there it was, your beautiful, wonderful blanket. I knew you must have it, so I scooped it up, paid the nice woman, and brought it home to you.”


Tears filled Elise’s eyes as she sewed the last stitch on the old quilt. Holding it up, she remembered the first time her son covered himself with the blanket. I love how cool it feels when I first get into bed.


“It’s finally fixed. It’s perfect.” Elise said out loud, tears continuing to flow. “I love how cool it feels, too.” 


Summoning every bit of her strength, she lay the beloved blanket on the empty bed in front of her. 


Being a mom is a job that is never truly finished, at least she had hoped so. With nothing else left to do for her son, she sat back in the chair and silently sobbed. 

March 03, 2022 19:56

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225 comments

Mariah Brownell
04:07 Mar 14, 2022

Off-topic but on topic. My ex and I used to say to each other "I love you to infinity and beyond." He started saying that after I sent him a picture of me standing next to a buzz light year statue in Disney world. Random I know. I can't help but miss those little things. If you know you know. Also, great job on this story it almost brought me to tears. Keep up the good work!

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Thom With An H
19:15 Mar 14, 2022

This is so incredibly sweet. Thanks for sharing a part of you in your comment and thank you for reading and commenting.

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Zilla Babbitt
18:44 Mar 13, 2022

Finally read it! And I swear I'm not lying, but while reading I snickered aloud at the tall tales and also choked up at the end. I'm so thrilled you got the recognition you deserve and thank you for touching my heart the way you did ❤ Many, many congratulations. Deserved win!

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Thom With An H
20:01 Mar 13, 2022

From the very first moment I joined Reedsy you were my most admired person. You were prolific and immensely talented. I wanted your respect. To me if you thought I was a good writer, I was. Thanks for all your encouragement and even more so your friendship. This means more to me because of you. Thank you for everything.

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Zilla Babbitt
16:51 Mar 19, 2022

I'm so glad I was able to encourage you. Now you are recognized by the Reedsy gods and are assured of your own merit :). I hope you knew it all along, because I did. XOXO.

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Thom With An H
17:08 Mar 19, 2022

You’re a Reedsy god. God-Zilla. 😀 Thanks for being my friend.

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Thom With An H
16:09 Mar 21, 2022

BTW, reach out to Russell and offer to go on the Read Lots/Write Lots podcast. I'd pay to listen to that.

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04:22 Feb 22, 2024

I have always loved quilts. Esp the ones made by my mother, grandmother and all the other women who made them. They were made with fabric from suits my grandfather wore, clothes the women made for others to wear, for little clothes of many cousins and on and on and on. This story reflects some of the stories I heard from my sisters when I had to go to sleep before they did. Thanks for writing it. It was beautiful.

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Fiona Stanley
20:53 Nov 13, 2023

Wow! Nicely done. You tugged at my heart and brought a tear to my eye.

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21:22 Nov 11, 2023

that shit was fucking ass my nigga yo dick small ass hell my nigga that 1 milla meter cant fight in my ass hole but im a man big dick in my jaws tickle yo balls

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Lizzy Hardy
05:05 Nov 05, 2023

I love it so much and it made me so sad at the end.

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Shahzad Ahmad
21:49 Aug 06, 2023

Great story Thom. The emotional content really is so enchanting and the intensity of a mother's love keeps breaking boundaries. Well deserved win!

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Alawia Achieng
02:05 Jul 28, 2023

hi i'm new

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Antonio Jimenez
21:39 Jul 22, 2023

What a beautiful, haunting story. You can feel both the happiness as mom and son share the blanket and its tale, as well as the sadness when the son is gone. Spectacular work and a well-deserved winner. I just put out a new story. I’d love if you could check it out and leave some feedback. Thanks!

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Lisa Ludvigsen
16:41 Jul 19, 2023

Hi! Im have a Danish sleep podcast, were I read stories, fictional and articles. I would love to translate this to Danish and read it on the podcast. I will credit you if course. It's just a hobby of mine, because I love narrating

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Thom With An H
17:19 Jul 19, 2023

That would be great. Please send me a link to the podcast when it's complete.

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Lisa Ludvigsen
13:29 Jul 21, 2023

https://open.spotify.com/show/2TlG0I83dyq2rvgvV08vB8 Here you go. The episode will be out on Wednesday 😊

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Nirpal Kaur
16:01 Mar 13, 2023

this is an incredibly emotional story. at the end, it just melted my heart and even broken into million pieces. I lost my father a few months back to cancer and I can feel the pain of the mother in here. its remarkably written by the bottom of your heart, Thom. this is so touching that I am gonna use it for my school presentation. can someone help me to find out the literary devices embedded in it? I shall be very thankful.

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Willy P. Tickler
04:10 Mar 02, 2023

Is this about a baby? Or a little person?

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Ronnie King
11:42 Feb 06, 2023

The gentle wave of the story carried me to the end. It was great

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Racquel Liwayan
03:45 Jan 25, 2023

I've already read 2 of your stories and including The Promise (my fave). Now, it keeps me wondering if these have something to do with your personal life. I wasn't able to get over with The Promise yet but you keep my mind working on how you actually do these stories! I love every bit of them! Looking forward to more!

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Mary Ann Ford
21:44 Jan 22, 2023

Beautiful! With every lovely meaning of the word.

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Saffa Mir
20:35 Jan 20, 2023

Read this story while being in a quilt which my grandma 's mom sewed. It was quite heart touching, the coincidence of the quilt add more depth to it

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Osprey Markus
07:21 Jan 02, 2023

Oh my goodness! This gave me goosebumps! You're amazing at conveying a story, let alone in 3000 words or less! You're so talented, just- WOW!

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03:07 Nov 28, 2022

The story was real good and mother added good facts into the story.

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Stevie Burges
07:55 Nov 21, 2022

delightful story and well-written

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21:28 Nov 18, 2022

Oww, this got me emotional

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