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We started as a small book club discussing our favorite novels once a month at a local coffee shop. Rain, snow, hungry kids, dirty dishes, work deadlines—we all showed up for the opportunity to escape our ordinary lives and vicariously live through the eyes of book characters. With time and familiarity, we moved on to wine and potlucks where we shared gossip and culinary skills.
Now we have hit another milestone. Those of us who have compatible blood types have decided to donate blood on a monthly basis to Marla, our favorite vampire and longtime member who has been diagnosed with bone cancer. Not only that, we have spent two months toiling over a quilt for Marla. It will be a Valentine’s Day gift. Obviously, many of us have no acquaintance with a sewing machine, but our little general, Rosa Gonzales, is an outstanding seamstress. We each sat down with Rosa and submitted our ideas for a personal quilt square dedicated to Marla and then Rosa took our ideas, good and bad, and imperiously translated them into her vision of a love quilt.
We are all sitting in my living room and sipping wine, waiting for Rosa’s arrival and the great unveiling. All we have seen are the individual sketches for quilt squares and the yards of velvet, satin, and raw silk that Rosa purchased for the fabrication of the quilt. I hope this turns out well.
The hors d’oeuvres are vanishing and the wine is pouring freely. Everyone has broken up into little clutches—some huddled near the fire place, some seated on the couch, others standing in the hallway between the kitchen and living room. I’ve abandoned my hostess duties and am playing with the family dog while listening to the ebb and flow of all the conversations.
“I’m so glad we’re finally going to be rid of our nigger president.” Her voice carries loud and clear over all the chatter. It is as if the air has suddenly been sucked out of the room. The easy-going ambiance is broken by the Mouth, Jenna, who never knows when to stop flapping her yap. “What? What? “I’m not being politically correct enough for you all? Ha. Ha.”
I’m guessing most of the people in this room are Orange County Republicans who probably agree with her, but we all have an unspoken agreement to keep politics out of our relationships. I want to smack Jenna down but I don’t think I’ll have to because Rosa Gonzales, a fierce Democrat and Obama supporter, is standing at the front entrance. Her short brown arms are wrapped around a huge bundle and her face is contorted in a furious frown.
“Oh,” someone says to defuse the situation. “Here’s Rosa. I can’t wait to see the quilt.”
But Rosa stands her ground. In a low, gravelly voice that sounds like it’s packing a knife, Rosa levels her gaze on Jenna. “I hope you love this quilt as much as I loved making it. Most of all, I hope Marla loves it and that our love blesses her with special healing, but I will not unwrap this quilt with this hate hanging in the air. It will poison our gift.”
Jenna rolls her eyes. No one speaks.
“There will be a perfect and sincere apology and a group prayer to cleanse this room and bless the blanket.”
Rosa turns toward the door.
“Wait, Rosa,” I say. “Jenna will give her apology.”
Now Jenna is glaring at me.
“Or she will leave if she chooses. We are all anxious to see the blanket and we want it to be blessed with love. This blanket is going to be a special gift to Marla. Nothing must get in the way of that.”
Rosa hesitates at the door assessing the weight of the silence.
Jenna bows her head. “I’m sorry.”
I’m thinking it’s a good thing that Jenna doesn’t have a compatible blood type because who could predict what kind of purification ritual Rosa might insist upon.
Rosa walks into the center of the living room. “Light a candle and form a circle.”
We obey and I move a small table into the center of the circle for the quilt and the candle. We join hands and bow our heads while Rosa blesses the room, and then we each offer a prayer for healing.
Then comes the unveiling. Rosa unwraps the quilt and four of us each take a corner. Everyone gasps at the beauty of the unfurled quilt. It is an exquisite work of art. Everyone admires the jewel tones of the embroidery on each of the personal quilt squares, each one signed with the name of the originator. The quilt is an incredible tree that seems to vibrate with leaves, flowers, and birds. It is soft and plump with life. It seems filled with sunlight.
“You have all made the magic with your blood, tears and prayers,” Rosa says. “It is love and it will heal.”