A TRAIL OF TEARS
© Vickey Stamps 3/4/14
Her parents had wanted her to be a boy child. Obviously that hadn’t happened, so the Matthew they’d thought for a Matthew, Sr. had become Mattie instead, and they’d grown to love this only child, with all their hearts.
She stood now, in front of the closet she had shared with her husband all these long years. Two ‘Sunday go to meeting’ shirts hung there that they had indulged in for Mark, at the local mercantile. The rest of the shirts for the most part were of flannel. Her fingers had worked them into work shirts. She eased one off its hanger, holding it before her, thinking of the combination of greens and browns that had almost matched her beloved husbands soft hazel eyes, eyes that sorrowed with her when they’d lost their last little one, Jacob, still-born in the cold of winter, eyes that could not hide the tears of grief, as together they had stood above the tiny bit of ground that held the child, that would wait one day for them to join him.
There were two others, equally loved by them, one with her blue eyes and the other with Papa’s. Mark Matthew named after his father and that of Matte’s. grew to be a gentle giant. He’d felt called to the ministry and served now in a nearby state and small prairie town. He was a grandfather himself. Visits to see them were few and far between, but when it happened it was a good thing. Molly lived in town and came often to check on her. She was her far haired child, soft spoken and small in stature. She’d had four children of her own, two of each and they were grown as well. Any day now Molly would be a grandmother. Mattie smiled at these blessings to her life. She pulled the old flannel skirt close to herself, curling her fingers into the work worn and softened fabric, and refused to stop the flow of tears making a trail down her wrinkled face. It was comforting to let them fall. Life waited however, and Mattie had to move forward. She had decided to make a quilt from Marks shirts. How good it would feel to sleep under the warmth of them, to touch them and to remember him in that manner.
Now she recalled her youth and meeting Mark at an all-day singing and picnic the little church down the way, and around the bend had arranged that long ago day. They’d known almost at once that they would spend their life together. She’d been seventeen and he was twenty-one. Their farms neighbored each other, and their glance had touched and held many times before. Soon they had married. They’d shared stories of their own families, their joys and their sorrows had become a joined memory. Mark was of Cherokee heritage and spoke to her of the land and his love of it, of how his grandmother had survived the trail of tears, upon which she and her be-loved nation had been forced to walk. It has started right in this state in which they lived. They’d stay here and honor the life the ancestors had once been a part of. Mattie was of Scottish decent and while Mark, Jr. would have a beautiful copper tone to his skin and hair almost blue with its blackness, Molly was the complete opposite. One would never think they were siblings.
She’d hand quilt the ‘Railroad’ quilt, after she and the old treadle sewer had joined the seams together. There were the browns and greens of Marks eyes and that of the earth, the yellows of the sun, the whites of the clouds, the gray of the rocks upon the no longer plowed earth, the hues of the flowers she’d planted flowers that had fought to live . They, in their multi-colors had grown despite the sun that had beat down upon them and the times of drought. Now they colored the front of the house flourishing despite their rough beginnings. She’d planted some special ones in shades of blue, where little Jacob lay, in the ‘family plot’. Mark had built a fence around it. Mattie wondered if the wood had felt the tears that fell upon it, and did the two hinges that served to open and close the gate. She’d hand quilt tear drops upon the surface of the quilt, for ‘The People of the Cherokee’ that had fallen beside ‘The Trail of Tears’ never to rise again. They would fall upon the ‘ties of the railroad blocks’ and help to keep the memory of her husband’s heritage. Time would pass and the pain would be less. It had only been six months since Papa had failed to wake up that morning. She’d honor him forever. He’d been such a fine man, such a wonderful and caring husband and father. She knew he would love the way she was using his old shirts. She’d make a backing of his old denims and overalls. It would be a very warm quilt. She fell asleep every night talking things over with papa. She knew where he was and she smiled at the knowledge, wondering if he heard her far above the clouds. Surely he did.
The quilt was almost finished now. She had hidden it for a surprise for Molly to see, and would write Mark Matthew and tell him about it. Molly would see it tomorrow. She was coming to spend the day with her. She’d gotten one of those new- fangled Brownie cameras. She wanted to take some pictures of the old homestead and her mother. She’d ask her to take a picture of the quilt laid out across the treadle sewing machine.
Mattie looked out the window now, across their acreage, counting the blessings….counting all of it as good. She saw in her mind the Cherokee’s, weary of body and soul, leaving their land, leaving their homes behind, beginning a long journey. She thought sometimes she heard them murmuring in the soft of the early evenings at times. That part of her thoughts was not so pleasant. She whispered a prayer for grace to take her through the lonely times without papa, and knew it would be always sufficient. It brought her comfort. She would not leave their land.
LIFE WAS GOOD