“To Sleep Under the Stars”


Carol Shaw Graham

        “But Mom, everybody’s going.”

        “Cecilia, you know that isn’t true. All 300 kids in the sixth grade cannot be going.” Cecilia’s mother looked across the kitchen at her. “And I am truly sorry but this is the only weekend your father has off until after Christmas. We’re going to your Grandmother’s. This is very important, Cecilia. Uncle Frank and Aunt Ellen have been taking care of Grandma ever since her surgery, but we need to help out, too. There will be other class trips. This time family has to come first.”

        “But...” Cecilia searched quickly for another reason to stay home.

“Cecilia, I’m disappointed in you. It’s time to be unselfish.” Her mother turned sadly back to the sink. Cecilia slowly left the kitchen and wandered out to the porch. “It’s not fair,” she thought. “My first class trip. I really wanted to see the planetarium.” She flopped into a chair and gave herself up to self-pity.

Cecilia was still unhappy when time came to head for Grandma’s. The three-hour trip took the family through beautiful farmland and several small towns. Usually Cecilia enjoyed the ride, but this time she didn’t. Her friends were on a bus heading three hours west toward the Bay City Planetarium.

        Grandma looked tired, but she was so happy to see them that Cecilia felt a little better. “Stay and keep me company,” requested Grandma when Cecilia’s parents went to unpack. “You’ve grown so tall since the summer!” Grandma exclaimed. “Sit down here next to me I’m getting a crick in my neck looking up at you! Now tell me, where do you buy the beauty cream you put on your face every night? I need some.”

        Cecilia laughed. “Oh, Grandma. You’re just saying that.”

        Grandma smiled. “You’re getting so grown up and so busy. I’ve missed you. Your mother told me about your report card. Almost all A’s! That’s wonderful. What is your favorite subject this year?”

        “Science, I guess. We’re doing astronomy.”

        “I loved astronomy. The stars are fascinating. I still love to look up at the sky and find the constellations.”

        “Really? Maybe I inherited that from you,” said Cecilia. “I wish I could sleep out under the stars. Mom says I’d freeze.”

        Gran smiled. “I know a way that you can sleep under the stars every night and still be warm. Help me down the hall to my room.”

        Cecilia helped Gran stand up. She seemed so frail. Together they slowly walked to Gran’s bedroom. Gran sank into the little chair in the corner with a sigh.

          “Are you alright?” Cecilia asked anxiously.

“I’m feeling stronger every day! Now open the cedar trunk there.”

Cecilia lifted the heavy lid, and then turned to Gran. “What’s in there, Gran?” she asked.

“Memories. Your mother’s baby shoes, a curl from your first haircut all sorts of things.” Cecilia pulled items out, one by one, and Gran told their stories. Finally, Cecilia pulled out a big cloth-wrapped bundle.

        “A quilt!” she exclaimed. “Oh, Gran, did you make it?”

        “A long time ago. When I was in high school, my mother became ill. The doctor sent her to the desert to avoid the cold winter weather. I went with her I had to miss a year of high school. I was so disappointed at first. The teachers sent me work through the mail, but I missed all the fun. But in the desert, I discovered that the stars seemed to jump out of the sky. My mother and I made this quilt that winter.” She shook the quilt open across her lap. White stars shone out of a dark blue background. A pearly moon was sewn into one corner.

        “Gran, it’s beautiful,” said Cecilia, smoothing the quilt. “There’s Orion’s belt and Cassiopeia.”

        “We put all my favorite constellations in. My mother and I really enjoyed those times together. I learned that winter how important family is. Now I want to pass that quilt on to you.”

        Cecilia wrapped her arms around Grandma. “Oh, Gran. Thank you!” she said. “I’m so glad I came to see you, and I’ll love the quilt forever.”