Abingdon Press (April 2012)
A year ago, Mary Katherine wouldn’t have imagined she’d be here. Back then, she’d been helping her parents on the family farm and hating every minute of it.
Now, she stood at the front window of Stitches in Time, her grandmother’s shop, watching the Englischers moving about on the sidewalks outside the shop in Paradise. Even on vacation, they rushed about with purpose. She imagined them checking off the places they’d visited: Drive by an Amish farmhouse. Check. Buy a quilt and maybe some knitting supplies to try making a sweater when I get back home. Check.
She liked the last item. The shop had been busy all morning, but now, as people started getting hungry, they were patronizing the restaurants that advertised authentic Amish food and ticking off another item on their vacation checklist. Shoofly pie. Amish pretzels. Chow-chow. Check.
“Don’t you worry, they’ll be back,” Leah, her grandmother, called out.
Smiling, Mary Katherine turned. “I know.”
She wandered back to the center of the shop, set up like the comfortable parlor of an Amish farmhouse. Chairs were arranged in a circle around a quilting frame. Bolts of fabric of every color and print imaginable were stacked on shelves on several walls, spools of matching threads on another.
And yarn. There were skeins and skeins of the stuff. Mary Katherine loved running her hands over the fluffy fibers, feeling the textures of cotton and wool and silk. Some of the new yarns made from things like soybeans and corn just didn’t feel the same when you knitted them or wove them into patterns— but some people made a fuss over them because they used something natural plant-based or more sustainable.
Mary Katherine thought it was a little strange to be using vegetables you ate to make clothes but once she got her hands on the yarns, she was impressed. Tourists were, too. They used terms like “green” and “ecological” and didn’t mind spending a lot of money to buy them. And was it so much different to use vegetables when people had been taking oily, smelly wool from sheep and turning it into garments for people—silk from silkworms—that sort of thing?
“You have that look on your face again,” her grandmother said.
“That serious, thoughtful look of yours. Tell me what you’re thinking of.”
“Working on my loom this afternoon.”
“I figured you had itchy fingers.” Her grandmother smiled.
She sighed. “I’m so glad you rescued me from working at
the farm. And Dat not understanding about my weaving.” Leah nodded. “Some people need time to adjust.”
Taking one of the chairs that was arranged in a circle around the quilt her grandmother and Naomi worked on, Mary Katherine propped her chin in her hand, her elbow on the arm of the chair. “It’d be a lot easier if I knitted or quilted.”
Leah looked at her, obviously suppressing a smile. “You have never liked ‘easy,’ Mary Katherine.”
Laughing, she nodded. “You’re right.”
Looking at Naomi and Anna, her cousins aged twenty and twenty-three, was like looking into a mirror, thought Mary Katherine. The three of them could have been sisters, not cousins. They had a similar appearance—oval faces, their hair center-parted and tucked back under snowy white kapps, and slim figures. Naomi and Anna had even chosen dresses of a similar color, one that reminded Mary Katherine of morning glories. In her rush out the door, Mary Katherine had grabbed the first available dress and now felt drab and dowdy in the brown dress she’d chosen.
Yes, they looked much alike, the three of them.
Until Mary Katherine stood. She’d continued growing after it seemed that everyone else had stopped. Now, at 5’8”, she felt like a skinny beanpole next to her cousins. She felt awkward next to the young men she’d gone to school with. Although she knew it was wrong, there had been times when she’d secretly wished that God had made her petite and pretty like her cousins. And why had he chosen to give her red hair and freckles? Didn’t she have enough she didn’t like about her looks without that?
Like their looks, their personalities seemed similar on the surface. The three of them appeared calm and serene— especially Naomi. Anna tried to be, but it didn’t last long. She was too mischievous.
And herself? Serenity seemed hard these days. In the past several years, Mary Katherine had been a little moody but lately it seemed her moods were going up and down like a road through rolling hills.
“Feeling restless?” Naomi asked, looking at her with concern. Nimbly, she tied a knot, snipped the thread with a scissors, then slid her needle into a pincushion.
Anna looked up from her knitting needles. “Mary Katherine was born restless.”
“I think I’ll take a short walk.”
“No,” Leah said quickly, holding up a hand. “Let’s eat first, then you can take a walk. Otherwise you’ll come back and customers will be here for the afternoon rush and you’ll start helping and go hungry.”
Mary Katherine was already mentally out the door, but she nodded her agreement. “You’re right, of course.”
Leah was a tall, spare woman who didn’t appear old enough to be anyone’s grandmother. Her face was smooth and unlined, and there wasn’t a trace of gray in her hair, which she wore like her granddaughters.
“I made your favorite,” Leah told Mary Katherine.
“Fried chicken? You made fried chicken? When did you have time to do that?”
Nodding, Leah tucked away her sewing supplies, and stood. “Before we came to work this morning. It didn’t take long.” She turned to Naomi. “And I made your favorite.”
Naomi had been picking up stray strands of yarn from the wood floor. She looked up, her eyes bright. “Macaroni and cheese?”
“Oatmeal and raisin cookies?” Anna wanted to know. When her grandmother nodded, Anna set down her knitting needles and stood. “Just how early did you get up? Are you having trouble sleeping?”
“No earlier than usual,” Leah replied cheerfully. “I made the macaroni and cheese and the cookies last night. But I don’t need as much sleep as some other people I know.”
“Can you blame me for sleeping in a little later?” Mary Katherine asked. “After all of those years of helping with farm chores? Besides, I was working on a design last night.”
“Tell us all about it while we eat,” Naomi said, glancing at the clock. “We won’t have long before customers start coming in again.”
“I worry about Grandmother,” Anna whispered to Mary Katherine as they walked to the back room. “She does too much.”
“She’s always been like this.”
“Yes, but she’s getting older.”
“Shh, don’t be saying that around her!”
Leah turned. “Did somebody say something?”
“Anna said she’s hungry,” Mary Katherine said quickly. “And wondering what favorite of hers you made. After all, every- thing you make is Anna’s favorite.”
Anna poked Mary Katherine in the ribs but everyone laughed because it was true. What was amazing was that no matter how much Anna ate, she never gained weight.
Nodding, Leah continued toward the back room. “We’ll have it on the table in no time.”
Anna grabbed Mary Katherine’s arm, stopping her. “Shame on you,” she hissed. “You know it’s wrong to lie.” Then she shook her head. “What am I saying? You’ve done so much worse!”
“Me? I have not! I can’t imagine what you’re talking about.”
Turning so that her grandmother wouldn’t see, Anna lifted
her fingers to her lips and mimed smoking a cigarette.
Mary Katherine blushed. “You’ve been spying on me.”
“Food’s ready!” Leah called.
“Don’t you dare tell her!” Mary Katherine whispered.
Anna’s eyes danced. “What will you give me if I don’t?”
She stared at her cousin. “I don’t have anything—”
“Your afternoon off,” Anna said suddenly. “That’s what I’ll take in trade.”