Margaret heard their cry first; a single, flat Honk, then others joining, filling the air with sound. She squinted into the late afternoon sun to see geese fly low over the Saskatchewan prairie in an orderly V-formation. Wings beat strong and heads strained southward, and summer was over.
Every year, with a shared satisfaction, she and her father would watch the geese arrive one soft, spring night and leave in the crisp air of fall. Margaret was comfortable with the geese going, sure in the knowledge they would return. Except this year – this year she was sure of nothing.
“Margaret Brown! Stop your dreaming and bring in the washing from the line,” her mother ordered through the kitchen window.
Worry gnawing at her insides, Margaret pulled pegs from the sheets, momentarily wrestled the wind for them, then folded haphazardly before stuffing them into a woven basket. She continued along the clothesline, gathering in billowing cotton until she came to the quilt airing at the end. Her own Flower Basket quilt. She stopped and stood back to admire it’s soft yellow, blue, and green hues. Grandma Brown had made it special for her a year ago, finishing it six months before a stroke had carried her away to her final resting place, as Mama called, heaven.
Margaret closed her eyes and buried her head in its colorful folds, hearing her grandmother’s voice. I’m quilting spring for you, Grandgirl. She missed Grandma Brown dreadfully, especially now when everything was so upset. Seeing her back bent over her wooden quilting frame in the parlor had a way of steadying them all. Was she enjoying her final resting place, Margaret wondered? She’d never actually seen her Grandma rest, the slightly built woman busy from dawn to long past dark, working in the garden, canning and preserving, cooking, washing and in her spare moments, out would come scraps of material from her apron pocket and she’d piece. Maybe heaven was doing what you liked best and for Grandma, that was piecing and quilting.. She certainly was not resting.
With a sigh Margaret straightened and ran her fingers over the swirling feather stitching, feeling her grandmother’s love embedded with the thread – and also a moment’s pride. Some of the stitches in the quilt were her own, Grandma finally declaring her skilled enough to take a place with the women seated around the frame. You come quilt now, Grandgirl. Even stitches, child. Don’t dig in the needle, ply it gently.
She’d accompanied Grandma Brown to quilting bees since she was very young, sitting many an afternoon within a small house, the roof above her the quilt top stretched taut on its frame; the walls, women’s skirt clad legs and stout, booted feet, giving Margaret a sense of security and comfort.
Reluctantly she pulled the quilt from the line, smelling the freshness of an afternoon of sun and wished once more to be within that safe, small haven.
Settling the basket on one hip she moved towards the house, shivering as the sun hid behind grey clouds gathering on the horizon and the growing darkness stole warmth and light. She recalled another afternoon just two weeks ago, the sky clear except for one boiling black thunderhead herded by an overly warm wind to their fields. Watching from the kitchen, Dad had said a spot of rain would be good for the crop, but suddenly the drumming on the roof had become louder, a deafening pounding of hailstones the size of eggs. She’d watched her father’s expression become grimmer with each passing minute and though the brief storm finally took its leave, the bleakness on his face had not. She kept her eyes on the dirt path to the house, unable to bear to look upon the battered ruins of their grain. The neighbors had come shortly after, shaking their heads over the whims of nature and God, that left only the Brown farm damaged. Everyone else had a bumper crop this harvest, and a war in Europe to push prices high. She passed through the porch and into the kitchen
“Did you shake those sheets well and smooth the wrinkles out?” Mrs. Brown asked. “I don’t want to be ironing them.”
“Yes, Mama” Margaret replied, hoping she had. She couldn’t remember she’d been so caught up in her own misery.
…vivid and credible. Historic details enhance the story without cluttering down the crisp, pleasing prose or romanticising the past.”
— Books In Canada
These are real people, not historic representatives…
— Quill & Quire
“In Flying Geese, Barbara Haworth-Attard does a marvelous job of depticting the complexities of family dynamics…The characters and the dialogue in this novel carry a poignancy and authenticity that immediately draw the reader in and bridge generation gaps…”
— Canadian Children’s Literature 2002
“…a sensitive and realistic story about an improverished family…”
— “Highly Recommended” CM Magazine October 4, 2002
- 2003 Manitoba Young Readers’ Choice Award nominee
- 2003 Silver Birch Award nominee
- 2004 Red Cedar Award nominee