Universal Baby




"You're doing it again," I said as I looked in on her. She was standing at the window looking down over the street. We had been in our new house just a few days, and already nothing much was unpacked except her sewing machines, her sewing tables, her fabric, her batting, her notions, her quilting tools, the bed and the refrigerator. That was all she needed she said as she disappeared upstairs to her new sewing room.

"I'm doing what again?" she asked as she turned toward me.

"Thinking about what kind of quilt to make first here in your new home."

"I was thinking about the new grandchild," she said.


"And she'll need a quilt," she said.


"Well, they had a boy last time. They want a girl this time."

"Don't be too sure," I said.

"It doesn't matter what kind. The baby will need a quilt right away.

"It's not due until the end of September," I said, knowing full well that somewhere in that head of hers she was already planning quilts for her great-great-grandchildren--and maybe a few more generations down the road. The headlines on all the major newspapers of the world will someday read, "Two hundred year old grandmother says quilting keeps her young."

"All right, I'll make the quilt," my Darling Wife said.

"All right? You'll make the quilt? What did I say?" I asked and asked and asked.

"I know you want to put in the new shelves and I have to look for the right fabric."

"Shelves?" Were there shelves in our conversation?

"Unicorns," she said.

"Unicorn shelves?" I didn't remember anything about unicorns either.

"Delilah likes unicorns and the baby will want a unicorn quilt. I have some nice purple and blue and pink and yellow."

"Delilah," I said, naming our daughter-in-law who now lived only two miles away so that it would make it easier for the mad quilter to quilt for the babies, one, Jacob, who already had too many quilts and wasn't yet a year old and, of course the yet unborn, unnamed child to come. "Delilah may not want her baby boy to have a pink and yellow and purple quilt."

"She wants a girl, and if it happens by some remote chance to come out a boy, he will have a purple and pink and yellow unicorn quilt."

"He might not want girl colors," I teased.

"Girl colors?'

"Remember what that man said about boys wearing pink," I said. She would remember. I told the story in my psychology class every semester for twenty-some odd years when we discussed gender roles and masculine and feminine behavior. I had told her in her maternity ward room five minutes after I had heard the man say it.

Our first son, David, who is married to Delilah and is the father of Jacob, was the twenty-second boy born at the hospital on the same day. Only three girls were born that masculine day. Some days, boys happen more than girls. In that case, lots of boys happened. As a result, the hospital ran out of blue blankets to wrap the newborn boys in after birth. Several of the boys wound up in the nursery swaddled in pink. There was no birthing room in that hospital back then, and all the babies were lined up in their tiny bassinets, and several of the proud fathers stood in front of the window of the nursery and stared in at their boys and noticed quickly that they were dressed in pink.

"What's happening here?" a man said as he thumped on the nurse's nearby desk.

"I'm suing," a second shouted.

"They're turning my boy into a sissy," said another.

"He better have blue in five minutes or I'm tearing this nursery apart and taking my boy home," said a third.

It went on that way a while. The shouter banged on the nursery window, setting off some twenty newborn babies into a concert of squeals and wails and tiny lung-bursting baby screams; then, he ran up and down the corridor, screamed invectives, something like, "##&^*&*%$@#," but he was soon quieted down by two orderlies who were twice his size. One of the orderlies wore a pink shirt and yet didn't look anything like a girl.

Our son wore blue. But not for long.

Thirteen months before our son was born, our first born, our daughter, came into the world pink and proud. She wore a lot of pink outfits, most passed on to her from her girl cousins. As we were young and smart, we weren't about to buy our son a lot of new clothes that he would outgrow in moments after putting them on. For the first few months of his life, our Samson-like son wore pink sleepers and pink shirts. He could have worn pink the rest of his life and he would not have turned out less than than the brave and true and honorable man he has become. (Darling Wife insists that I also add "rugged.")

"That man was wrong, and pink on a boy won't make a sissy out of him."

"Our grandchild to be, who may be a boy or a girl, has a father who might think the quilt is a little too feminine for a boy."

"Feh," said my Good Wife with great enthusiasm. "The quilt will be wonderful for a girl and wonderful for a boy. In this family, it's almost tradition to fight tradition."

"Feh?" I asked. "Tradition?"

"Our son wore pink, and he is still alive," she said. "And, besides, it's not a pink quilt. It's a unicorn quilt and it has lots of good boy colors and yellow is neutral, and pink will make him strong like his father," she said with great finality. That was the end of the subject. "But they want a girl, and so it's a good quilt for either a boy or a girl," she said with more finality.

"Are you finished?" I asked just to make sure.

"I have to find the fabric I'll need. I know it's in one of the boxes."

"One of the thousands of boxes," I said.

"I need a lot of fabric for a quilt," she said.

"For a baby quilt?"

"It has to be just right. I know just what I want. I know I unpacked it," she said to her room as she began looking in the closet that, though it was meant for clothes and shoes and belts, and accessories, was filled with half of America's present supply of fabric good enough for a baby's quilt.

"The doorbell's ringing," I said then, for the doorbell was ringing. "Ding, dong, ding dong."

"You answer it. I have work to do," she said.

I answered it. Our daughter-in-law was at the door. She held a long strip of photographic paper folded accordion-style. "It's the sonogram," she said.

"Delilah," I yelled up the stairs to my house dominating quilter to let her know who was at the door. "And?" I turned back and asked Delilah.

"Look for yourself," she said as she stretched out the paper to show me scene after scene in her busy womb. At the fourth section, I stopped, looked a moment, and said, "He looks brave and strong." And, I thought, our new grandson will look good in his crib kept warm by a quilt of unicorns and pink and yellow and purple. No one's going to make a sissy out of a kid that looks that much like a man already.

Copyright 2001 by A.B. Silver

Click here to see finished "Universal Baby Quilt

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