By Peggy Barnell
Esther's adult children can't believe it when she asks them to work with her on a quilt as a Christmas project.
Esther (a widow)
Her friends: Helen, Charlie, Millie, Rosella
Her children: Gwen, Beth, Jason, Leslie
Bill (Esther's husband)
Maggie (Leslie's daughter)
Ryan (Jason's son)
Katie & Patrick (Gwen's children)
Lucy (Millie's daughter)
The ideal set for this play is a modern day family home: living room, kitchen, decorations for Christmas, etc... if your church has a piano for worship, this incorporates well into the set as part of the family living room. Since the changing scenes are frequently 'flash-backs' to earlier events, a smooth transition can be made by simply adjusting the stage lighting focus to different parts of the stage. (platform) For example, our actors were in a present day scene in the center stage area as an memory was recalled. The lights came down center stage and brightened stage left for a different scene (the flash-back) to take place. The present day actors did not leave the platform, and if indicated the appropriate actor 'walked into the light' in the new scene to continue it there.The actor then returned to center stage as the lighting focus returned to center stage, and the actors from the flash-back exited.
The restaurant scene (Scene 2) was done by covering the family dining table with a checkered table cloth and giving the actors menus. We also added some background music and crowd noise. Again, the lighting focus was solely on the dining table area for this scene, so the rest of the set was dark.
This would not be possible for every church, but since drama events are a major out-reach event for our congregation, we go whole-hog. Our set people use a scaffolding for a base and construct a loft of sorts in our choir loft. We use it for all of the dramas, building on the basic structure for whatever suits our needs. It is a mountain for Easter and an upstairs bedroom for this play.This is fairly inexpensive and the lumber for the basics can be re-used for every performance.(if you have a good set director).
(Esther and friends enter her living room, having just returned from practice with the church choir.)
Esther: (to all) Can you believe that Christmas is right around the corner? I must say though, with all of our practices and all of the holiday music, it has put me right into the Christmas spirit! (Grabs Helen's hand to do a little jig)
Helen: Yes indeed! It's some of the liveliest music I have ever heard, but I kind of like it!
Charlie: I do too! You're right, Esther, it gets me going-puts me right into the holiday mood!
Millie: Oh, mood-smood! If you ask me, I think it's high time of few of us in that choir start acting our ages! We have no business bouncing around all over the place on that platform like a bunch of silly-nillies!
Rosella: You're so right, Millie. Now that new young choir director might have some big ideas, but she has to remember that a few of us seniors in the group would like to retain at least a shred of decency and respect in our Christmas music!
Helen: Oh pooh on you, Rosella, and on you too, Millie! My goodness, tonight was fun. I can't remember the last time I laughed so hard, and I saw you laughing too! (points at Rosella)
Rosella: I was only laughing because of Millie. She couldn't find the beat. She's never had any rhythm, and she was three steps behind everyone else all night long!
Millie: I resent that! I have rhythm! It's just my arthritis that slows me down a bit, and I can't help that! (Millie takes a sideways step and awkwardly falls toward Charlie who helps her to her seat)
Charlie: Millie, I think we're going to have to work on that step a little, but you'll get it, I have confidence in you!
Helen: Well I just think it's wonderful that the town council wants our church to put on a program at the Eastview Mall! I'm excited that we get to be part of it. Don't you agree, Esther? ........Esther?
Esther: Hmmm? Oh yes, yes of course........... Listen, I have this idea that just keeps rolling around inside my brain... I'm just not sure what to make of it anymore. Why don't I tell you all about it and you give me your opinion. (sits down and they lean in to listen) Every year about this time, the kids all start wanting to know what they can get me for Christmas. And every year, I don't know what to tell them, I have everything I need... So every year at Christmas, I end up with enough stationery and perfumed powder to last the Jolly Green Giant a lifetime! It's not that I don't appreciate their thoughtfulness, you all understand. It's really just spending time together is what I really want and enjoy. So I've been thinking about the possibility of telling my children that what I want for Christmas this year is....to make a quilt.
( pause as they look at each other quizzically)
Charlie: A quilt?
Esther: Yes, a quilt. But you see I want my children to help me make it... you know, a family project. See, if I make this my Christmas wish, then they don't have to worry about doing the stationery and perfume thing, and I get what I really want for Christmas, which is simply time with my children!
Helen: Oh, Esther, I think it's a lovely idea!
Charlie: A quilt, you say?
Millie: Well, I think it's stupid!
Charlie and Helen: Millie!!
Millie: Well it is stupid! I've never heard of such a ridiculous idea! Just stop and think of what she's asking. Even though Esther's children do all live close by, they're all much too busy for such a thing. It's the 90s for goodness sakes....they'll all hate you for it!
Rosella: Yep, Millie is right.
Esther: No, now just wait a minute. I've thought this all out. I know that my children are all busy people with busy lives. But I also know how difficult this Christmas is going to be for all of us. With Bill passing away this past Spring, it's going to be our first Christmas celebration without him. He always played such a big part of making our holiday a special family time. ( big sigh)
Charlie: We're all going to miss Bill, Esther.
Esther: Bill always planned lots of little surprises for the kids and the grand kids around the holidays. Everyone loved it and looked forward to it so much..... Now that he isn't here, it's going to leave such an huge, empty hole. I know better than anyone else that there's nothing we can do to begin to replace Bill or the wonderful things that he did, but I thought maybe we should do something different this year...something as a family. At least we would have something new to focus on, rather than the fact that he's not here with us.
Charlie: A quilt, huh? When you explain it like that, it does kind of make sense. But what about Jason? What will he think of your idea?
Esther: Well now, Jason use to love to help me with all kinds of projects when he was small. I realize he might have to warm up to this idea, but he has always respected his mother's wishes.
Millie: Ha! I can see it now. (mimes scanning newspaper headline) Construction Supervisor Assists Mother and Sisters in Quilting Circle. Esther, he'll be a laughing stock, and it will be all your fault!
Rosella: She's right, Esther, everyone will call him a sissy!
Millle: And just what about Beth and Leslie? Can you actually picture them spending their time quilting? I hardly think so! (Rosella continues to nod her agreement)
Helen: Okay, stop it-both of you! That's enough! I think Esther has a beautiful idea. Maybe this quilt project will bring her family closer together. You just don't know what could happen, maybe something wonderful!
Charlie: Esther, I want you to know that I will be praying for you and your children; for God's comfort and guidance this Christmas.
Esther: Thank you, Charlie...and you too, Helen. I treasure your prayers. (then to Millie and Rosella) God bless the two of you anyway! I think I will call all my children tonight and tell them about my Christmas wish. Boy oh boy, are they going to be surprised!
(A local restaurant.)
Gwen: (scanning menu) Well, I wonder if we should order or wait on them......I don't know what I want. The chicken salad sounds pretty good. What are you going to get, Beth?
Beth: Oh, I don't know how you can eat meat! Ever since I saw that documentary on meat processing last year, I haven't touched the stuff--not to mention those poor little creatures! (shudder) I believe I'll order the bean sprout salad with the vinegar soaked bamboo shoots on the side.
Gwen: (in horror) Where in the world do you see that?
Beth: I don't see it, but I'm going to ask for it. I've found that eating establishments such as this are usually quite accommodating, if you know exactly what you want and make very specific requests.
Gwen: Oh, I see.... Hey, there's Jason. Jason! We're over here!
Jason: (greets his sisters and sits) Hey, I made it! And I can see that as usual, I'm not the last one here.
Gwen: Yes, we can always count on Leslie to be the last one in.
Beth: At least she did leave word with the hostess. (checks her watch) She should be here any minute.
Jason: (mocking) That's our Leslie, always on the go, always in the know!
Gwen: Now try to be nice, Jason. You know how busy she is.
Jason: Yes, I know, but she is the one who called this little meeting of the minds. (begins to mock again with coffee cup in hand and his pinkie sticking way out) One would think that one such as Leslie could at least be punctual!
Beth: (still laughing at her brother) So, Jason, what do think of Mom's request?
Gwen: Leslie should be here any minute, Beth. Let's wait on her so we can discuss this all together, okay? (spots Leslie) Leslie! We're over here!
Leslie: (enters with briefcase, lap top computer in hand) So sorry to be late, but there was this last minute overseas call that I just couldn't ignore, you know? Big deal, really big! We're talking major big contract in the works, with an internationally known name.... Could be the biggest deal of my career. I really can't say anything more at this point, but it's big!
Jason: Well, Miss Ed Sullivan, now we're all properly impressed with your big excuse for being late. Oh, did I tell you all about my current project on the south side? Well, it's got big bricks, with big doors, and big windows. Yes, there's some really big boys working on this big building!
Leslie: Okay, okay, Jason I get the point. (Leslie's beeper sounds) Oh, that one can wait.
Beth: I think that the two of you are in dire need of massage therapy. I go three times a week and it is so healing...so therapeutic! My massage therapist says that he has seen tremendous improvement in my lateral muscle tone. He says that inner hostility and stress can cause the build up of unhealthy toxins in our bodies, and the only way they can be purged is by a trained massage therapist, like himself.
Jason: (sarcastic) Oh, really?
Leslie: (just as sarcastic) Your massage therapist?
Gwen: Okay everybody, that's enough. Here, check out the menu so we can order, and let's talk about what we came here for, Mom's Christmas wish.
Leslie: Good idea, Gwen. Hmmm.... I'd love a good steak, but I probably shouldn't. (Beth turns green) Now Gwen, you're the one who spends the most time with Mom, so tell me, has she been acting strangely at all?
Gwen: No, she seems fine.
Leslie: Well I did find this request a little odd, you know? Making a quilt? Us? I wondered where in the world this idea came from. It seems so out of the blue.
Beth: Not really, Leslie. We shouldn't be surprised at all. If you know even the basics about horoscopes, you would know that Mom's sign is in the seventh house right now. From the 27th through the 12th we can expect her to be extremely vulnerable and sentimental, and......
Jason: (cutting her off) Oh knock it off, Beth! You might be into that 'horror' scope business, but we're not! That stuff is just plain stupid! But neither can I imagine why Mom would make this kind of request. It does seem really strange. Stop and think; have any of us noticed anything at all out of the ordinary when we've talked to Mom in the last few months? You know, I've heard that senile thing can creep up on a person in different ways. Hey, what about Uncle Artie? Has he said anything about Mom's behavior?
Leslie: As if Uncle Artie could tell us! Jason, he's family, and I love him dearly, but come on! Artie is a simpleton, and he's hardly around Mom enough to pick up on anything out of the ordinary anyway!
Gwen: I think Mom is just fine. If you really stop and think about this request, it's not so unusual. Mom enjoys us all being together more than anything else, right? I think this is just her way of trying to make that happen. It's the first Christmas without Dad. Maybe she wants her children around her for emotional support. Besides, I think it might be kind of fun. Jason, you especially use to love doing this kind of thing. I think that's why you're so good with your hands now!
Jason: That was years ago, Gwen! I was a little boy. For goodness sakes, what would my crew say if they heard I was quilting? What would my boss say, or my son? I'd be humiliated!
Gwen: Did you ever stop to think that maybe they would admire you for honoring you mother in such an unusual way? And who says that they have to know?
Jason: Look, I love Mom. We all do, and we all know how fortunate we've been. But come on......A quilting circle? I can't do it!
Leslie: I don't understand how she can expect such a sacrifice. She knows how heavily involved I am at work this year. To slow down now, after pushing so hard for so long.... Jason, you know how it is. Someone would be moving into my office the very next day-and all because of a silly quilt!
Gwen: Leslie, you're not the only one who's busy. It would be a sacrifice for us all!
Jason: Well, I won't do it. I can't do it! It's just not...it's not....it's not manly!
Gwen: Let's discuss this a little more before we make any final decisions. This is our mother we're talking about. Maybe if we agree to help with the quilt, it would be sort of like the old days. Remember all the time we spent together? Especially at Christmas time, working together as a family? It was so much fun!
Beth: Gwen, it is so unwise to try to re-create situations from the childhood years! My pet therapist says it is always a bad idea!
Gwen, Leslie, and Jason: PET THERAPIST?
Beth: Yes, you know, for Poochie, my poodle. Now of course he was talking about puppy childhood.... Oh, I'm not sure.... I'll have to get back to you after I talk this over with my relationship counselor.
Leslie: I do not have the time.
Jason: I won't do it!
Gwen: Well, I'm sure Mom wouldn't make a request like this lightly. I think we need to give it serious consideration. Let's see about lunch, and we'll talk some more. Leslie, are you going to get that steak? It does sound really good.....
(Lights up in Esther's front room. All the children are there. Beth and Gwen are sorting through boxes of clothing with Esther, Jason is checking out the presents under the tree, Leslie is busy at the dining room table with her lap top computer.)
Esther: There are several more boxes to come yet, but I told Arthur just to bring down 2 or 3 at time so we don't have too much to handle all at once. My, these things bring back the memories! I can't believe that these little baby things actually still smell like little babies!
Beth: I can't believe you saved all this stuff! These are our baby clothes! Most of this has to be at least 25-30 years old, right? Didn't they believe in garage sales back in the old days?
Esther: (chuckling) Yes, they believed in garage sales in the old days, Beth. I just didn't want to give them up! Maybe it was foolish, but your little baby things were so precious to me, I couldn't bear to part with them.
Gwen: I think it's so sweet that you saved everything, and now it's worked out so well that you did. It is such a neat idea to use these things for the quilt, Mom. It makes it so special, like a family heirloom!
Beth: (pulls out a little pair of boys pajamas) Hey, Jason! Remember when you were this small? I do!
Jason: Ahhh, Mom! If you're going to use this kind of stuff for the quilt, I hope you're not going to actually tell people what all the pieces mean. I really don't want all my friends to know that I use to wear little red pajamas with feet and red choo-choo trains on them!
Leslie: Hey, Mr. Macho, we were all small at one time, like it or not!
(Leslie and Jason stick out their tongues at each other)
Esther: Leslie Ann, I almost forgot you were here, you're so involved over there. Jason, I promise not to point out your pajamas to any of your friends, but I do think it's important to have the entire family represented on this quilt. I think the best way to do this is to go through everything first. Let's decide what were going to use for the quilt and what were not going to use before we do actual cutting for the quilt pieces.
Esther: (continues) Now, first things first. Before we go any further, I want to stop and have prayer. Leslie, Jason, come on over here, I want to pray for this quilt.
Leslie: Mother, you want us to pray for a quilt? (she looks knowingly at her siblings)
Esther: Yes, Leslie, for the quilt, but more importantly, for us. I want to ask the Lord to bless this time that we'll be spending together. Now come on, Jason, Leslie, please join us.
Artie: (enters with a large dusty box) Here's another one, Esther, but there's a whole bunch more where this one came from!
Esther: Thank you, Arthur. Set it down and come join us. We're about to pray.
(Artie comes and bows his head and attempts to take the hand of Jason and Leslie, which they don't fully appreciate)
Esther: Dear God, I give you thanks for this circle of family I hold so close to my heart. As the Christmas season draws near, I thank you for the gift of your son, Jesus. Thank you for his birth, his life, and most of all for the sacrifice he made for us at Calvary. Even though we all miss Bill so very much, I thank you that because of Jesus, we can know that Bill is with you, in heaven. I ask you now, Lord, to use this time that we will be spending together as a family as an opportunity to draw us closer to each other, and to draw us closer to you. Please guide our hearts and our hands as we work together on this quilt. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.
( a moment of awkward silence, then Leslie's beeper goes off)
Beth: Well, thank you, Mother. That was very 'quaint'. I'll be sure to tell Luther about this moment. He always includes prayer and meditation as a part of his yoga sessions. It's actually a very spiritual experience.
Jason: Here we go again! Beth, why don't you gather up all of your therapists and tell them to......
Artie: (interrupts Jason) I like Christmas time! I know it's getting close to Christmas because it's getting real cold out. It always gets cold close to Christmas. Do you like Christmas time, Jason?
Jason: Well, yeah.....yeah sure I do. It's a fun time of the year.
Artie: I like Christmas because it's Jesus' birthday, too, like what Esther said when she prayed. Well, I got a lot more stuff to do out in the garage. Tell me when you want some more boxes, Esther.
Esther: Thank you, Arthur, I'll let you know when we're ready. Okay, come on, let's get going. Jason, bring that box up here, let's see what's in that one. Leslie, we're doing this together, remember? Now, anything that brings back a memory, bring it right up front here. Those are the things we want to use for the quilt, and we can talk about them as we go.
Beth: Mom, is it working out okay having Uncle Artie around now? You know, now that Dad is gone, is it awkward for you?
Esther: Oh no, not at all! Beth, you're old enough to remember when your grandpa and grandma passed away, aren't you? Your father and I told Arthur then that he would have a home here with us just as long as he liked. I wouldn't dream of going back on that promise, even now that Bill is gone. Besides, Arthur is a great help to me around the house, and I have always enjoyed his company. Some evenings I can even hear him playing that harmonica of his clear down here!
Beth: How could someone like Uncle Artie have ever learned to play music like he does? He is so good!
Gwen: You know what they say, the Lord moves in mysterious ways. Dad said Uncle Artie has always been able to play just about any kind of instrument, in spite of his other handicaps. I think having Uncle Artie in the garage apartment gives him just the right amount of independence. You kind of keep an eye on each other, don't you, Mom?
(Esther nods in response)
Jason: I'm really glad he's here to help you with the heavy work.
Beth: Hey, look! Mom, it's your wedding dress! (pulls dress out of box)
Esther: Would you look at that! So lovely.......and so small! This is exactly what we need for the center of the quilt!
Gwen: You're going to cut up your wedding dress for the quilt?
Beth: Are you sure you want to do that, Mom?
Esther: Well now, let's see.....this lovely dress has set in my closet for what, 43 years? I suppose it's just going to set in someone else's closet unless we find a use for it. Here, let's put it in the stack for the quilt.
Jason: Hey, look at this! It's my cub scout uniform! Are we going to use this for the quilt, Mom? Can we?
Esther: (admiring uniform) Would you look at that. Of course we'll use it.
Jason: (making the cub scout sign) I was such a brave little cub scout! And of course, the girl scouts loved my boyish charm!
Beth: (pulling out a small dress) Mom, look! Do you remember this dress? It's one you made just for me. Oh, I was so proud of this dress. It's the first one I remember wearing that wasn't passed down to me from Leslie!
Jason: Ah yes, there are some advantages of being the number one and only son; no hand-me downs!
Gwen: Don't speak so fast, dear Brother. There was a time or two that Beth and I dressed you up real pretty in our doll clothes and pretended that you were our baby sister!
(Beth sneaks up from behind to place a bow on Jason's head for last line)
Jason: Ahhh! (throws down bow) That's it! I am out of here! I've got to go chop down some trees, or...or...I'll go see what Uncle Artie is doing out in the garage! I'm not putting up with this!
Esther: (laughing ) Now settle down, Jason. You promised to help me with the quilt, remember? You come on back here. (Leslie's beeper sounds) Leslie, I could see how that little gadget could get down right annoying! Why don't you de-activate it or de-fuse it, whatever you have to do to get it to be quiet. We can't concentrate with that thing blasting off every little bit!
Leslie: I can't do that, Mother. I have a very important position of responsibility. I can't put everything in my life on hold to work on a silly quilt, even if I wanted to!
Gwen: Leslie, would you please stop reminding everyone of how busy you are! Hey! Look at this! My red velvet dress! Oh, I remember wearing this dress the Christmas I was.....let's see.......six or seven years old. I loved this dress! It made me feel so special...and beautiful. You guys remember that year when Daddy had to be gone on a business trip right before Christmas? He brought us all home an early Christmas present; this is what he brought home for me. It's still just as soft as I remember it....... Oh man, I have the most wonderful and warm memories of growing up in this big old house...especially Christmas memories. Sorting through these things just makes them all come flooding back. Do you remember that wonderful, secure feeling of total trust in the people that surrounded us? It seems like it could have been yesterday............
(black out)(to be continued)
© Peggy Barnell, All rights reserved.
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