Basted Lips




"Mmmmm," she said.

"What?" I asked. "I can't hear what you're saying," I said. "Your lips seemed stuck together."

I watcher her move her lips slightly, then from side to side. Finally, her lips parted and she spoke again.

"I just basted my lips together," she said.

"They look apart," I said. I looked carefully at her lips. I saw no thread, no piercing of her enchanting lips.

"They're apart now, but they were stuck together." She rubbed her fingers across her lips.

"I'm glad they're all right," I said, wondering why she was talking about her lips when the last thing she had spoken about moments earlier concerned her new quilt.

"None of the pieces fit together," she had said as I passed her sewing room on the way down the hall to the front door and out to the front lawn where our plum and apricot trees were busy growing fruit in our early spring. But she hadn't been talking to me. Most of the time she doesn't talk to me when she talks out loud in her sewing room. I can pass by and hear her talking to her sewing machine or to her fabric. I know she is talking to herself, as quilters are known to do, I assume, but sometimes it is surprising what she says.

A few minutes after I turned on the sprinklers to give the thirsty trees a drink, I passed by her sewing room again.

"If you won't fit the way you're supposed to fit, I'll just go ahead and make you fit and then you'll be square and perfect and look alive and well."

"Are you talking to me, Dear?" I asked out of habit. Every once in a while she did talk to me, and I wasn't about to let any opportunity to have a conversation pass me by. It was bad enough that she had assigned me the job of packing up our whole house while she quilted, her reason for that assignment being that moving was stressful, and when a stressed person (Darling Wife) quilts, then the fabric and the thread and the sewing machine and the quilts become stressed, and life is never the same again. Or something like that.

"Of course I'm talking to you, she said. "Who else is here to talk to? I cut out every single piece of this quilt exactly as I should have, and then the pieces didn't fit together at all. They didn't even think about fitting together."

"They look together," I said in my most complimentary way. It was bad enough, my packing thirty-seven hundred boxes of her stash from her hiding places around the house. I didn't want her sulking in the belief that I couldn't take half a second from packing to reassure her that her quilt was wonderful.

"That's because I cut and pasted," she said. She had adopted that saying from me after I had once told her that I was cutting and pasting when she asked why I spent so much time on the computer writing about her, as I am now doing, because if I see one more box and one more dish and one more piece of bubble-wrap and one more roll of sealing tape, I just might get stressed and mistakenly mark a box of her fabric as corn flakes or pots and pans.

"The seven months didn't fit and so I added more sashing and turned blocks around and used up most of my brain, but it's coming along even though this quilt is stubborn and ornery, a rascal and a pollywog."

"Then you have it all under control?" I asked. I didn't ask her about the "seven months" because I knew what she was saying. She was saying that the past seven months that she had worked on the first seven parts of the quilt had been like seven years in quilting time, especially when the magazine with the pattern for the 6th part was two months late and came just a few days before the 7th part. And now she was completing the quilt and, though it was frustrating for her, it was better than packing or showing our current house to people interested in buying a house but who wonder why all the walls have quilts on them. One prospective buyer had asked if there were termites in the walls that we were trying to cover up with all the quilts. (At that, I had said, "No sale!")

"Do I have it under control? You bet," said my Darling Wife. "If any quilt is under control, that one is," she said. The quilt was spread across and over and down the sides of her cutting table to the floor. She hadn't realized that very first month last year that when all the eight parts were complete and joined together, the quilt would cover the neighborhood.

"There's fitting the pieces together and then there's not fitting the pieces together, and then there's just having a fit," she added a moment later.

"So, does any of this explain how your lips got basted together?" I asked. Before I went back to cleaning out another kitchen cupboard, I wanted to know about those lips of hers.

"Water soluble thread," she said. And she said it the way a quilter would explain anything about quilting; that is, she expected me to either know exactly what she meant, or, if I didn't, that it didn't matter as I would never understand all the secrets and mysteries of quilting anyway.

"Uhhmmm, of course," I said.

"I had to thread the needle to baste the pieces of the quilt in several different positions to see if I could get them to fit," she said.

"Uh-huh, of course," I said.

"I was using the new water-soluble thread that came in the mail yesterday."

"Ah, that," I said.

"I had to thread the needle," she said.

"The needle, thread, water-soluble," I repeated. All I needed were a few more clues and then it would all make sense.

"You're not supposed to get the thread wet or it will dissolve," she said.

"You're not supposed to get the thread wet," I repeated. "I can understand that." I could. Really.

"Threading a needle is difficult," she said. "And you have to keep your fingers dry."

"Is there something here about threading a camel through the eye of a needle?" I asked. I assumed dry fingers had something to do with dry skin.

"What's the first thing you do when you thread a needle?" she asked.

"Is this a quiz now?"

"You learned to sew with a needle when you were still in diapers," she said.

"True, but only because my parents were tailors," I said. They were, but I'm not.

"How do you thread a needle?" she asked again.

"Well," I said, playing along with this woman who really should have been helping me pack boxes, "first you wet the end of the thread between your lips, and then you twist it into a sharp point with your thumb and forefinger....

"That's how you baste your lips with water-soluble thread," she said.

I should have known.

Copyright 2001 by A.B. Silver

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