"Jacob needs some bears," my Darling Wife said as she began putting away her rotary cutter and cutting mat.
"What?" I asked as soon as I saw what she was doing. Putting away her quilting tools was a big step for her. It was a rare step. Though she would have to close down her sewing room in two weeks in preparation for our May trip to England, she was not one to close down shop early. If there was something she would do up to the last minute, it was quilt. Something was up. Something was always up with her.
"The other grandchildren have their bears," she said as she sorted several piles of fabric and began the process of storing them in their proper drawers.
"Jacob is only seven months along," I said. "He won't even be born for two months."
"He needs his bears," she said.
"I won't have time later. We'll be in England and then he'll be born and he won't have bears."
It was in England where the bears started. Long before she had slid down that slippery slope to embroidery to doll making to quilting, she had been quite content to sew clothes for our baby grandchildren, then for our toddler grandchildren, then for our pre-school grandchildren. But when she was searching in London's department stores for children's fabric, she came across Rose and Hubble fabric printed with patterns for making three bears. Three completed bears were on display, and they were "so cute" she had to have the fabric. Eventually she used the pattern to make two sets of bears for two families. Then quilting reared its laughing head and grabbed Darling Wife and wouldn't let go. The clothes, dolls, and bears were put aside, and life has never been the same. At that time, our oldest son wasn't married yet, so there was not yet a third family. Two years ago there was a wedding, (he attended along with his bride to be), and they worked at making a baby. An ultrasound of the child disclosed his sex (very small boy) and the fact that he didn't have any bears.
She continued putting away the books and the patterns and the quilting thread and the walls of the room shuddered and the ironing board shook, and the design wall wailed out, but it was all no use. Quilting was taking a vacation until June. "It will be nice to take a little vacation from quilting," she said.
"You think you can do that?" I asked. I remember all the other trips, the "little vacations." Life was stressful enough without her taking a vacation from quilting. Of course, if the little vacation included visits to quilt shops and quilt shows and buying lots and lots of fabric, she somehow survived.
"I have to do the bears," she said. Find me the crafts supplies and the bear pattern and the doll fabrics," she asked. Her sewing room began a new existence in another dimension. With her stash now neatly stored away, her books arranged back on the shelves, all her notions and supplies in their places, the room seemed ghostly, empty.
"The room seems empty," I said. "Will the bears be enough to get you by?" I asked. Would she have separation anxiety again? Would she agonize over leaving the unfinished quilts, the quilts not yet begun?
"Get me the bear stuff," she said.
The bear stuff was somewhere in the garage, exiled there when quilting took over, stored in some long-forgotten corner, under something somewhere. I went to look for it.
"Hurry it up," she said. She was already beginning to tremble as she began to realize everything having to do with quilting was put away. She would not be quilting again for over a month!
I hurried. I attacked the garage, opening cupboards, lifting boxes, pushing aside tables, opening bins, moving tools, and then I found the crafts box. The bear patterns were another matter.
"Here," I said, carrying the craft supplies to her along with the large bag of fiberfill, the foot long needles to sew on the bears' arms and legs, the chopsticks she used to push the stiffing into the bears. "But I can't find the bear patterns," I said. When she saw what I was carrying, what I deposited in a pile at her feet, she began to breathe more easily.
"They're in one of the pattern boxes," she said.
"You'd better help," I said. I know her pattern boxes. She has dozens of them tucked away in a closet, arranged by the grandkids' sizes as they grew. Somewhere among them all, among the patterns for her own clothes, the patterns for anything she had ever sewn, somewhere was the bear pattern.
"All right," she said, now a little edgy again. I hurried her to the storehouse of patterns and got out of the way as she looked for the bear pattern. She found it in seventeen seconds. I realized I could have used her in the garage.
But then, just when she was back in her sewing room, her craft supplies all organized, her pattern in hand, her body smiling in anticipation, a catastrophe. "I don't have the right fabric," she said.
"You have enough fabric to make ten thousand bears," I said. She had enough to make ten thousand quilts as well.
"Not the right kind," she said.
"Make a different kind," I said. There was too much time before our trip. If she didn't make bears to occupy her time during quilt withdrawal, who knows what might become of her.
"It has to be the right kind," she said.
"We'll get the right kind," I said. "What kind do you want?"
"It has to be gingham and it has to be cotton and soft."
"How about Wal-Mart?" I asked. That was close and we could get there quickly and be back before she began to fall apart.
"They only have polyester blends," she said. "Jacob wants one hundred percent cotton."
"We'll go to all the places that sell fabric," I said. "Let's go." I was already hurrying her out of the room, our of the house, into the car.
But it was not to be. Oh, we did find four pieces of cotton fabric in gingham at Strawberry Patches across town, but she needed six different colors. She would have to order over the Internet and wait. We found the necessary fabric at PineTree Quiltworks and had it shipped Priority Mail. After all, if this weren't a case for priority, what was?
And so we ordered and waited. And while she waited, she reorganized her sewing room eight times, planned eighty-two projects for when we came home from England, read twenty-three quilting magazines, and reread all her quilt books. Three days later, salvation came in the small package left on our doorstep.
The bears are finished now, happy, waiting for their owner to be born. And Darling Wife? She wanders around the house, packing for the trip, talking about quilts and quilt shows and hoping the bears won't be lonely while she's gone.
"They'll have each other," I tell her.
"And soon they'll have Jacob," she is content to say.
Copyright 2000 by A.B. Silver
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