A year ago, just after we had moved into our new house, a blue heron flew up from the nearby lagoon and ate one of the fish in our koi pond. Since then we have had a love/hate relationship with that bird and others of his flock. We love to see the bird sitting in the lagoon or flying overhead, but if it gets within a hundred yards of our back yard we yell and scream at him. We love blue herons, but not in our back yard.
I don't know when she started the new quilt, a wall hanging, or when she finished it, but she delivered it yesterday, wrapped in tissue paper, at 4:31 a.m. on the morning of our 42nd anniversary.
"Here," she said as she lovingly poked the package into my face, a very sleepy face which I had been trying to keep hidden under a pillow since she had turned on the overhead light and shook the bed and punched at my shoulder to get me awake.
"Here," I said back as I reached down to the floor and grabbed the package I had placed under the side of the bed the night before and handed it to her. My gift to her was another book on quilting and some back issues of quilting magazines I knew she had wanted forever. There are no books or magazines on quilting she hasn't wanted forever.
"Open yours first," she said, putting her own gift on the head board and pointing for me to open my gift.
"Now?" I said.
'"When else?" she said, not asking me a question but really saying, "Open it now or I'll dump your body into the trash truck as it comes by today." I knew she wouldn't put me in the trash, but she might have considered the recycling bin.
I opened the package. A paper-pieced giant blue heron looked at me. I sat up, startled, then remembered our fish. They were safe. I had the big blue bird in bed with me.
"Happy anniversary," she said ( my wife, not the heron).
I don't know when she started the quilt, but it must have been about the time she started rubbing her eyes more than might have been expected which was the same time that the allergy season began for us.
"Allergies?" I remember asking then.
"I'm not sneezing," she had said.
"Not enough sleep?" I asked.
"Nope," she said.
"Too much sleep?"
"I give up," I said.
"Paper piecing," she said.
"You pieced paper into your eyes?" I guessed.
"Very wrong," she said.
"Lint?" It was a reasonable guess. Occasionally there are lint storms in her sewing room and she comes out sneezing and wheezing and coughing up colors.
"Not close," she said.
"Eye strain?" I asked, for this was not the first time she had rubbed at her eyes. It had happened several times before when she had been trying to sew together pieces, each smaller than a flea's little toe.
"How did you know?" she asked.
"My wife's a quilter," I answered.
"How many little pieces, smarty?" she asked.
"Rub your eyes again," I said, looking for a clue before I guessed wrong again.
She rubbed at her eyes and squinted.
"Two little pieces," I guessed. I knew there must have been a few more, but I wanted her tell me.
"A quadrillion," she said.
'"That's a lot," I said. It sounded like a very lot.
"Ask me how tiny the pieces are," she pushed.
"How tiny?" I was always eager to ask what she asked me to ask.
"How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?"
"Is that an answer? I have never seen angels dancing on any pin, let alone one of your quilting pins," I said. I never had. I always assumed angels wanted a nice heavenly ballroom for dancing.
"Plenty of perfectly petite pieces," she alliterated.
"Oh, that many."
"The quilt pattern has four parts," she said.
"From one of your magazines?"
"An old one. Actually four old magazines. I waited until I had all four issues and then I waited a couple of years because I didn't know how to paper piece, and then I waited two more years because the design said moderate but looked impossible, but then I decided to do it, but it really hurts my eyes."
"So, you're rubbing your eyes because the design has lots of pieces?" I asked. I thought I understood, but with my designing wife, I never could tell exactly. Sometimes, I couldn't tell at all.
"I need the magnifying glass," she said then.
"Are you changing the subject on me?" I asked. Sometimes, when we talked about her quilting, I never knew for long what the subject was. That is why I always expect every conversation we have to be about quilting. And I'm rarely wrong. The other day she opened a new tub of reduced-fat butter and showed me the design left by the machine at the dairy that filled the tub with butter and pointed out to me that she wished she had a long-arm quilting machine so she could quilt a design on her quilt just like the spiral swirl design left on the top of the butter.
"The biggest one you have," she said.
"You need to magnify something?" I asked to make very sure.
"I can't see the symbols for the colors of the pieces for the quilt. The color guide has 23 colors for the quilt and each color is represented by a symbol because there's no room on some of the pieces in the pattern to write dark green and medium yellow and sky blue, so the designer used tiny little symbols for each color and when I copied the pattern from the magazine to the paper-piecing paper, the symbols all looked alike and the colors become mad rainbow and pale something and light or maybe dark or maybe antique black. So I need to magnify the symbols so I can get all the colors right."
"All right," I said.
"All right what?"
"I'll get you the magnifying glass so you can see the symbols better and get going on your quilting."
"I've already started. That's why my eyes hurt."
"But they should stop hurting when you stop squinting?"
"How's it going?" I asked several days later when I saw her putting drops in her eyes."
"I have lumps," she said.
"What? Where do you have lumps?" I began looking at her eyes closely. "I don't see any lumps in your eyes."
"The lumps are in the paper-piecing," she said. She patted at her eyes with a wash cloth to stop the tears and drops from running down her cheek.
"But not in your eyes?" I said, relieved that my quilting wife didn't have lumpy eyes.
"Six or seven pieces in one small section of one larger section of the design," she said, beginning another mini-lecture on the perils of quilting, a lecture designed to make me know much more than any normal (non-quilting person) should have to know. "Some of the pieces of fabric are smaller than the seam allowances. When I sew them together, one on top of the other, I get mountains of paper and fabric."
"The lumps are mountains? Does this have something to do with the magnifying glass?"
"My eyes are ready to fall out, and I still have lots to do," she said." She poured more eye drops into each eye.
"You should stop making the quilt," I suggested. I grabbed another wash cloth and began mopping up her tears.
"I can never stop. And, besides, this is a special quilt."
"Not if it makes you go blind," I said.
"It's just all the little pieces that have to be sewn together."
"If sewing all those microscopic pieces together is going to make you go blind, you should stop quilting," I said, my voice raised in command--as if she would pay any attention to that.
"Well," she said and she looked at me, her mind no doubt already made up, "what if I just keep on quilting until I need glasses?"
Copyright 2002 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Big Blue Bird Quilt"
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