"It's time," she said.
"What's time?" I asked.
"Time to paint the ceiling," she said.
"No," I said.
She had been after me to paint the ceiling of the hallway for fifteen years, since the moment our youngest left home. It was the hallway ceiling, just a small area outside her sewing room where many years before the children, in a moment of exuberance and several moments of jumping up and down, had left their handprints. The handprints were well-faded, and as I never looked up at that end of the hallway, I never noticed them. But she did. Oh, yes, Darling Wife noticed them, and at least once a week, she reminded me that the ceiling needed painting.
"The ceiling needs to be painted," she reminded me each week.
Every time she mentioned the ceiling, I had said, "Mmmmm." or "Soon," or "Nice Day, isn't it." And I had gotten away with it because I always reminded her that for the cost of the paint and the labor to do the painting (I tell her that my arms are too short to reach the ceiling, so a painter would be necessary) she could buy more fabric or more batting or more of anything that had to do with her quilting. So, knowing how to choose between buying white latex and buying white cotton, she kept her head bowed when she passed under the handprints and avoided the horrible sight for yet another week.
"Sewing cabinet," I said a moment before she could tell me again it was time to paint. We had just bought a new sewing cabinet to replace the battered old folding table she had been quilting on for the past year. The new cabinet was big and beautiful and cost us our next vacation trip. "Money doesn't grow on trees," I said.
She heard me say the words, and she turned her head away from the ceiling and looked down in understanding. She didn't even say, "But, but....." The purchase of the sewing cabinet, I hoped, would keep her from mentioning the ceiling for about three hundred years.
And I was right. Not another word. But did that end it? Hah!
The next day I went toward her sewing room, and without any intent to do so, with every intention not to do so, I accidentally, not on purpose, foolishly, casually looked up at the ceiling. The handprints were gone.
"What do you think," she said as she saw me in the hall looking up at the ceiling.
"Nice quilt," I said, recovering from the sight of her latest wall hanging now a ceiling hanging, the quilt tacked up overhead to cover the age-old handprints.
"I'm thinking of doing all the ceilings," she said.
"What?" I was still staring at the paper-pieced display of flowers and butterflies tacked to the plaster above my head. All the walls in her house were already covered in quilts and wall hangings, and I have gotten used to that, grateful now and then when I tripped or stumbled and crashed against a wall that it was padded, but this was beyond my mind's ability to reason out.
"Well, you won't paint, and since you always tell me that we don't have any more space to hang even a postage stamp-sized quilt, this would solve both problems. It looks nice up there," doesn't it," she said as her head joined mine in looking up.
"Hmm, well, yes, it does" I said. The fact that I knew of no other home where quilts hung on the ceiling did not stop me from appreciating her creativity.
"And we can use the paint money for more fabric," she said quickly, somehow forgetting that the folks at MasterCard were all probably in some meeting just then discussing in wonder how one person could spend so much money on a sewing cabinet.
"Well, yes, I guess we could," I said, like, maybe, someday.
"So then you like it?" she asked.
"It's a nice quilt," I said reassuringly.
"I mean do you like it on the ceiling?"
My neck was already stiff from having looked up at the quilt the past five minutes, but I kept looking as I thought of an answer. "Of course I like it," I said.
"Good, because I'm making a quilt to cover the crack in the ceiling in the kitchen," she said.
"The kitchen?" So far, I had always been able to convince her that hanging a quilt in the kitchen would be a bad idea as the quilt would attract the odors and grime of cooking and would be ruined in no time.
"You just said that ceiling quilts were practical and attractive and would save you from plastering and painting," she said.
"I said that?" I didn't remember saying anything like that. I'm sure quilters hear what they want to hear.
"That's what you meant, whatever you said," she said. That kind of reasoning is, I am sure, in some mystical book of quilting rules.
"How about if I get someone to plaster up the crack and paint over the spot," I said to save myself.
"How about painting the whole kitchen," she said with the tone of someone whose quilt had just won "Best of Show."
"How about ten yards of Millennium fabric?" I asked.
"Sounds good to me. I never look up in that corner of the kitchen anyway," she said.
"And this quilt?" I asked, cricking my neck one more time as I pointed to the ceiling.
"I'll take that down when you paint over the handprints," she said.
"Looks really good up there," I said as I brought my head back down to normal. I went into the bedroom to lie down long enough for my neck to straighten out. I looked up at the bare bedroom ceiling. Oh, oh, was that a handprint I saw up there?
Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver
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