There was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile,
He found a crooked sixpence against a crooked stile:
He caught a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse,
And they all lived together in a crooked house.
Did Mother Goose quilt?
We were walking down the street toward our neighborhood park. I turned right at the corner of the block but she kept going straight. I ran after her and brought her back and turned her in the right direction. It was bright sunny day, cold but pleasant.
I turned left at the next corner and asked her what she thought about the gifts we had just finished wrapping for our grandchildren. I waited for an answer before I realized she had not turned the corner with me. She had continued straight across the street and was soon thirty yards away. I ran after her and steered her back in the right direction.
"Are you all right?" I asked.
"I'm fine," she said. But as I looked at her, her eyes seemed focused on some imaginary point straight in front of us.
""Sure?" I asked.
"Yes," she said softly.
We went on, approaching the edge of the park, golden trees still dropping their leaves and carpeting the grass underneath. We kicked at leaves and started across the park. I turned to walk around several picnic tables and lost her again. She was stopped a foot in front of the tables.
I ran through the leaves and took her hand. "Are you sure everything's all right?" I asked. I started to pull her around the tables toward the open park. She stood in place.
"I can't go around," she said.
"What?" I asked. Something was definitely wrong.
"I have to go straight," she said.
"The tables are in the way," I said as she inched toward them. I pulled her away.
"I can't do curves," she said.
"I can't do circles either."
"What?" I tugged and brought her around the table.
"Straight cuts," she said.
"What?" Maybe it was too cold out there for my brain to understand her.
"I've been doing only straight cuts. Straight stitching."
"This have to do with quilting?"
"Quilts, fabric, rotary cutters," she said. "All I've been doing is straight cuts, straight stitching. Back and forth, forth and back, up and down, left to right, right to left, corner to corner, top to bottom, bottom to top. Straight as an arrow."
"Straight as an arrow?" I walked her gently past the trees. Golden leaves fluttered down on us.
"Straight rulers, square rulers. Along the selvage. Along the grain. Strips and triangles. Fee, fi, fo, fum."
"Quilting and the beanstalk giant?" I guessed.
"What are you talking about," she asked, suddenly turning to me. She blinked and shook her body. "And where are we going?"
"We're going to the other side of the park," I said. Maybe she was coming out of whatever state of confusion she was in. "Tell me why you can only walk in a straight line." I began to understand the problem. Now was the time for therapy. If I could help her understand what was happening, I would have her back to normal. I kept her walking.
"Why are you dragging me around in circles," she asked.
"To help you," I said.
"Help me? What are you talking about?" Her breath blew tiny clouds of steam straight at me.
"You were having a little trouble going around the block," I said. "You were having a little trouble going around tables and trees."
"I don't remember that," she said. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, I'm sure. Do you know why?"
She kicked at some leaves and broke free from me and ran through a pile of leaves. "I was in a straight jacket?" she guessed.
"That's close," I said.
"I was in a rut, wasn't I?" she said.
"You were stuck in a furrow, in the groove, in the track," I said helpfully.
"I have to do another quilt," she said suddenly. She picked up a pile of leaves and threw them at me.
"What?" Now it was my turn again.
"All my quilting lately, all my cutting, all my sewing has been in straight lines, but that's over. Now I have to go crooked, curved, irregular, zig-zag." With those words she ran around a tree, cut back and forth across the field, zigging left, zagging right. "I'm going to make a crooked quilt," she shouted to the treetops. Leaves cascaded down on her.
"That might do it," I guessed though I didn't know anything for sure anymore. "A crooked quilt couldn't hurt." I hoped.
So she made one, a folk jazz quilt with crooked cuts and crooked stitches and a crooked stile. (Well, maybe not a crooked stile.)
Click here to see Crooked Jazz Quilt
Copyright 1998 by A.B. Silver
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