Don't Say Don't




"Don't, don't, don't," she said as she sat at the kitchen table reading a quilt book. It was a new quilt book. It had just arrived. She had opened it just five minutes before. She sipped her green tea and said, "Too many don'ts."

"Something you want to tell me about?" I asked. I always ask her questions like that. At that moment she could've been talking to me, the book, or her cup of tea. If she were talking to me, I would want to know that so I could come up with an appropriate response. In the three years of her non-paying and cost-ineffective career in quilting, I had to build a collection of responses that were particular to her hobby. Oh, she didn't call it a hobby, of course. She called it either her craziness or her compulsion or her need to have a reason to buy lots of fabric, which she probably would have whether she quilted or not. Fabric was a comfort, a tranquilizer.

Recently, for example, she drove her car to our new home as part of our move. To get to our new home, she had to drive through snow covered mountains, avoid being hit by about a million eighteen-wheel trucks which hogged the lanes, traverse downtown Los Angeles, swing past Disneyland traffic during spring vacation when all cars seemed to be changing lanes in front of her to get to the Disneyland exits, and finally make it down the coast along a highway that seemed to contain every car ever made in the last thirty years.

Of course, I had a large red flag hoisted on the back of the car I was driving so she could follow without getting too lost for too many days or weeks on some off-ramp leading to Texas or Ohio or Canada. And, for four hours, she watched that flag, avoided being crushed under the trucks, and managed to arrive right behind me. And in one piece.

But not at peace. When I managed to unclasp her hands from the steering wheel and massage her body enough so that her blood flowed again and she could be taken out of the car alive and undamaged, she asked, "Are we there yet?"

"You're at your new home," I said.

"I need a new life," she said.

"I'll make you some tea and you can relax," I said.

"Tea?" she laughed.

"A nice glass of wine?"

"Wine?" she laughed.

"I'll take you to your new sewing room," I said.

"Now, you're talking," she said.


Discovering that her fabric had arrived in the new home safe and sound and that it was all there happily waiting for her arrival, she gave me a look that told me it was time for me to leave her alone for awhile until her "recovery" period was over. I left her and the fabric alone. It wasn't necessary for me to peek in to see how they were getting along, either. I would soon hear the cooing and gushing that usually went on between them.


"Do you remember what we learned as children about getting along?" she asked me, breaking me from my thoughts.

"Weren't you just saying 'Don't, don't, don't'?" I asked. I joined her with my own cup of tea.

"It was either the Golden Rule or the Silver Rule," she went on in her quest for some answer to her own question.

"Do unto others as you would have them do unto you?" I asked. That was one of the two rules. I couldn't remember which was which, but I always obeyed them.

"That should be the Golden Quilter's Rule" as well," she said. She had a quilt book opened in front her on the table.

"Which one and why?" I asked. It was only a matter of time and she would explain all.

The other rule is to don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you."

'They'll always want revenge," I guessed.

"This book isn't positive. Quilters have to be positive. I don't like being told what not to do."

"You don't like being told what to do, either," I said.

"I'm talking about learning how to quilt something new."

"You're talking about this new book that you bought in order to learn something new, aren't you?" I guessed. I pointed at her book. Sometimes a quilter's significant other has to fill in the deep gaps and decipher the message.

"It tells me a lot about how to make mistakes. I don't want to learn how to make mistakes. I was making mistakes before this book was published--and making them very well on my own, too, thank you." Was my Darling Wife getting her dander up? I hoped not. I am allergic to dander.

"You're reading a new book that tells you how to make mistakes and you don't like that?" I repeated back her words as a question. It was a technique I had learned a long time before in some psychology course on how to improve communication with a mate. They didn't have a psychology course on how to communicate with a quilter who knew a Golden Rule and a Silver Rule. (Of course, there are a lot of Silver Rules in our family.)

"Don't iron this way, don't iron that way. Don't cut the seam this way. Don't have even a hair's width more than a quarter inch seam. Don't stretch the fabric. Don't line up your points backwards. Don't stand to the right of the fabric if you have a mole on your left cheek. Don't stand upside down in the dark when rotary cutting with your left foot."

"That book doesn't say anything about standing upside down," I said. I could understand the mole thing, even about using a rotary cutter with the left foot rather than the right, but I think she was stretching it a bit about the upside down part.

"This book promises dire consequences unless I don't do something. I'd rather have the reward of a finished quilt I can be proud of rather than a quilt I made in such and such a way just to prevent my quilt from being looked at, laughed at, and stomped on."

"Are you getting religious about quilting now?" I asked. I really wanted to ask about dire consequences. I could image what they would be. The fabric unraveling. Wavy borders, Points that didn't match. Uncoordinated colors. Design flaws. Haired batting.

"Quilt onto others as you would have them do unto you," she said. "That's the Golden Rule. That's positive. Quilting needs to be positive."

"Quilt unto others....?" I began to question, but I caught myself.

"No more don'ts," she said.

"How about a compromise?" I asked. "How about doing the right thing so you don't do the wrong thing. You could use that in place of don't do the wrong thing so you don't wind up with a quilt that would take first place in some ugly quilt contest." That sounded fine to me. We could call it the "Mauve Rule or the "Periwinkle Rule."

"You just don't understand about this book, do you?"

"How is your tea?" I asked.

"I finished my tea five minutes ago. Don't try to change the subject."

"You just said, 'Don't.' You could have been positive instead and said, 'Let's stay on the subject, Dear."

"Don't push it, Dear," she said.

"You don't have to tell me again," I said. "Are you going to return that book?"

"Quilters don't return books."

"They don't?"

"You know how my sewing table is a little wobbly here in our new house....?"

Copyright 2001 by A.B. Silver

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