Down Under




"I want to go to Australia," my Darling Wife said to me as she shook me awake at four in the morning. This morning. I was sleeping. She was up. She shook hard.

"All right," I said. I tried to go back to sleep.

"Don't you want to know when?" she said, shaking me some more.

"When?" I asked.

"Right now. It's almost summer down under."

"I'm going down under," I said as I tried to crawl farther under the blanket and the Amish quilt, which topped it.

"I want to see all the quilts in Australia," she said.

"It's that magazine," isn't it?" I guessed. Yesterday, the mail brought "Newsweek" and "Time" and "Australian Patchwork and Quilting." It was the first issue of the subscription she had bought a month before. When we had been in England last May, she had found the quilting magazine in two of the quilt shops. Back home, she had seen copies in some of the quilt shops we visited. She had decided she wanted her own subscription, and yesterday, she had her first very own issue.

Now, normally, I have to ration her consumption of quilting magazines. She just gets too many. She usually will read them all straight through as fast as she can, leaving each magazine full of bookmarks on those pages or articles or quilt photos that she likes. Then, when she's read all the magazines on hand, sometimes long before another issue comes through the mail or appears at our local newsstand, she goes into a funk. A funk is the blues. Deep depression. She needs her quilting magazine fix. So I hide them from her when they come and ration them out to her when her depression begins to show, when her dismay begins to bring a desperate restlessness to her soul.

But Australia?

"Go to the gym," I said to her this morning at four a.m. "We'll talk about it at breakfast. I really wanted to go back to sleep.

"There are a lot of good quilters in Australia," she said in parting.

I tried to go back to sleep but of course the day was already well begun now. Maybe by breakfast she would have forgotten all about Australia, I thought. I hoped.

Nope. At breakfast she showed me the magazine and flipped to photos of quilts. I can't say I wasn't impressed. I was impressed, and I even thought a moment about Australia. But I am a logical person and reasoned fairly well that as she had spent all of our money the past year on her quilting, and as she planned to spend all our money for the next few years on her quilting, we would never be able to afford to go to Australia.

"Australia or hand painted batik?" I asked.


"Australia or seven yards of Stack-n-Whack" fabric?"


"Australia or enough batting to make a dozen quilts this year?"


"We can't afford Australia unless you give up quilting for thirty-three years," I said.

"Look at all the places we could visit," she said, pointing in the magazine to a list of places where classes were being given: Australian Capital Country and New South Wales and Victoria and Queensland and Western Australia and South Australia."

"We'd have to go for a year," I said.

"A year's good," she said.

"What about all the places you want to go to next year in America?" She had plans to visit quilt shops in all fifty states.

"We can go to them, too."

"While you're in Australia?" She was getting into that realm of Quilters Fantasyland. It was the same fantasyland where she hoped to own a bolt of all of fabric each company manufactured as well as a new large house that had a sewing room as big as, as--well, maybe Australia.

"You're telling me I have to make a choice here, right?"

"Quilting is all about choices," I said wisely. "Choice of pattern, choice of size, choice of fabric, choice of batting, hand or machine quilting, and the choice of whether to keep the quilt or give it away when it's finished."

"Do you think we'll ever go to Australia if I choose to stay here next year?"

Now, I had a dilemma. If tonight she picks up a quilting magazine from England, will she wake me up at four in the morning tomorrow and yell, "England!"? And what if she remembers the other countries she's talked of visiting "some day"? Now, I had to be realistic.

"We'll put it on the list," I said.

"You'll put Australia on the list? What list?"

"A list of places to go, one similar to the one you have of projects you plan to do some day. I'll put Australia on that list." Along with England and Scotland and Ireland and the Netherlands and France and Spain and New Zealand and Poland and Korea and all the other countries where she knows there are quilters, I thought.

"So, I can think about it when I look at the magazine again?"

"Yes," I said. Now she was being realistic, sort of.

"Good. Now, since we're not going to Australia today, can I order the batting and needles and bias tape and fabric and another supply of thread that I need?"

I didn't answer right away. I counted up the cost of what she wanted and what she might want the rest of December and all of next year. I weighed the cost of that against the cost of going to Australia. Would she want to spend the same amount as a trip would cost? And what about the "small" trips throughout the state and to New England and to Tennessee for the American Quilter's Society show at Opryland next August?

"I'll help you make up the order," I said quickly, before she changed her mind. For now we could probably survive a small purchase. Anything in the future might put us in debt, below the bottom line, down under when it comes to finances. At least I'd taken her mind off Australia. Maybe forever. And then I thought of her new magazine subscription. It had eleven more months to run. Arghhhh.

Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver

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