When the telephone call came, there was no suspicion that the conversation my Darling Wife was about to enter into would change the course of the next days. Darling Wife tries to live a planned life, though she allows for the unexpected. The telephone call was unexpected, and so was the sudden change in mood that came over her.
"What?" I asked when Darling Wife hung up the telephone. My question was one of great concern, for moments before the call she was in the middle of her month's work on her Australian quilt, that project now in its fourth part of eight parts in just as many months. Normally, typical, always, whenever she is taken away from her quilting, she hurries back to it as soon as she can. Faster than that sometimes. So when she stayed by the telephone a moment, when she replaced the receiver back in its cradle slowly, when she frowned and cast her eyes downward, I suspected something was amiss. "What?" I said again.
"Shira grew too much."
"She needs to grow," I said. Shira is one of our grandchildren. "She's only a child. She can stop growing when she's forty," I added.
"She's sad because she's taller than she used to be and she's outgrowing her favorite clothes."
"Well, she can get new clothes," I said like the kindly old grandfather I am.
"She doesn't need new clothes. She wants her old clothes to fit."
"Old clothes are bad for her health, her disposition and her future chances of marrying a man who will love her regardless of how her clothes fit," I said even more kindly. "Are you sure she's sad?
"She is very sad because she outgrew her favorite bunny dress that I made for her before I gave up sewing clothes and became a quilter. It was her favorite dress, and she said the waistband of the dress now comes up to her nipples."
"She sounds like a brazen and wanton little hussy, her talking like that," I said.
"What should I do?" my Darling Wife asked, again paying no attention to my attempt to comfort her with many words of wisdom gathered over six decades of living in a demanding world, the last three years spent trying to understand the more demanding quilting world.
"Tell her that life isn't fair, that it's time she put childish things behind her."
"She just turned eight," Sweet and Sorrowful Wife said. "I have to do something."
"Sew her a new dress," I offered.
"Even if I did sew clothes again, which I am not going to do, it wouldn't be the same. She liked the bunnies on the fabric I used. I have to do something to cheer her up."
"So, is this an emergency or what?" I asked. I think I heard ambulance sirens ringing in my ears. At least there was ringing, though it could have been that my sinuses were acting up again.
"Of course it's an emergency," she said. "Why wouldn't it be?"
"I was just wondering," I said. I was just wondering.
"Maybe I can find some of the old fabric and make her something with it," she mused to herself out loud. I knew she wasn't talking to me when she spoke like that. She has a way of knowing the answer to her question before she asks it and doesn't want me interfering by giving her some other answer even if it's the same.
"Sounds good," I said. I always say that when she is thinking out loud. If I dare say anything negative, she looks at me and my head opens up and a giant headache jumps in.
"A quilt," she said then. It was not a question, not an answer to any question I might have. It was a matter-of-fact hug from her heart to our granddaughter who was probably crying herself to sleep 150 miles away because everyone in her city of Anaheim was laughing at her for being too tall to wear her old dress.
"You already made her a quilt," I said.
"I made her two quilts. One for her bed and one cuddle quilt," she said.
"So I'll make a quilt for her dolls."
"A doll quilt? I ask happily, for I knew that for my spouse of forty years to work on a quilt would be the best medicine for her to fight off the pain she felt at our granddaughter's small-dress sorrow, even better than laughter, as quilters tend to say.
"If I can find the old fabric, I can use it in the quilt."
"You have the old fabric?" I asked. Silly, silly, silly. She had remnants of remnants. And then some.
"I'll go look," she said.
She looked and I didn't. I wouldn't know where to look. She had a secret code for looking locked somewhere in her head which would make no sense to anyone else in the world, certainly not to this husband who couldn't find red fabric in a drawer marked, "Red Fabric Inside."
"I found some," she yelled from the back of the house. I didn't hear her yell, but I knew she found some because I did hear the house rumble and give out a sigh of relief for our granddaughter's well-being as the sewing machine was turned on. And, of course, all the lights in the house dimmed because we were in the midst of a Stage 3 crisis in California, which meant we were supposed to cut down on our electrical usage by seven percent to prevent a brownout which would shut off all the electricity in our county for two hours or more, and if that happened Darling Doll Quilt Maker would not be able to sew.
I ran to turn off all the lights in the house. I turned off the television and the computer and had a cold drink instead of hot tea all so the quilter would have all the electricity she needed to quilt a tiny quilt for some doll. Which, of course, she did.
She found just enough fabric to fussy cut the rabbits and appliqué them onto the new small quilt. Then, to make the quilt especially nice, she used scraps of fabric from other dresses and quilts she had made for Shira in the past, the whereabouts of that fabric also known only to God and my Darling Wife. And then the quilt was finished.
"What do you think?" she asked.
"Great," I said.
"Send it," she said.
"Now?" I asked. I wanted lunch. I didn't want to go out in the cold and walk to the post office and freeze in place halfway there.
"It's an emergency." she said.
"In that case...."
Copyright 2001 by A.B. Silver
Shira and her old clothes doll quilt
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