It was the third e-mail she had received that day. As she was still quilting and wouldn't be down for an hour or so, I was sorting the mail and getting rid of the unwanted spam. Each day there seemed to be more unwanted mail. But she wanted to save all the quilting mail, the quilting newsletters and the personal mail. I opened the first e-mail and read the following:
"I want to learn how to quilt. Could you send me lessons."
Just what my busy quilter needed, I thought. But it wasn't the first time she had received mail like that. It was one of the frequently asked questions of quilting that had accumulated over the past four years. Though I told her to disregard that kind of mail, she felt she had to give an answer.
"I have to take every question seriously," she had told me once. "Some people really are beginners and just want some help. Many quilters get letters about quilting."
"They expect you to tell them how to quilt in a return letter?"
"I just give them some web site addresses and the names of magazines so they can get started."
"You're too nice," I said.
"I was a beginner once," she said. "I answer all the questions I can."
"What about all those other letters you get with all the impossible questions or other requests?"
"Well, I don't answer them all. Some I can't answer. Some no quilter can answer."
"Do you tell the writer that the question is impossible to answer, that the request is impossible, too?"
"Sometimes. Not always."
"What kind of question don't you answer?"
"Whether quilters should have a dog or a cat for a pet."
"Somebody asked you that?"
"You wouldn't believe some of the letters quilters get."
"Why don't you make a form letter with a nice message. Something you can sign with regrets." I could think of a dozen such letters. But I wasn't as nice or as patient as she was. "How about a simple no?"
"Sometimes saying no would be easy. But it's not always that easy."
"Do you have a favorite?"
"A favorite what?"
"A favorite letter that is impossible to answer with a yes."
"I have lots of favorites. Some I've been asked several times. Some I haven't been asked and hope I am never asked."
"Give me some examples," I suggested. "You can make a FAQ list."
"Frequently asked questions."
"I know that. I was just thinking if I could really make a list."
"Try," I said.
"How about some frequently asked questions about quilting I hope I NEVER get asked."
"That's be good," I said.
"You want me to write down your list?"
"All right," she said. I sat and she began. I took notes. Here is her list:
Tell me everything I need to know about quilting.
Send me some fabric, please.
Can I have any of your extra quilts?
May I have all your extra quilts?
Tell me how much my quilt (photo attached) is worth.
Would you speak to our quilting group at the North Pole this Saturday? We'll provide lunch.
The last quilt you made had too much blue in it. Please change it.
How many triangles should I put in my next quilt?
My local quilt shop is having a sale for senior citizens. Is $1.00 off a new sewing machine a good bargain?
Should I wash my quilt in hot water or cold water or warm water or no water? Should I use soap? Liquid or powder? How much soap should I use?
Should I use black thread instead of orange thread in my "Sunset at Midnight" quilt?
Can I use the comics section of our newspaper for paper piecing? Which comic strip would be better?
Why is a bed quilt longer than it is wide? Would it make any difference to make it wider than long?
I accidentally bleached out all the color in my quilt. Is there a way to put the colors back in?
My brother-in-law burned a hole through my favorite quilt. Shouldn't my sister divorce him?
How long does it take to make an Amish quilt?
Are red and black good colors for a quilt? What is the best color for a quilt?
Do babies like the quilts people give them? How does anyone know that if the baby can't talk?
Does a large spool of thread work better in large quilts and a small spool better in small quilts?
I'm 30 years old, and I have never made a quilt. Is there an age limit on quilting?
Does a lap quilt have to cover your whole lap? Can two people use one at the same time?
I saw a flying goose quilt, but there were no geese on the quilt at all. Is this a joke?
What gives with a fat quarter? Is there a fat half dollar?
Do you want to be a better quilter? Send just forty-nine dollars and I'll send you all my secrets quilting success. You'll be an expert quilter by the end of this week. Your money back if you don't receive your lessons within twelve weeks or more.
Tell me everything you know about quilting.
"That's quite a list," I said. I had a cramp in my hand from writing too quickly.
"That's not all."
"That's enough for me. Save some for tomorrow."
"Just one more," she said. "A real one I received last month."
"Do you ever answer questions you get in the mail?" she recited from memory.
"What did you answer?" I asked.
"I said sometimes. It depends on the question."
"Good answer," I said.
"I have to go quilt now," she said.
"I'll go check the new mail," I said. Then I thought about her list. "Maybe not," I said. "I need a nap. Should I have a nap? How long should it be? Where should I take my nap? What is the best way to nap? Should I make an FAQ list about napping."
Copyright 2003 by A.B. Silver
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