She was walking around the house with a small pad of paper. She stopped in the hallway and looked at one of her wall hangings. She said, "Hmmmm," and made a mark on her pad.
"What are you doing now?" I asked. She had been wandering around the house the last two days, somewhat ill at ease after finishing five of six stained glass blocks she was putting together out of Hoffman Batiks. The sixth block was waiting to be put together, but she was missing the two feet of coral batik she still needed for the background. It was a rare day in our house that she didn't have ALL the fabric she needed for a project, our house one big warehouse of fabric, enough fabric, I thought, for all the projects in the world. But Tuesday was that one rare day she had run out, and she had been moping ever since.
"I'm waiting for the mailman to bring my fabric so I can get on with my life," she said. She had been saying that for two days. I only hoped that the mail would bring the fabric. A quilter in need is a sad person indeed.
"I know you're waiting for the mail," I said, "but the delivery isn't for four more hours. What are you doing with the pad and pencil and that odd look on your face? I thought you were going to work on your crazy quilt?" As a dyed-in-the-wool quilter, she was unable to throw out even the smallest scrap of fabric, not even the clipped off points of a triangle, so, as a result, she had a large box of scraps handy to make paper-pieced blocks for a crazy quilt when she had absolutely no other project to work on, usually when she finished one project and before she started another. For the past four months she had not worked on the crazy quilt. She had no spare time for scraps when her project list was longer than Santa's list of deserving children at Christmas.
"I did two blocks," she said, but that's not helping. I need my coral batik." She took a few steps down the hall and stopped in front of another wall hanging. She wrote on her pad.
"What's with the pad?" I asked, getting back to the moment.
"It's my report card," she said.
I had to be careful then. I didn't know what she meant, and I had to be very careful that I didn't say the wrong thing and remind her that it was still three hours and fifty-nine minutes before the mail came. And even then, I dreaded what might happen if her fabric wasn't with the mail. "Report card," I said. It wasn't a question, not a statement.
"Uhmm," she said in reply as she moved farther down the hall to the other side. She looked at her most recently completed wall hanging. She made a mark on the pad.
"Uhmm?" I said, this time in the form of a question, but just slightly.
"Grades," she said.
"Grades? Like A,B,C."
"A,B,C, D, and F," she said. She was looking at the quilt again and shaking her head. She went to her pad, erased whatever it was she had written and made another notation. I moved closer to her to peek a look, but she held the pad away from me.
"Your putting down grades for your quilts?" I asked in a very amazed way.
"There should be grades in school," she said, "so you know how you're doing."
"It's all those politicians on television, isn't it, all of them talking about being the education president next year?" Ten candidates. Ten speeches.
"It made me think about accountability," she said.
"You have to be accountable for ten wannabe education presidents?" I knew she needed that fabric fast. If she had been that miserable to listen to political speeches the past two days, she was in some foul condition.
"They were arguing about social promotion and standards and I agreed that no one should be promoted without doing all the required work." She reached the end of the hall and swung herself into the living room. She looked down at the lap quilt spread over the maple chair.
"And all that had something to do with your quilting?"
"I'm still learning. I was just in elementary school last year, and then I went through into middle school or junior high, and now I'm doing this stained glass appliqué quilt and I keep wondering if it was only a social promotion and instead I should be back in elementary."
"You made high school already," I said, trying to cheer her up. "College maybe. Graduate school for sure."
"See, you're just like some of those principals who say push the students on even if they're not ready for the next grade. I'm not even sure I should be out of quilters elementary school yet." She made a mark on her pad.
"So that's you're report card," I said. I reached out for it, but she was too quick and pulled it way.
"I'm not done yet."
"I'd give you all A's," I said. I would. She was A-1 in my book. Top of the class. Honor student.
"See. That's the problem. You keep giving me A's and then I think I should try more difficult quilts, and then I can't and I get frustrated. I don't want to get in over my head."
"I like your head," I said, though I knew it was full of an odd assortment of fabric and batting and basting pins and thread and patterns and all the reading she had done in dozens of quilt books and magazines.
"Is the mail here yet?" she asked suddenly as we both heard a truck rumble by on the street outside.
"Too early," I said.
"Well, I have to finish this anyway," she said, and she crossed the living room to another lap quilt folded on the back of the sofa.
"That was your first quilt," I said.
"It should get a high grade."
"It is a good quilt," she said.
"All your quilts are good," I said.
"Not my F quilts."
"What F quilts?"
"The ones I have packed away in the garage. They didn't turn out right."
"But you have lots of good grades," I said, and as soon as you finish the stained glass quilt you'll get an A-plus."
"I can't finish it without my fabric," she said.
"So give it an Incomplete."
"Is that a grade?"
"It means you have a passing grade and when it's done you'll get your final grade. That way it doesn't lower your grade point average."
"That sounds good," she said, and she went to her pad and erased something and wrote something else down on the pad.
"What did you change?" I asked.
"I changed the stained glass from an F to an Incomplete."
"Can I see the other grades now?"
"No, but with Incompletes instead of F's for all my UFOs* and WIPs**, I think my quilt grade point average is high enough to get into quilters high school."
"And then quilt college," I said. Absolutely.
* Unfinished Objects
** Works in Progress
Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver
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