She called me into her sewing room as soon as I had finished lunch.
"I need a wall," she said as soon as I stepped into her town of Quilt City.
"What?" I asked.
"I need another wall," she said.
"That's what I thought you said," I said.
"Then why did you ask me what I said?"
"I just wanted to make sure." Lately I have had to make sure about a lot of what she says to me. Our conversations have changed as she gets more and more into quilting, well beyond where either of us ever expected she would be. And I really thought I had been keeping up with her, but whenever I had thought that, I was usually wrong. That's why I asked her everything twice now. It was matter of survival.
"So, what are you going to do about it?" she asked without hesitation.
"About a wall?" I answered without hesitation.
"It's what I've been talking about," she said.
"I just wanted to be sure," I said.
"Now you can be sure."
"Why do you need another wall?" I asked. "Your sewing room already has four walls." I looked around the room. "One, two, three, four," I said. "If you count the closet you have seven walls."
"That's not enough," she said.
"That's enough to hold up the ceiling," I said. I knew no matter what I said, she would give me an explanation that was based entirely on her own brand of logic, quilting logic.
"It won't hold up my squares," she said.
"This has something to do with sewing and quilting, doesn't it?" I asked. It had to be a rhetorical question on my part. Of course it did. But she answered me anyway.
"I need it for my flannel sheet," she explained.
"You need a wall for a flannel sheet?"
"To hang the squares so I can get a good look at them." I knew she had just given me two answers, one ahead of my next question, which would have been to ask her why she had to hang squares, so I had to ask her something else.
"What about the flannel board I made you when you made your first quilt?"
"That was a lap quilt. I'm going to be making more large quilts. One of them might even be king-sized some day."
"So, you want another wall?"
"I need another wall," she said. "Have you looked around this house lately?"
"Of course, I've looked around this house lately." Of course. I knew where all the other walls had gone. They had disappeared. Vanished. Gone forever. Ever since she had read and started working her way through "Little Quilts All Through the House," we had little quilts around the house. We had medium size quilts around the house. We had wall hangings around the house. And I, of course, had to remove the pictures, the prints, the posters, the shadow boxes, all so she could cover the walls. Now they were all used up and she wanted another one.
"Then you know I need to get some perspective on my squares. I have to be able to stand back and look at them, match colors, arrange and rearrange. I can't settle for the floor or the bed any more. I do need a wall."
She didn't raise her voice. She didn't yell and demand and scream. But her soft words were just as effective as if she had used a bull horn.
"Take down the family pictures," she said. She pointed to the only wall in the sewing room that didn't have shelves covered with all her stash and notions and thread.
"But, you love the photos there--" I began, but she gave me no time for objection.
"And move them into the cutting room. Then put up a queen-sized flannel sheet."
"You want the whole wall covered in flannel?" Of course she did.
"The whole wall," she said.
"And what about the photos?"
"Put them on the small wall over the cutting table."
"But you have the wall hanging you made last week hanging there."
"I took that down."
"But if you don't have any walls left, where will it go?" I protested for her sake. Did she know what she was doing?
She didn't answer but went instead to her sewing machine and picked up the wall hanging that had just recently hung in the cutting room. "I don't need another wall for this," she said.
"Are you going to just hold it up like that forever then?" I asked smartly.
Again, she didn't answer. She smiled and slowly turned the tiny quilt around to show me the back.
"What are you showing me?"
"I sewed magnets onto the back," she said brightly.
"To hang on the refrigerator door."
"Of course, magnets. Refrigerator. Door. Help!"
Click here to see Joan's Hanging Wall
Copyright A.B. Silver 1998
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