"I'm being pulled apart by tigers," she said as I walked into her sewing room to ask her if there were any last minute things we had to remember not to forget.
"There are no tigers in the room," I said, though her body did seem to be jerking and twisting as though she were being pulled apart by something.
"The tigers are in my head," she said matter-of-factly.
"Oh," I said, understanding completely. She had just gotten a new quilting book in the mail, and there was no chance whatsoever of her quilting until after we got back from our trip, but she had, in a moment of utter recklessness, opened the book earlier and had begun to read the introduction. "You read more of the book, didn't you?"
"Only a few pages, just to see." She wanted me to believe she "accidentally" moved past page one in the book to page thirty-five.
"You know what you promised," I said. "No quilting."
"I'm not quilting. I just thought...." She stopped herself then, stopped her convulsive twitching, too. "You're right. I shouldn't think about that. I should double check everything on the trip list."
Everything on the trip list was our reminder to remember everything possible we might otherwise forget. We had another list for checking everything in the house, such as unplugging her sewing machine. But I saw with a glance that it was still plugged in. "You still have the sewing machine plugged in," I said.
"I was getting to that," she said, but she really wasn't. That was to be the final step, the very last step before we locked the house and headed for the airport. I had hoped she would close down her sewing room earlier, as she had promised, but she had told me already that some things couldn't be done in a hurry. Some things, by a quilter obsessed, couldn't be done even slowly.
"But the tigers got in the way?"
"I was just thinking that since I have a little time left before we go, I might just get a few things ready for when I get back."
"Such as the quilt in the new book?"
"It looks as if it will be easy and I haven't made a quilt like this before, and if I get a few tiny things started, then I'll be able to get on it right away when we get back."
"The moment we get back, you mean?"
"Well, it will be waiting for me."
"What do you have to do to get a few tiny things ready?"
"I have to photocopy a few pages in the book. That's all."
That was just after lunch. By two o'clock, she had photocopied the five pages, which I thought showed tremendous restraint on her part. Usually our photocopy machine was worn to a frazzle by the end of one of her quilting projects, that machine part of her close-knit quilting family, the two of them great friends, but even that loving machine needed a rest and was, I am sure, looking forward to our trip as much as we were. BUT, she had also gone through fifteen fabric drawers, labeling each one in which she found fabric that "might" be suitable for the project with a note so that she could "find it right away" as she just knew she would forget where everything was while she was gone and might otherwise have to take a week to go through everything to remember where everything was.
"I forget after a day," she said as she began her approach to reasoning, "so if I get everything selected now, all the fabric for the appliqué, all the fabric for the backing, all the colors for the designs, the fabric and colors for the border and the binding, then I'll be ready and I could probably use the time I would otherwise have wasted in going through all my stash helping you unpack and shop for food and whatever."
"That'll be the day," I said in my best John Wayne manner, though I forget which film he said it in.
By late afternoon, her room was a complete mess. Drawers were out and stacked one on another. Her ironing board was covered with fat quarters and half yards and yards of fabric. The top of her sewing machine cabinet was strewn with more fabric, that which she had already looked at and discarded. On the cutting mat was a pile of the selected fabric she would use, might use, would consider for the final project, that project still a month or so away.
"I'm ready now," she said.
"Ready to clean up this room which was so nice and neat and clean and tidy this morning?"
"It'll be that way again," she said.
"Just until you get back in here when we get back and change your mind and decide you don't like any of the fabrics you chose and tigers or lions or elephants pull you in all directions again."
"Hey, I'm a quilter.
"Hey, I know," I said.
"Hey, do you want to help put all the drawers back for me?"
"Hey, I don't think so."
"Then let me finish up here," she said.
"You shouldn't have looked at that book, you know," I said.
"I know. But what can I say. I am weak and I easily succumb to the pleas and cries of a new quilting book yelling, 'Please, read me.' I felt a need to be kind and compassionate and help in the best way I can."
"The book begged you, and you helped out, and that's what this day was all about?"
"Yes. Now, go. I have to clean up."
"All right," I said, wondering as I left her room if she would ever be really ready to go on our trip.
But by the time came for us to go to bed, I knew her room was back in order, for as I waited for her, I heard her say, "Goodnight sewing machine, goodnight stash, goodnight ironing board, goodnight rotary cutter, goodnight thread, goodnight books and projects, goodnight room."
Copyright 2000 by A.B. Silver
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