I felt a breeze as I stood at the kitchen counter opening a can of salmon for my lunch. I looked up to see if the ceiling fan had been accidentally turned on, but the blades were still. I turned and felt the breeze on my face. It was coming from the hall. I left the kitchen and the breeze became stronger as I moved down the hall to my Darling Wife's sewing room. Perhaps her fan was on full force even on this cold November day. Quilting made her hot, she often told me, and I had no answer for that except for her to turn on the fan.
But the fan in her room was also off. But she wasn't. Her arms were flailing, rotating, rising up and down, turn, turn, turn. "It's windy in here," I said, which in my way of talking to her meant, "What's up?"
"The election," she said.
"Again?" The election had stirred her up badly enough. The election results had turned her life to frenzy. The week of "counting" the votes had just about put her over the edge.
"I'm making a frenzy quilt," she said.
"Because of the election?"
"Can you shut off your arms?" I asked.
"I'm picking scraps," she said.
Indeed, looking more closely, I noticed in the blur of her arms and hands, small scraps of fabric were flying by in a tiny tornado of color. "Is this for a new quilt?"
"I just told you. I'm making a frenzy quilt."
"I never heard of a frenzy quilt," I said. I never had. Nope. Never.
"It's because of the election," she said.
"The election is responsible for raising our heating bills because you're air conditioning the house with a windstorm?"
"I'm making a 'Mile-A-Minute' quilt," she said. Her hands kept up their movement. On the work table in front of her were piles of scraps. "Carol Coski published an article in American Quilter on how to make a quilt using lots of scraps and doing it fast."
"Fast is right," I said. "You're a whirlwind."
"I'm crazy from what's happening in Florida, and I need to make a quilt to calm me down."
"You don't look calm," I said.
"It's not a calm quilt," she said.
"When will you be done," I asked.
"Soon," she said.
I left her then, my body braced to keep from being pushed over by the gale force that tried to hurl me back down the hall. I made it back to the kitchen and ate my lunch. I didn't wait for her to join me, for that would be a foolish wait, a quilter's wait. When she was quilting, she lost track of time. Normal time was absolutely stopped for her. When she was in a frenzy, there was no such thing as time, stopped or otherwise.
After lunch I went outside to bring in the empty trash cans from the sidewalk. When I came back in, something seemed wrong, and it was a minute before I realized that there was no breeze. I hurried to see if my human fan had been turned off. I found her sitting at her sewing machine. A long chain of scraps was hanging off the end of her sewing machine and ending in a pile on the floor. She was hunched over, feeding scraps to the needle to join them together in a continuing chain of more scraps.
"The quilt?" I asked, assuming the ten-mile-long chain of color was going to be part of some quilt. When she was working at her machine, I tried to stay far away so I didn't wind up a part of the quilt, which I nearly did on more than one occasion.
"I'm mindless," she said.
"You lost your mind?" Now, keep in mind, this was a very normal conversation. In talking to my wife when she was preparing to quilt, during quilting, or after quilting, there were no rules of conversation that applied.
"I have my mind. I'm just not thinking about what I'm doing. I keep thinking about counting scraps and then I think about counting stitches, but I forget and start counting votes in the election, and then I recount everything, and I probably have too many scraps for my quilt, so I have to stop soon, but in the meantime, I keep quilting."
"Okay," I said. "I'll check back later."
A day later, I checked back. She had assembled the strips of colored scraps into blocks and was assembling the blocks. "There's a court hearing today to hear arguments," I told her. The election results were still not complete, and both sides were going into court again to argue over something or other as a result of something or other.
"Haphazard," she said.
"I put all the pieces together into squares and all the pieces are haphazard, just like the election," she said.
I looked at some of the finished squares that were posted on her design wall. Sure enough, the scraps were placed in every direction, in haphazard shapes, haphazard sizes, and haphazard colors. "Haphazard," I agreed. "But nice. Better than the election results so far," I said.
"What election?" she asked.
"Never mind. I'll tell you about it when you finish the quilt."
"Did I tell you how much fun this quilt is?" she asked, her voice reflecting a woman now somewhat serene.
"Is the frenzy over?" I asked. It certainly seemed so.
"I'm sorry about that," she said.
"Sorry about the frenzy?"
"Sorry that I lost control."
"You're in control now," I said. I hoped.
"I'm only thinking about finishing the quilt."
"It'll be a fun quilt," I said. "You certainly worked at it a mile-a-minute."
"And I'll quilt it a mile-a-minute, too. I'm going to let the needle go in any direction it wants to go. No stitch-in-the-ditch, no meandering, no stippling, no measuring, no ruling. It will be an absolutely genuine helter-skelter quilt."
"Like counting all the votes in the election helter-skelter," I said too quickly. I didn't want to remind her.
"What votes" she asked.
"I vote you finish the quilt and we bundle up and go for a walk and watch the leaves fall from the trees."
"Me, too," she said.
So we did, and we didn't count one leaf as we walked.
Copyright 2000 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Election 2000 Helter-Skelter Quilt"
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