"I need new needles," she told me. I was about to open the refrigerator door.
"Do you think they're in the fridge?" I asked.
"No, they're somewhere in my sewing room. Probably in one of the drawers."
"Why do you need new needles?" I asked. She had just recently bought about fifty of them.
"I just broke two seventy-fives," she said.
"You need another size seventy-five then?" I asked.
"No, now I need a ninety."
"And you want me to help you find the needles?" I asked. I suspected that was exactly what she wanted. "You always find things," she said.
"All right." I followed her down the hall into her sewing room and as she stood aside, I went to her sewing machine and opened up a drawer in the desk next to it. "Here," I said. I pointed to a small package of Schmetz quilting needles.
"They're just more seventy-fives," she said. I can't find the nineties. I told you that."
"Sorry," I said, and I began searching through the drawers of the desk. I found seven packages of needles.
"They're all for embroidery," she said, her words wiping off the gleeful smile I had on my face at finding them.
"Why don't you have them all in one place?" I said. It was not really a question. I knew she would have no answer. She put things where she put them.
"I was going to, but I got busy," she answered.
"Well, if we find them, how about putting them all in one place."
With that promise said aloud, I helped her go through all her drawers, all her bins, all her boxes, all her shelves, all her bags of notions stuck in the corners of the room. We located eighteen packages of needles. Three of packages were Universal size 90 and three were quilting size 90.
"Good, now I can finish quilting," she said as she moved to the sewing machine.
"No," I said.
"No what?" She seemed genuinely puzzled. She had no idea. I took the package of needles and the tool from her hands.
"You're not going to change the needle now. You are not going to make another square or appliqué or anything. You are going to take stock and organize your needles and put them all in one place. Then you are going to do the same with all your quilting notions." I was firm, tough, maybe a bit cruel, but it was for her own good. For mine as well. I had only so many hours in my life to give searching for lost basting pins or bias tape or rotary cutter blades or templates.
"Now?" she said, bewildered by my request.
"I'll help you," I offered.
"I can't do it now. I have to work on the new quilt."
"Now," I said. You can begin with the needles.
"Right now," I said. She was frozen in place. I gave her a little nudge. I opened up the first drawer where I had found the embroidery needles. "Start there," I said. "I'll be back in a minute."
I waited until she had actually picked up two packages of the needles, and then I moved quickly out of the room and down the hall toward the garage door.
In the garage I found a small utility box with 36 plastic drawers, all large enough for the needles. Of course at that time they each were filled with screws and nails and washers, all carefully sorted years before. I removed the drawers one by one and dumped the hardware from each into a single pile on my workbench. I cleaned the box and took it to her.
She was still standing where I had left her. She still held the two packages of needles. She looked at me. "I don't have anything to put them in," she said as if to explain why she had turned into a statue.
"Here," I said, and I handed her the empty box. "Now put all your needles in the small drawers. Then you can start on the other notions. You can do the thread and the flat head pins and the Celtic bars and the templates and the masking tape."
"That'll take forever," she said.
"That'll take a couple of days, and then you'll be organized and you'll be able to find everything," I said. "Isn't that what you wanted, to be able to find things?"
"I just wanted a new needle," she said.
"Everything else will be a bonus," I said cheerfully. "If you want, I'll help you."
"No, I know how I want everything. I'll do it. But you have to explain to everyone why I'm behind on my quilting."
"I'll tell everyone," I said. And I left her standing there. I was sure that this time, finally, she would do the job.
I didn't see her the rest of the day. At dinner time she came in and ate, quiet the whole time, and then she left the kitchen. "You clean up," she said.
I went to bed while she was still working away. I heard boxes open and close, drawers sliding in and out, little squeals or grunts from her, but I left her alone.
"I was awakened in the middle of the night with the bed shaking. The light was on, shining in my sleepy eyes. "What?" I said, wondering what I was doing up.
"I'm done," she said.
"You're all done?" I asked. She had a joyous look on her face.
"Come look," she said.
"Now?" How about morning, late morning?
"Now," she said.
I got up and followed her into the sewing room. I looked. I turned 360 degrees to see every bit of the room. I looked again. "Nothing's different," I said.
"Wrong," she said. "I took inventory." She pointed to a yellow pad on her desk. I went to it and picked it up.
"What's this?" I asked. She had about ten pages full of writing. I looked at her for an explanation.
"I just went through everything and wrote down where everything was. That way I didn't have to move anything. If I want to find something I just look on the list." She was proud.
"Where are the size ninety quilting needles?" I asked to test her. I watched her face. She frowned then brightened.
"On page three," she said. "Under needles." I looked. Sure enough, on page three, under needles it listed all her needles and their location. I looked up to see the utility box I had brought her. It was empty.
"I took inventory of everything. It's all there. Now, can I quilt," she said. She wasn't asking. She had, as usual, passed the test.
I went back to bed, but before I fell asleep I wondered how I was going to sort all the hardware I had dumped and left on my workbench. Maybe I'd just take inventory of it. Washers, screws, nails, etc. Pile #1. Where was that yellow pad?
Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver
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