It's a Quilt




"Honey, while you were out, your friend Rita called to thank you for the lovely potholder you sent her for her birthday," I said. While my Darling Wife was out shopping, I had dutifully answered the telephone four times and had taken four messages. I relayed them all to her as accurately as I could. It was the fourth call that caused her to react.

"Potholder? I didn't send her a potholder," she said. Her face was drawn tight in puzzlement, her eyes squeezed to try to understand what I had just told her.

"She said she really liked the iris design. It's her favorite flower."

"Potholder?" she said again, this time with a big question mark at the end of the word. "Iris?" she added.

"That's what she said," I said.

"Oh, gosh," DW said then, the question mark across her face dissolving and dropping away. Her lips started to turn downward into a frown, but then they turned upward and she broke into a grin and then a laugh. "Potholder," she said, but there was no longer a question mark. I waited for her to explain.

"It was the small paper-pieced stained-glass iris quilt I made for her. She thought it was a potholder? I worked ages on that. It may be small, but it has about a billion pieces in it. It's a wall hanging. How could she think it was a potholder?"

I piped right in. "It's the size of a large potholder," I said. "She's not a quilter," I added, apologizing for Rita's mistaken identification of the quilted masterpiece. In another time, another place, I probably would have thought the same.

"Did you tell her what it really was?" she asked me.

"I didn't know what to say. I just gulped a little and told her you would be glad she liked it so much."

"You gulped a little?"

"Would you have told her?"

She paused a moment and I heard her quilter's brain shift into gear. She made a tiny grinding sound that barely escaped through her tightened lips. Then she went into overdrive and answered, laughing as she did. "Oh, I wouldn't have told her. I would have wanted to tell her. I wish you would have told her, though. But once a quilt's out of my hands, I have to let go."

"It's not the first time," I reminded her. "There were others."

"But not Rita," she said.

"No, but with other quilts you've given away some people thought they were shower mats or cat blankets or place mats. Remember the paper-pieced hummingbird you worked on for such a long time, the one that took you three tries because the directions on it were so bad?"

"The one I gave away to your friend Adam," she said.

"You remember what happened to that?"

"He polished his shoes with it. He said it was really soft and left his shoes looking like new. He said he had never seen a quilted shoe cloth like that." She began laughing even more then, but at the time it happened she hadn't cracked a smile.

"And the patchwork table runner you gave to your cousin's sister," I said.

"I remember. It took me a long time to collect all the pieces of reproduction fabric from the thirties that she said she liked. I made it for her long dining room table, but she used it to line a drawer of her china closet to protect her expensive chinaware." Tears began to escape DW's eyes and hurried down her cheeks. "I'm laughing too hard," she said. "Don't remind me of anything else."

"I was thinking of that woman at the fabric shop who said she had given her brother a quilt for Christmas that she had made with fabrics with auto racing designs on it, and she had gone to visit him and found him lying on his back on top of it--in the driveway under his car."

"He was fixing his car?"

"He told her the ground was cold and thanked her for the great ground quilt."

"A ground quilt?" she laughed even harder.

"The gift is in the giving," I said, laughing along with her.

"It's better we don't know what happens to the quilts after they leave our hands," she said.

"I remember reading about a woman who gave a quilt to her daughter--I think it was a crazy quilt, and the daughter gave it to her neighbor who gave it to her neighbor who gave it to a cousin who donated it to the rummage sale at the library, where the woman who made the quilt bought it back for thirty dollars. It originally had cost her eighty dollars just for the fabric." Darling Wife began to giggle and cackle and chortle and almost reach a guffaw but then she began gasping for breath and turning blue, her face a patchwork quilt of strange breathless colors.

"So what's the moral of all this," I snickered as I thumped her on the back and began a Heimlich maneuver to keep her from choking any further on thoughts about the fate of unlucky quilts.

"You want to hear one more?" she said as she stifled another giggle and caught her breath.

"Just one more," I said.

"I remember a woman at a quilt show who had won two prizes for a gorgeous quilt that had taken her two years to finish, she said. The whole design was finished in trapunto. She donated it to her guild's fund-raiser, part-of a street fair in her town, and it was bought by a man as a present for his wife. When he took it home to her, so the quilter heard, the wife really liked the design, but she thought the quilting wasn't that good. She said it was too puffy all over, and she tried several times to iron out all the puffiness."

"Is that a true story?" I asked.

"It could be true," my very Darling Wife said as she broke into another big grin.

"So what's the moral of all these stories?" I asked again.

"The moral is that the pleasure comes from the quilting and in the giving. What happens after that is in somebody else's hands.

"So that means your wall hanging becoming a potholder is all right?"

"It's probably the darnedest, nicest, best-quilted iris-covered potholder I ever made."

Copyright 2000 by A.B. Silver

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