Now What?




"I'm a flab," she said.

"What?" I said. I have learned to say 'What?" in twenty different ways, each asking a different question in response to my QH's (Quilting Honey) comments. This 'What?' was asking whether she was talking about herself or her quilting. Knowing her, it could have been either.

"I'm puffy," she said. Now that sounded like a word trap. It sounded like a comment about herself, but it just as easily could have been about one of her quilts.

"What?" I asked.

"I gained a pound," she said.

"You gained weight?"

"I just said that."

"Maybe it's a pound of muscle?" I asked, hoping we weren't going to get into a month-long conversation about her weight. Soaking wet she weighed about six ounces. "All that hiking probably gave you a pound more of muscle mass."

"Hah. I'm a pudge ball. I ate too much on our trip and all that walking and hiking in the mountains didn't help a bit."

"So, what are you going to do about it?" I asked. I could have told her she looked just fine a pound heavier. I could have put my arm around her shoulder and comforted her. I could have told her anything, but I knew better. She would have to work out her problem on her own.

"Exercise," she said.

"All right," I agreed. Now, she already went to the gym every morning and worked out in some obsessive way, but I was not going to say that to her. Oh, no. Not me. I'm not that brave--not that foolish.


She left me and I went to clean up some apples that had dropped from our single apple tree in the back yard. That took ten minutes. When I came back into the house and looked into her sewing room, she was busy at her sewing machine, involved with her scraps of paper and pieces of fabric, working on her new paper-pieced project. I started to turn away and leave her at her life's work, but I stopped in the doorway as she stood up from the sewing machine with a piece of work in her hand and pushed me out of the way and ran into the next room, my office.

"What?" I said, puzzled, my 'What?' a surprised 'What?'

"I need another piece of sky blue," she said.

"There's no sky in the office, just the ceiling," I said. I knew I was wrong before I finished the sentence. I followed her.

"I put the fabric for the new quilt on your desk," she said, as if that explained why my desk was now covered with small piles of fabric, one of which was sky blue.

"Why?" I asked.

"Exercise," she said.

"I thought you were making a new quilt."

"I am, but I have to lose a pound."

"Go on," I said. I had no idea what she was going to say next, but I suspected it would be related to some newfangled quilting technique.

"If I leave the fabric in here, I get some exercise while I'm quilting." She said it with a straight face.

"By jumping up from your sewing machine and running ten feet into this room you get some exercise?"

"I do it a lot," she said.

"And this will help you lose a pound you don't need to lose?"

"Not just this," she said. But she didn't explain.

"Will I get my desk back?" I asked.

"When I lose a pound," she said. She took a piece of sky blue fabric and left the room. I followed her back to her sewing machine where she sat down and glued a piece of fabric to a piece of paper and ran the two pieces through her sewing machine. She stitched down one line on the paper and then removed the fabric and paper and stood up and crossed the room to her ironing board. There, she ironed her work.

"What are you doing?" I asked as she put down the iron and pushed the ironing board farther toward the back of the room.

"Exercising," she said.

"By pushing the ironing board?"

"It was too close. I need to stretch my legs."

"But...." I began, but I had nothing to say.

"I have to iron after each line I sew."

"Can't you iron at the sewing machine or press the seam with that little stick you have?"

"If I sit there too long my back will hurt and I won't lose any weight and I'll just get flabby. You don't want me flabby, do you."

"God forbid," I said.

"Then bring in the stool from the garage," she said.

I didn't even begin to try to understand what she was saying. No 'What?' in the world would be the right question. I went to get the stool.

"Here's the stool," I said as I put down the step stool.

"Thank you," she said as she pushed the stool into the middle of the floor between her sewing machine and the ironing board.

"And?" I asked. I waited for an explanation. I really wanted an explanation.

"Obstacle," she said.


"I'll step up on it on the way to and from the ironing board," she said.

"Oh, for exercise," I said. It wasn't a question. I wasn't ever going to ask another question.

"Get fabric, sit down, sew, stand up, jump on the stool, iron the seam, jump on the stool, sit down, sew, stand up, go into the bedroom for the next paper pattern, come back, sit down, sew, stand up...." She was squatting in front of sewing machine. "I keep the thread down here," she explained as she pulled herself back up. She was barely breathing hard.

"Another exercise while quilting," I said. Of course. How shallow was my mind not to have understood the first moment I walked into the room. It was all so simple.

"I'm down half a pound already," she said.

"You lost half a pound from quilting," I said, amazed at my newly gained awareness. She had just discovered a new way of quilting. I had to tell the world.

"And the quilt's coming along just fine. Thanks for asking."

"You're welcome," I said, but she was already climbing up five shelves toward the ceiling where she had put the batting for the quilt. Then, finally, I understood it all. "Now, I know what it is," I shouted up after her. She looked down at me from the ceiling. "Quiltercise!" I said to her as she hung from the top shelf.

"Quiltercise," she repeated. Yes!

Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver

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