Padded Cell




"Our house is a padded cell," I said. I kept trying to explain to her that I am not crazy, that I would not rush head-on into a wall to see how it feels, that it would be nice to see the walls again, but she didn't understand a word I said.

"What are you saying?" she asked.

"I'm saying that we live in a padded cell."

"A cell is where you belong," she answered.

And it's all because of her quilting. All because she thinks that every quilt she makes should have a place of its own, that her quilts would all be just too sad if they weren't given a chance to shine in the sun, an indoor sun that is unique to quilters, a sun that shines on every quilt. She has been slowly but surely turning herself into a quilt factory and our house into a quilt gallery.

Our daughter, son-in-law and their two children, our grandchildren, came to visit over the weekend. My Darling Wife met them at the front door with a hug, a kiss, and white gloves.

"What's this?" our daughter asked as she received a pair of white gloves.

"What's this?" our son-in-law asked.

"What's this, Grandma?" our grandchildren asked.

"So you can touch the quilts," DW said. "You don't want to get birthday cake or ice cream on them, do you?"

Well, my MQS (Mad Quilting Spouse) didn't really give them gloves, but she might as well have. She knew, I knew, all of God's children knew that they would want to touch all the quilts. And as soon as they were in the house, they did, but not before our granddaughter asked, "Grandma, why are the walls all padded?"

All the walls in the house aren't padded. Just some of them. But, all the walls in the house will probably be padded very soon if my SQW (Sweatshop-paced Quilting Wife) keeps up her 12-hour-a-day quilting routine and if she doesn't give away the quilts she makes faster than she makes them. During their visit, our daughter was given the Stack-n-Whack quilt, and our granddaughter Shira, for her upcoming sixth birthday, was given her own quilt, which she calls, "Shira's Quilt," but those quilts never even made it to the walls. The quilts that are hanging, the miniature quilts and the little quilts and the wall hangings and the lap quilts and the PIPs (Projects in Progress) all hide the white walls and the dark paneling and the painted doors around our house. HER house. HER dedicated quilting house.

"I live here, too," I protested when she began hanging the small and miniature and paper-pieced quilts on the doors.

"They're not in your way," she said.

"It's difficult to walk into a room when the door is left halfway open and you complain if I open it or close it," I said.

"I have quilts on both sides. Don't you want to see both quilts? If you open the door or close the door, one of the quilts will disappear. It will be neglected. It will weep and wail in despair."

"I understand that," I said. (No, I didn't.) "I like seeing bare walls," I added, changing my tact.

"A quilt adds color to your life," she said.

"I like white. I like dark brown. I like naked doors. I like opening a door that isn't covered with a crazy quilt or a stained glass hummingbird or a kaleidoscope of color."

"You said you liked the quilts?" she said, her words demanding the only correct response from me.

"I love the quilts." Was that a pout on her lips, a sadness in her eyes, anguish in her trembling limbs? "Everyone loves the quilts," I added quickly. "But I am not mailing this house across the country. It doesn't have to be packed with so much padding," I said.

"Your brain is padded," she said. "And the quilts are staying up. I'm not going to bury the quilts in boxes and drawers. This house is not a cemetery."

"Did I say anything about a cemetery?"

"You know what I mean," she said, daring me to contradict her message.


The quilts stayed up. Oh, every once in a while, she takes one down, wraps it in tissue, puts it into a box, and gives it away. I try to stay out of the house when she does that. For that moment or two when the wall where the quilt hung becomes bare, she becomes a different woman. She looks at the wall, she paces, she hums, she darts in and out of her sewing room, she touches the wall, she sighs, says something like, "Alas, alas, dear Quilt," and then she puts up a new small quilt she has just finished. She looks at it for a while and smiles. The emptiness is gone. The space is covered. She really smiles.


I have grown to love the quilts. And, of course, it's practical to have padded walls. Just the other day I tripped over my own loose shoestring and went crashing toward the wall in the hallway. I might have been injured. I might have broken my arms and my back and my neck. But did I? No. I fell into Sunbonnet Sue and bounced off the paper-pieced fishes and was saved by the stained-glass hummingbird wall-hanging. Immediately upon impact, my life was saved by the quick deployment of my own personal cotton batting-filled personal safety quilt.

"See," she said. Quilts are life-saving."

"Yes, they are," I agreed.

"Your head would be a pile of broken skull bones if it weren't for the fact that your head hit the Friendship Star quilt I filled with high-loft batting.

"I'm grateful," I said. I was still seeing stars. I didn't know if they were friendly.

"I'm glad you didn't hit the wall with your knees," she said.

"What about my knees?"

"You were lucky not to hit the walls with your knees. Before you trip again, I'll have to quilt the lower part of the wall."

"Quilt the wall?"

"You know what I mean."

I did. I do.


Copyright 1998 by A.B. Silver

Click here to see Shira's Quilt

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