"Husbands are free," she said.
"I haven't been free since I married you," I said.
"You'll save four dollars," she said.
"What will you buy with the four dollars I save?" I asked.
"I don't plan to buy anything. I just plan to look."
"I've heard that tune before," I said.
"I'm just going to look at the quilts. There's no charge for the husbands of quilters."
"That could be sexism," I said. What if the husband is the quilter? Does the wife get in free?"
"You could ask when we get there," she said.
"So that means I'm going to the quilt show with you."
And so, not knowing whether I really wanted to see a lot of homemade blankets, I went along to the show put on by the Cotton Patch Quilters. I stood at the entrance while she paid her admission fee. I was getting in free. I peeked into the large hall to see what I would get for free. I saw lots of quilts. I saw about sixty million quilts. I turned to run, but she caught me and brought me back. "You'll live through it," she said, holding me tightly, wiping the sweat off my brow, comforting me. "You'll be just fine," she said as she led me in.
"There are too many quilts," I said as I caught my breath and was able to talk again.
"That's why we're here, to see the quilts," she explained.
"Do I have to see them all?"
"Every one," she said.
"All right, but I won't look at all the stitches," I said, hoping to prevent her from asking me to examine each quilt as I knew she would.
And examine them she did. At the first quilt, something covered with big white spots, she peered at every square, every strip, every block, every stitch. She put on the plastic glove she was given at the entrance (I got in free so I didn't get a glove), and she turned the corner of the quilt to look at the backing. I looked at the small sign on the wall by the quilt. The quilt was called "Snowball Quilt." I didn't see any snow or feel cold. I didn't see a snowball or a snowman. All I saw was a very big design with a lot of white spots.
"I'll never be able to do this," my Darling Wife said as she lifted herself up from where she had bent down to see the bottom of the quilt.
"What are you doing on the floor?" I asked politely. She would have an answer.
"I'm looking at the binding," she said. She wiped dust off her knees.
"Couldn't you look at the binding on the sides?"
"I have to see it all," she said.
"Are you going to take this much time at every quilt?" I asked. We had been at the quilt for ten minutes.
"I'm learning how to quilt," she said. "I need to look at every one."
"Do I have to look at every one?"
She didn't answer me. She moved to the next quilt. "This is a Log Cabin quilt," she said.
"I don't see any cabins." I looked carefully, too. No log cabins, no houses built of straw or brick either.
"I should have left you home," she said.
"I'm just taking an interest in your hobby," I said. It wasn't going to be a hobby. If she made a quilt it would become her life. Sewing clothes for the newborn grandchildren had become her life. Sewing clothes when the infants became toddlers had become her life. Sewing clothes when they reached school age had become her life.
"This one's machine quilted," she said.
"I thought quilts were made by eighty women sitting around a table with a needle and thread when they were snowed in all winter."
"This is a beautiful quilt," was all she replied, which told me to keep my mouth closed or she would stuff the whole quilt in it.
The next quilt was beautiful. The design, the pattern, the colors, the workmanship overwhelmed even this curmudgeon.
"I'm quitting," she said.
"You want to leave? After only three quilts?" I couldn't believe her. What had I said to upset her?
"I'll never be able to do this," she said, her voice shaky.
"In time," I said, trying to encourage her. "You're just starting out."
"I don't have time. I have all that other sewing."
"So it won't take you a day to make a quilt. You can spend the whole weekend on it. Later you'll get better and faster."
"This quilt took more than a weekend."
"Well, it is beautiful. So you'll take a week off your other sewing to finish a quilt."
She didn't reply. She pointed to the sign that identified the quilt. "This quilt took fourteen years to make," she said.
"Hah, you're kidding?" That look again. "You're not kidding? Fourteen years? A quilt took fourteen years? You're going to spend fourteen years on a quilt?" I could see her locked up in her room for fourteen years. I could see myself bringing her food and water and more fabric, more thread, replacement rotary cutter blades, truckloads of batting.
"I'm not going to spend fourteen years," she said with a sigh. "Besides, this is all hand quilted. I'm going to use my machine."
"So how long will it take when you use your machine?" How gray would my hair be by then? Would I have any hair left when she was finished?
"Well, I did see that video, 'Quilt in a Day.'"
"A day? A day's good."
"This is a beautiful quilt, all right," she said as she turned away from the masterpiece. "We shouldn't spend so much time on one quilt. Let's go look at the other quilts."
"We can just look at the day quilts," I said. "They'll be just the right size for day beds," I said, hoping like mad.
"We'll look at them all," she said. "Every stitch."
And we did. Oh, yes, we did. And yesterday she began her first class. Something about quilting with snowballs. Sounded cold to me.
Copyright A.B. Silver 1998
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