The Riddle




"The chicken or the egg?" she said to me as I was eating a breakfast of Egg Scramblers and hash-browns. I had just recently gone back to eating eggs again, but not Nature's eggs with their high fat and cholesterol levels. No, these new eggs, which were sitting on my plate and looked and tasted real, would never be the real thing. But they were very close.

"Is this a religious question about nature and evolution and creation?" I asked. "Or are we talking about chickens because you are in a fowl mood?" Sometimes these morning conversations asked me to think too deeply at 5 a.m. I had been up for an hour, and she of course, was fresh back from her shower after her workout at the gym at 4 a.m. My mind was still asleep. Her mind was wide awake.

"No, it's about fabric," she said.

"Fabric?" Of course, talking about fabric for her was a religious experience. "Where does the chicken come in?"

"I was just wondering which came first," she said. She dipped her fork into my eggs. Her breakfasts consisted of yogurt and cereal and fruit.

"If you're talking about my eggs, they came from the factory. No chicken would recognize these eggs."

"I'm talking about fabric," she said as if I never listened to her. She gets that tone in her voice.

"All right, tell me how a chicken crossing the road relates to fabric." I could be as confusing as she was.

"You don't want to talk about it do you?" She forayed into my potatoes, ambushed a forkful, and her mouth took them captive.

"I don't think we're communicating here," I said, pulling my plate away before she could adventure again into my food. She knew I wouldn't go after her yogurt. Not even if I was starving.

"I heard everything you said. You wondered which came first, the chicken or the egg. And when I asked you to explain you said, 'fabric' twice."

"I was wondering about quilting," she said. She was back at her own breakfast and I felt safe again.


"And so many people quilt. I wonder how they begin a project. Do they get an idea to make a quilt and then plan it out and then go buy fabric, or do they see some fabulous fabric and then think of some creative way to use it in a quilt?"

"I thought necessity was the mother of quilting. Wasn't there an Aesop fable about that. Or was it Benjamin Franklin?"

"Invention," she countered. "Necessity is the mother of invention."

"And I always wondered why it couldn't be the father. Our country has founding fathers. Couldn't necessity be the father of invention?"

"I'm talking about quilting here," she said. She always liked to stick to the subject.

"So you want to know which comes first, the idea for a quilt or the fabric?" I can be understanding when I have all the facts.

"I said that."

"Well, it's a good philosophical question," I said. "Why don't you ask people who quilt."

"I thought maybe you'd know. You read all those quilting tips on the Internet before I do."

"I read them for you because you don't have time to leave your sewing machine or your fabric, and I don't remember anyone asking that question." Certainly not about chickens or eggs. I went back to my eggs.

"Well, find out."

"Would it make a difference?"

"No. But it would be nice to know. Sometimes a person just wants to know something for its own sake."

"What do you do?" I asked suddenly.


"Which comes first for you, the idea for a quilt or the fabric?"


"Both? How can it be both?"

"Sometimes I see nice fabric and think of something to use it for, and sometimes I see an idea for a quilt in a book or magazine, and sometime I go to a quilt show and get an idea and then look for the perfect fabric."

"That's three sides," I corrected. Of course, with quilters there can be three sides or four and even five to an issue that only has two sides. I pressed on. "And what about all that fabric you have around this house that you bought because you liked it so much?"

"Itchehchnicchefabcchickic." she said as she crunched her cereal. Knowing her, I translated that as "It's nice fabric."

"But unless you get an idea you may never use it?" I asked.

She swallowed. "I can like the fabric even without ideas," she said.

"So it really doesn't matter which comes first?"

"Of course it matters. Not knowing doesn't stop me from quilting, but I would like to know."

"I don't understand what you just said."

"I asked if you were finished with your eggs."

"You want another bite?" I offered.

"No, your eggs just reminded me that I have to go finish the binding on the new quilt so I can start a new one."

"My eggs gave you an idea for a project?"

"They just reminded me."

"Then that's the answer." I said knowingly.

"What's the answer."

"My eggs came first. No chicken's in sight."

"Finish your breakfast," she said.

"Don't you want an answer?" I asked, puzzled for the umpteenth time by her quilted brain's way of reasoning.

"It doesn't matter. I'll do both."

"Both getting an idea first and getting fabric first."

"I have enough fabric for the next quilt."

"You have enough fabric for a million quilts," I protested. But it was no use.

"Then I'll need some more ideas," she said.

"I have an idea," I began, but I didn't dare finish it. I finished my eggs instead.


Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver

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