The Last Place You Look




"It's never the last place you look," she said.

"What isn't? And why not?"

"The yards of multi-colored binding I used back in April," she said. "And I already looked in the last place I was looking, and it's not there, and that's why I'm asking you to look."

"You want me to look for the eight miles of binding you put together last April?" Of course she did.

"I can't find it, so you have to find it for me," she said.

"You want me to search for it?" I asked.

"You don't have to search. Just find it."

"What does that mean?"

"It means you should know where it is because that's your job," she said.

"It's my job to know where your lost binding is?"

"It's not lost. It's somewhere, and you know where."

"Why would I know where?"

"Because you have to or I can't finish this pillow."

It's on your middle shelf next to the bin with the rotary cutters and extra blades, just to the left of your patterns for the Southwest appliqué quilt," I said.

"Are you sure?"

"Probably," I said. Actually, I was sure. I had seen the binding two days before when she had asked me to find the blue Kokopeli (also spelled Kokopelli) fabric she had misplaced or lost or had stolen by the fabric troll that lived under her sewing machine and spent its nights moving her quilting "stuff' from place to place. At least, she told me it was a troll, and I had no cause to doubt her. That piece of fabric had been in the drawer she had marked "Blue Kokopeli fabric," so that search was easy.

She left me and went back to her sewing room. When she didn't come back right away, I assumed she had found the missing binding. At least that "search" was over.

Every day or two brought a new search. Sometimes, after she wandered around the house from place to place, opening bins and drawers and closets, after climbing shelves and looking under the beds, she found what she was looking for herself. It was those other times, when she searched to no avail (to no use, to no benefit--it's a neat word, and I put it in this sentence because I like it), that I heard her siren call, "Honey, did you see...."

If I didn't see it right away, whatever it was she couldn't find, that meant I had to get up from my chair, out of bed, away from the remote control of the television or stereo, give up breakfast or lunch or dinner, and give up any plans I might have had for spending my time in a leisurely and pleasurable manner. As the husband of a quilter, I was on call twenty-four hours a day, twelve or so days a week. My job, should I accept, was to perform an impossible mission, to search for what she was missing and find it.

She has eight or ten or twelve pair of scissors. She has scissors for cutting paper, fabric, patterns, embroidery thread, chicken, and whatever else she needs to cut. Every once in a while she calls out that her scissors are missing: "My scissors are missing." She says it with authority, and I have to believe her, but she never tells me which pair is missing or give me any hint as to what she was doing with them the last time they were in her possession. Through experience, I know right away that the scissors that are missing are ones she needs to use immediately for whatever quilting project she has at hand, and sometimes she has a dozen projects going at the same time.

"Which scissors do you need," I ask.

"The small ones," she says.

"Which small ones?" I ask. She has five pairs of small scissors.

"The small ones I need," she says.

With that precise information, I begin the search. I look under the fabric she is about to cut. I look under the book or pattern she has spread out to work from. I look on the ironing board or the sewing table or the sewing cabinet. If I do not find them in any of those places, which I do eighty-seven percent of the time, I look farther afield: in the refrigerator, in the bathroom, in the cupboard with the coffee filters. I have no reason to think the scissors are in any of these odd places, but sometimes they are.

I am a good searcher.

"Honey, I can't find the extra bobbins," she said just yesterday. That I was still asleep didn't seem to concern her. I was "supposed to be up already."

"They're in the blue box in the top drawer of the desk where the staples are," I said as I rolled over and went back to sleep.

"How did you know that?" she yelled from the sewing room when she found them successfully.

"They were next to the staples you were missing the other day," I said. I knew where the staples where because she had lost her quilting gloves the week before and I had found them in the same drawer.

Of course, her lmislocating or misplacing or mislaying or losing track of things is understandable. She is a quilter, and when she is quilting, her mind is already bulging with having to know too many things, such as how many four-inch pentagons and four-sided triangles can be cut out of the same yard of fabric, how many squares are in a block and what the difference is between a square and block; she also has to know whether good batting has scrim or not, or at exactly what moment of quilting in the ditch will the sewing machine bobbin run out of thread.

Quilters don't have time to search for things, or so she tells me. And I have to believe her. I, a quilter's spouse, have plenty of time to search for things, or so she tells me. And I have to believe her. Why, just as I began this last sentence, she came into the room.

"When you finish that," she is saying, "you can help me look for the cutting mat."

"Which one?" I ask. She has eight or so.

"The biggest one," she says.

"Where did you leave it?" I ask.

"It's not where I left it," she said. "You'll have to search for it."

"I'll seek and I will find," I say. (It's under the guest bed where she left it when she started making small pillow covers. She put it there so it wouldn't get lost.)

Copyright 2000 by A.B. Silver

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