" What she said was, "I can't finish this quilt unless I have absolute quiet." What she meant was, "Leave the comfort of the living room and the pleasure of reading that book you started last night and can't put down and come into the sewing room and find the remote I lost so I can turn off the television set so I don't have to get up while I'm sewing this quilt."
It actually took me several weeks after she first began quilting before I realized that the process of communication between us, which was well established over forty years of marriage and was quite reasonable, that form of communication would have to undergo a complete revision if I wanted to understand her as a quilter. It wasn't just a matter of my learning her new quilting vocabulary so I had at least a decent chance of understanding her when she talked about her 24/7 new hobby. (It's the middle of the year 2000 and the latest new expression, meaning twenty-four hours, seven days a week, seems to have taken over as the way to exaggerate the time put in on an activity--in darling Wife's case, quilting.)
No. I had to learn entirely new ways of translating her messages, mastering a language of quilting communication I have come to call "Quiltcom."
Quiltcom has been around for a long time, probably forever, but it is no easy thing to master unless--unless you happen to be married to a quilter 24/7.
What she said was, "I have plenty of time to get this quilt finished." What she meant as she looked through her books and magazines to find a fabulous design idea for her next quilt, before she even had an inkling of what kind of quilt she was going to make, was that I had better forget about living a normal life until the quilt was done. Her words suggested that I somehow had had a normal life since she had seen her first rotary cutter and thought it would be an neat thing to have half a dozen of them.
What she said when she finished the blue and white table runner was, "I didn't have enough red." What she meant was that her project was supposed to have been a paper-pieced farm scene with a red barn but she had somehow wound up with the table runner. What she meant was, "If you ever let me run out of red again, you are in big trouble, Fellow." What that meant was, "Get out the catalogs of red fabrics and don't leave the computer until you've searched out every quilt shop that carries red fabric that might have been used to make a nice red barn in a paper-pieced wall hanging that I never got a chance to make because I ran out of red."
What she said was, "Oh, my! I broke another needle." What she meant was "@$%^%$%@%*#!!"
What she said was, "There must be something I can do with only this half inch square of gingham with blue checks." What she meant was, "I don't have any gingham in this whole house and, before the sun sets today, I want a room full." (She brought home eight meters of checked 100% cotton gingham from London in eight different colors.)
What she said was, "You really don't understand what I mean when I talk about quilting, do you?" What she meant was, "You really don't understand what I mean when I talk about quilting, do you?"
So, it was time to have a serious talk with her.
"Darling Wife," I began, "It isn't that I don't understand you, it's just that you don't always say exactly what you mean. I understand it when you say fabric and quilt and baste and bind and batting-" I wanted to go on, but then I realized that I wasn't even sure about those words anymore. Strange phrases came into my head. "Baste makes waste" or "Baste not, want not" or A bind is a terrible thing to waste" or "Stop batting your head against the wall."
"What do you mean?" Darling Wife asked.
"Quiltcom is a strange way of talking," I said.
"What are you saying?" she asked.
"Remember when you told me that you were too hungry to quilt and you went on quilting three more hours."
"That happens," she said.
"But when I asked you why you didn't eat before you went on quilting, you said no person should eat when the quilt wasn't fed yet."
"I don't remember that," she said.
"Then you told me that you didn't mean that quilts actually ate but that sometimes a quilt is waiting to be finished and is starved for attention."
"Are you going somewhere with this?" she asked.
"I was just saying that sometimes what you say and what you mean don't always add up to an idea I can comprehend."
"You should try getting more rest," she said. What she meant was, "You should be happy that I am home quilting and not running with a gang of drug pushers along a waterfront somewhere."
"I'm glad you're home quilting," I answered.
"I was just replying to what you meant," I said.
"Why don't you talk English?" she said. "What she meant was, "Actions speak louder than words. I didn't get anything for my quilting in the mail yesterday or today. Don't you think you could do something about that instead of standing around here talking."
"You mean you want me to order something for you, maybe fabric or batting or new quilt books."
"I don't need anything more," she said. What she meant was, "I don't need anything more, but I sure would not be in any way be unhappy if I had more and more and more."
"I'll see what I can do," I said. What I meant was that I would see what I could do. I say what I mean, and I mean what I say. I think quilters start out with good intentions. But I'm certain that by the time they begin to baste their first quilt top to the batting and backing, they develop something called quiltphasia and quiltcom takes over.
"UPS," is good," she said. What she meant was that when she had said "mail" earlier, she meant that to include not only USPS (especially Priority Mail) but also UPS, Airborne Express, FedEx, and any other type of delivery service that could bring her stuff. I won't even try to define "stuff." Every quilter who knows quiltcom knows the meaning of that word.
"And don't forget to make dinner," she said. What she meant was, "And don't forget to make dinner because I am quilting and you know what it means if you don't make dinner and I starve and this quilt doesn't get finished."
"I know," I said. Of course, I knew. I still know. I will always know.
Copyright 2000 by A.B. Silver
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