She was barking orders to the fabric in her hands, the fabric spread out on the table, the fabric covering her ironing board. "Show me something," she kept saying. "Let's see what you can do," she said over and over. Periodically, she lifted a piece of fabric and brought it up close to her face and stared at it. Then, she held it at arm's length, turned it, reversed it, and put it down flat on the table. Then she took another piece of flowered fabric that had a heart-shaped piece cut out of it. She put that open-hearted piece of fabric over the other and said, "You're good, but you do have a lot of competition," she said. She did this with one piece of fabric after another. after each selection of fabric.
Though I was standing in the doorway leading into her sewing room, I knew she was not talking to me. Though I had often heard her talk to her fabric, I had never heard her talk like that before. She was forceful, assertive, soft and loud and soft again. I watched her a few more minutes before I butted in on her relationship with the fabric. "Is there something new going on here?" I asked.
Whatever she was doing was new to me. I had followed her through every journey into quilting she had made in the past year, and I no longer was surprised by anything she did that might surprise, shock or bewilder any other person watching her. But though I thought I knew her, her habits, her quirks, her idiosyncrasies, her quilting personalities (and she had several), I had never before seen her behave the way she did yesterday.
"There's no business like show business," she said.
"Ethel Merman," I said, guessing she was testing my memory of the song and who made it famous.
"This isn't a musical," she said. She picked up a piece of marbled yellow fabric. She went through the same procedure as before. She held it close, stared at it, rubbed it between her fingers, looked at it from a distance as she stretched her arm out and then brought it back. She put it flat on the table and put the fabric with the heart-hole over it.
"What are you doing?" I asked straight out. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.
"Auditions," she said. All right, so frankness and candor and straight talk didn't work.
"I'm auditioning the fabric," she said.
"Oh," I said, wondering very much at that moment why I had even entered her room, let alone asked her what I thought was a reasonable question and hoped for a reasonable answer.
"It's not easy to explain," she said.
No, probably not, I thought. Quilting passion never was easy to explain. Madness was more like it. Still, I had been through this before so many times, I thought I would try again. I'd already opened the door, so I might as well go in. But I should have looked where I was going.
"I'll take a difficult explanation," I said bravely.
"It's that new book that came yesterday," she said.
"Another new book story?" I asked. I should have known. Her quilting book library was getting larger, and so was her ambition to try every new technique she read about.
"Quilts with a View," she said.
"Quilts with a philosophy about life?" I asked. Just then I was developing a new philosophy about quilters.
"The author suggests auditioning all the fabric." She was not kidding.
"Have a cattle call?" I know my show business terms.
"You have to know what kind of talent the fabric has."
"You're the talent scout?"
"You have to know what kind of potential the fabric has," she went on.
"You're the producer?" I went on.
"The winner goes into the view window," she said.
"It's something about a quilt with a view," I said, guessing out loud. I still had no idea.
"It's to choose just the right fabric," she said. "Landscapes need to look correct through the window."
"Is there an award involved with this? A 'Golden Quilt' or something for the winner?"
"The fabric is just happy to be chosen," she said seriously.
"What about the fabric that doesn't make the cut. Don't they deserve something for trying out?" I asked. I could just picture, even if not through a window, all that losing fabric's feelings of rejection.
"I'll audition them again for another quilt," she said.
"That's the way it goes in show business, isn't it" I said, resigned. I saw "Chorus Line" and "Fame." I know the heartaches and tears. "You dream about success some day, you go to the audition, and you go home a loser," I said. Tears formed in my eyes for those kicked off stage.
"The other fabric doesn't lose," she said. "There are no losers in quilting," she said more strongly.
I dried my tears over the fallen cottons. "So, did you choose a winner?" I asked more cheerfully.
"I've narrowed it down to ten," she said.
"A beauty pageant now?"
"They're all beautiful. It's just hard to decide."
"What about a talent contest. Looks aren't everything," I tried.
"Don't you have something else to do," she said.
"Probably," I said, thinking about it. "I'll just go sit in the living room and look out the window at the view. The pear tree's in bloom," I said.
"A pear tree would look good in a quilt," she said.
"As long as it doesn't have to audition," I said.
Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver
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