The Sixth Plan




"I can't wait to use this fabric when we get home," she said.

"You have a plan for it?" I asked.

"It's just right for the quilt I want to make."

"The it's a good thing you got the right fabric," I said.

"It's just right for what I'm planning," she said.


We were flying home from New England. Her trip to quilt stores in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine were all secondary to our wanting to see parts of the country we hadn't seen before, but secondary still counts when it comes to her finding fabric that fits a plan she has in her head. Her head is constantly full of plans, and though she said she wasn't going to look for fabric this trip, when the right fabric just happened to show up as she walked through the quilt shops, that fabric suddenly appearing on the shelves directly in front of her, how could she not bring it home?


The suitcase we had checked in in Boston was delayed a day, lost somewhere in some mysterious airline netherworld, so she fretted all day until the suitcase finally came home. Her new fabric was in that suitcase. She could have lost all the clothes, the shoes, the gifts for the family, the books and souvenirs, but to lose the fabric that was just right for the quilt she planned to make, that would have made her angry enough to want to ground all the planes in the world until the fabric was found.

While she waited all day, she got herself and her sewing room ready. She had been gone ten days, and though the room was in exactly the same tip-top shape she had left it in, she had to get the room ready for the new fabric and her new quilt. I don't know for how long she had had her new quilt planned, whether it was in her mind before we left or developed while we were looking at a lighthouse in Maine or driving through wooded landscapes in Vermont or flying at 31,000 feet across the top of America. I do know she was eager, impatient to begin, champing at the bit, kneeling at the starting line, ready and set, but not going anywhere.

Of course when the suitcase came and she grabbed for her fabric, leaving me to "put every single thing in there away where it belongs," she ran right off to her sewing room. An hour later, a moan came out of the sewing room, down the hall, and found me putting the suitcase away in the garage.

Moans come in many tones, pitches, volumes, in harmony with sighs and cries or foot stomping and head banging, but this moan was a cappella. A quilter's moan is in a class all by itself. I know 99 percent of her quilting moans, but this was one I hadn't heard before.

"A problem?" I asked myself as I went back into the house and down to her sewing room. "A problem?" I asked her directly as I cautiously approached her.

"I can't do this," she said.

"You can't do what?" I asked.

"My plan for the quilt isn't working," she said.

"But...." I began. I stopped myself from opening up a Pandora's quilting box and waited for her to go on.

"The fabric won't work the way I thought," she said.

"The fabric you bought on our trip?" I asked. I knew what fabric it was, but her moan had caused my own thoughts to become a quilted jumble.

"I'll have to plan something else," she said, as usual answering my question in the parlance of quilt talk.

"But you're all right otherwise?" I asked. She looked fine.

"I have to change my plan," she said.

"I finished putting away the suitcase," I said to change the subject and get me out of any danger her changing her plan might bring to my mind and body, which were held together with only the flimsiest of threads. When quilters change their mind...!


There were several more moans that morning. All were similar to the first. I thought of going in to see if she was in any mortal danger, but the moans were short-lived and stopped before I took one step in her direction. So, it was no surprise when she came up to my desk where I was catching up on paying the bills that had arrived while we were gone. She stood by my side and said, "I have a new plan. Come take a look."

"Now?" I asked. I was still in the middle of wondering why the electric bill had gone up even though we had been gone ten days on our trip and her sewing machine, which used up most of the electricity, was off.

"Now," she said softly. Soft, loud, it didn't matter. It meant I had to stop what I was doing and march into her sewing room and look at the design wall and give my opinion of whatever was on the design wall. Otherwise....

I marched, I looked, I nodded my head in agreement. "Looks fine," I said.

"It's not fine," she said. "I can't use the fabric I bought with this plan. I need another plan."

"How many plans have you made for this quilt already?" I asked as I looked around the room and saw quilting magazines and books open, patterns drawn on graph paper, piles of fabric scattered around.

"Five so far," she said. "And they were all good plans, but either the fabric was wrong or the design was wrong or the colors were wrong."

"Do you have another plan?" I asked.

"I'm working on it. I just wanted you to agree with me that plan five isn't working."

"It's time for another plan," I said, hoping that was the right answer.

"I'll let you know," she said.


An hour ago she came into the kitchen where I was looking through the freezer for an idea for dinner. I had planned to eat the leftover spaghetti, but I wasn't sure it was what I wanted. "It's ready for you to look at," she said.

"I was planning dinner," I said.

"That can wait. You always change your mind five times anyway," she said. She closed the freezer door and yanked on my hand to show me the way back to her sewing room. I have been there so often, I could have been unconscious in an underground ice cave in the Arctic and still found my way there myself. She yanked some more. "Well, what do you think?"

"It works," I said.

"I used the fabric I bought in New England," she said.

"I can see that."

"It's just the right plan," she said.

"It's your sixth plan," I said, counting backwards.

"It definitely is the right plan," she said to me and the quilt pieces assembled on the wall.

"I agree. How about fish for dinner?" That was my second plan.

"I'll let you know," she said. "You know," she added, "It's nice when a good plan works."

"I know," I said. Boy, did I know.

Copyright 2000 by A.B. Silver

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