"Squarelight, Square bright, first square I've seen tonight," she recited.
"Starlight, Star bright," I corrected.
"Not for this quilt," she said.
"What quilt?' I asked.
"The new 'I Spy' quilt I began several weeks ago."
"I thought that was when you were just looking," I said. I have learned through hard experience that there are many different phases in quilting. The phase she was in several weeks before, for just about every waking moment, and sleeping moment, too, no doubt, had been the "looking for a new project" phase. That meant, of course, I didn't see much of her, I didn't hear much of her, and I didn't pay attention when she must have said she had found a project she could live with. No, that's wrong. She had long before stopped making quilts she could live with and had begun making quilts she wanted to live with.
"I stopped looking two weeks ago when I found the pattern in the new Australian magazine I bought, Naive and Country Quilting. Two weeks ago I began doing all the fussy cuts. I chopped up a lot of my novelty fabric so our grandsons can look at the pictures on the fabric and learn more words and enjoy the quilt."
"I didn't hear you tell me that," I said.
"When I mentioned it, you tuned out," she said.
"I never tune out. I must have been thinking about the fires in Colorado or the floods in Texas." We don't have any money in the stock market so I didn't think about that at all. After all, my very Darling Wife said fabric was better than stock and it always kept its value and you could pass it to our children without having to pay fabric inheritance tax. Of course, the way she was cutting up all the fabric there might not be any left to pass on anyway.
"Whatever," she said. I don't know where she picked up that teenage phrase, having given up being a teenager too many years ago, but that's what she said.
"So are there stars in it?" I asked, getting back to her nursery rhyme.
"There are no stars in it," she said.
"I said squares. Are the squares out tonight?" she said.
"Is that a question?"
"Squares shine over Alabama," she said.
"I think you've been quilting too long," I said, a bit worried. "How about a vacation from quilting for a year or two?" She definitely needed a rest.
"Square Wars," she said. "Squaredust. The Squares and Stripes forever. The Square Spangled Banner."
"Who? What? When? Where?" I asked, the journalist's four questions. "And why?" I added.
"Are you talking to me?" she asked.
"I'm going to take a long walk," I said.
"I'm going back to my quilt," she said.
Two hours later, after her return to her sewing room and I returned from my long walk, she came down the stairs as I walked into the house. She was rubbing her eyes. She was walking funny. She listed from side to side. She opened and closed her eyes and rubbed at them.
"Are you all right?" I asked, reaching out to steady her. I helped her to the sofa and sat her down.
'My eyes hurt," she said. "I keep seeing squares."
"You keep seeing stars? Did you bang your head? Fall down?"
"Not stars. Why do you keep talking about stars all the time?"
"I said squares. I keep seeing squares. For two weeks I fussy cut one hundred and eighty squares with pictures in them. I just finished the last of them. I told you all that. Done."
"Ah," I said, pretending to understand. "You've been cutting squares."
"You need a hearing aid," she said.
"Lemonade?" I asked. "Do you want some lemonade?"
"I cut out one hundred eighty four-and-a -half-inch squares. You're going deaf and I've already gone square crazy."
"This has something to do with the fussy cuts, doesn't it?" I asked, suddenly remembering that she had been mentioning them to me all week.
"No, this has to do with your wife seeing everything through a square hole in a piece of template plastic for two weeks. Now, I'm done with that. But I keep seeing squares everywhere. You're head looks like a square without a template."
"But you're done now and you can rest, and my head will go back to being round again?" I hoped.
"No. Now I have to cut out seven hundred twenty one-and-a-half-inch squares."
"That's a lot of squares," I said, trying to help.
"I know that's a lot of squares. That's more squares than I ever cut out in my whole life at one time before. And they're all tiny, and when I'm done cutting them all out I have to fold them in half and press each one so I can sew along the diagonal crease when I attach all the little squares to the fussy cut square squares," she said in one square breath.
"Wow!" I said.
'Then I'll have snowballs and I can finish the quilt."
"Snowballs? What about all the squares? Snowballs are round," I said, guessing, hoping that snowballs were still round, though it had been several years since I had made a snowball, and I couldn't really be sure any more. As we were talking about quilting, I couldn't be sure of very much.
"I'm making a snowball quilt. You know that," she said.
"But, I thought...I thought you...I thought you said you were making an I spy, I spy, spy quilt," I sputtered, confused.
"I am. And why are you talking funny?"
"You told me you were making an I Spy quilt and then you told me you were making a snowball quilt. So, which is it?" I looked her straight in her square eyes.
"Both," she said. "It's a snowball-I spy quilt."
"No, no, no," she yelled the next day.
"What? What?" I yelled up the stairs. I ran up the stairs slowly, which was as fast as I could go.
"That show," she said. "I just was changing channels," she said.
"What show?" I looked at the television set. It was off.
"Hollywood Squares," she said.
"Not a good show for you right now," I said.
"So, how's it going?" I asked at lunch the following week or month or year. She was not following any calendar, telling me each day what day it was by telling me how many very small squares she had cut out.
"Seven hundred twenty," she said, her voice square, her tone exhausted.
"You're finished?" I asked, changing that question quickly when she gave me a deadly look. "You're done?"
"I'm done in," she said.
"But no more squares. The squares are ended?"
"Don't ever ask me to go square dancing or to the village square," she said.
"How about a square meal?" I asked.
"I remember that," she said.
"Remember what?" I asked.
"Going on tour of the old ship in Portsmouth, England, where the guide explained how the sailers had to eat their meals on square boards with sides on them so the food wouldn't fall off when the ship went up and down and from side to side in the rough seas."
"Three square meals a day," I said, remembering.
"That doesn't have anything to do with my quilt," she said.
"No, it doesn't." I agreed. She looked at me. I waited.
"I still have to sew all the squares together," she said.
"Into snowballs?" I asked.
"Of course," she said, her tone telling me I had better eat my lunch, square meal or not.
"Munch, munch," I munched.
She finished on Friday. She told me Saturday morning. "I'm finished," she said as she sat down at breakfast.
"Congratulations! Where is it?"
"I can't show you yet," she said.
"I have a few final touches to make before I can show you."
"But you're finished and you're in a good mood," I said. She had a quilter's 'I finished the quilt' good-mood look.
"I'm always in a good mood," she said.
"Yes, but more so now that you're all squared away," I dared to say.
She heard what I had said, but it took her a moment to respond.
"Ouch," I said, rubbing my nose.
"That should square things," she said.
Copyright 2002 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Snowball-I Spy Quilt"
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