She stippled her head off. That is the only way I can describe what I saw when I walked into the living room she had taken over again two days before. She was still at the sewing machine, the quilt was still spread out over the banquet tables, but her head was lying on the floor under the table.
"Are you all right, Honey?" I asked as I bent to look at her face, which was turned up toward me with a smile running from cheek to cheek.
"I'm fine," she said. "Help me up." She batted her eyes, trying to convince me that if I did there was some reward waiting for me.
"Been at it too long?" I asked as I took her head gently in my hands and joined her back together again. Once whole, she blinked a few times and tried out her hands and feet. They worked. With her hands she began pushing the quilt across the arm of the sewing machine, and with her right foot she pressed down on the pedal to get the machine working again.
"I'm fine," she said as she began turning the quilt to guide it under the needle.
"You've been at it too long," I said in the hope of reminding her there was an off button somewhere on the machine.
"I'm stippling," she said as she began stippling. "I'll be through soon."
"Dinner is ready," I said. I had earlier in the day said that lunch was ready, but I put her uneaten lunch away in the refrigerator. She had started work right after breakfast, and, until her head fell off, she hadn't stopped.
"Soon," she said.
"You'll stop soon?" I asked.
"I'll be finished soon,' she said.
All right, I may have exaggerated a little about her stippling her head off, but it was something I was worried about. When, that morning, she decided that her finished quilt wasn't finished, that it "needed something more" before it could be declared finished, I hadn't realized how much stippling she was going to do. Not that I could have stopped her. No one who is married to a normal human being who becomes a quilter has any idea what to do when that happens. And it happened.
"Anywhere I meander, anywhere I stipple," she was singing after her second hour straight working on the quilt." When she starts singing, then I know it is a lost cause to try to stop her. She is in high gear, she is halfway around the track, she sees the finish line and no yellow or red flag will slow her down.
So, I went on with my life, had my lunch alone, went for a walk alone, went shopping alone, and came back into the house in time to find her stippled out of her mind. Drunk on stippling. Out in stippling space somewhere.
So, I waited, delayed eating dinner until she would join me as promised. When she didn't come into the kitchen after I had called three times, I went back to her. "I thought you would be finished soon," I said, trying hard to be stern, to let her know by my desperate tone of voice that I was hungry for dinner and that she hadn't eaten since breakfast.
"I am finished," she said.
"Then why are you still here?" I asked. True, I noticed that the machine was quiet. That her quilt was no longer hugging the sewing machine. That she was all in one piece.
"I'm stippleproofing," she said.
"What?" Another new word to add to my ever-growing quilting vocabulary. I was sure that many of the words she used were not well-known quilting words, if they existed at all. So I waited for her to explain.
"You're not allowed to cross over," she said.
"Oh, I didn't know that," I, the straight man in this comedy routine, said. "Who made that rule?" I didn't understand the rule. I didn't know if there were such a rule.
"Stipplers," she said.
"Stipplers made the rule?" There were other quilters out there, no doubt, who went through strange rituals, recited mystical chants, or otherwise lived in a parallel universe where only quilters existed, but I was not one of the initiated. Only my Darling Wife could guide me toward understanding.
She sighed, that knowing sigh that meant she knew she would have to explain to this outsider what I, as a quilting spouse, should have known all along. "When you stipple you can't cross over any line of stitches that you've already stippled. That's the rule. So I'm checking to make sure there are no crossovers."
"Oh, well, that explains what you're doing. You're just...."
"Stippleproofing," she finished for me.
"And if you find a crossover?" I asked. I am sure there are no quilting terms such as "stippleproof" and "crossovers." But then again, I once thought that "basting" referred to turkeys, "batting" to baseball, and "Wonder-Under" to Victoria's Secret.
"If I find a crossover or two or three, that's all right. I'm allowed not to be a perfect stippler."
"Is that another stippling rule?"
"It's my rule," she said. "Nobody checks all the stippling on a quilt except some stippling critics, and you know what they're like."
"Fanatics," she said with a straight face.
"Anyone who criticizes stippling crossovers is a fanatic?"
"Of course. A quilt is supposed to be fun, not perfect. A quilt is supposed to be finished, not perfect."
So how many crossovers have you found?" I asked.
"I'm hungry," she answered.
"You want dinner now?" I doubted if there was one crossover in her whole quilt, but I wasn't ever going to ask her again.
"I'm done for now. You don't want me to quilt my head off, do you?"
"Of course not. Nope. No. Let's go eat."
Dinner was a little cold, but it tasted fine, though every once in awhile I did find myself looking at my plate to make sure there were no boiled potatoes crossing over the peas and no broccoli crossing over the chicken.
Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver
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