Then and Now




"Sit still," I said.

"I am sitting still," she said.

"No, you're not sitting still," I said. "You want to leave."

"No, I don't want to leave."

"Then finish your lunch," I said.

"I am finished," she said.

"No you're not," I said.

"I'm full," she said. "I have to go now."

"You want me to save the rest of your lunch or dump it?"

"Save it." With that our conversation was over. With that the kitchen chair was left empty. With that she ran to the sewing room, a woman on a mission, her sewing machine already humming before I took my next bite.

She had not always been like this. She used to stop and smell every flower in our neighborhood. She used to walk alongside me and talk to me about the earth, the sun, nature, our children and grandchildren, the neighbors, old friends, life in general. Now I wondered if there ever truly was a time when she didn't live, eat drink and breathe, quilting. Oh, we still walked and talked, but somehow the conversations have changed. The leaves on the trees in our local park are beginning to turn, and she notices them, of course, but where before she said, "I love the way the leaves turn red and yellow and flutter to the ground," she now says, "I think I'll put autumn leaves around the border of the quilt." When she bends over to admire a pansy, planted for winter bloom in our mild climate, she now says, "This would make a great design for a miniature quilt."

When a cat crossed our path as we walked in our neighborhood, she used to say, "Remember the cat we had the first time I was pregnant?" Now she says, "I read about a woman in Rhode Island who had a cat that chewed up and ate ten yards of fabric the woman had left on the front porch as she carried groceries into her house. Then the cat coughed up colored cotton balls for a month."

"Do you mean hair balls?"

"Cotton balls," she insisted.

What would they be if the cat chewed up a quilt?" I inquired.

"Quilt balls. What else?"

"Where did you read that?" I asked.

"In one of the quilting magazines."

"Sounds like the "National Quilting Inquirer," I said.

Yes, we used to talk about the books and the magazines we read, the newspaper stories. But that was then and this is now. Lately, the books she reads are all about quilting. The magazines are overwhelmingly quilting. And though she does keep abreast of current events and watch the evening news, she is quick to wonder aloud how the fabric on the newscaster's dress could be cut into pieces to Make a Colorado Star or a Drunkard's Path. Actually, she does listen to the news as she quilts. And when she learned from the national weather report that winter was just around the corner, she hoped that there were enough warm quilts for every bed in every state where the temperature drops below fifty degrees. Then she mused aloud, "I wonder what kind of quilts they make in Canada?" She wants to go there to find out.

She also talks of visiting all 50 states. I suspect that she has hidden away somewhere a list of all the quilting shops in each state. I'll be very wary when she gets that look in her eye and says, "Honey, let's go for a ride," as she points on the map to Paducah, Kentucky, which is just about 2000 miles from our kitchen."

I finished lunch, cleaned up for both of us, and went to get my Darling Wife. It was time to shop for food. Usually she would rather organize her stash of fabric than shop for food, and I would go alone, but she had asked to go along this time to get out of the house and away from making bias strips for her unicorn appliqué.

"Sometimes, I need a break," she had said to me earlier.

Sometimes she did need a break, but to me a break meant getting her away from herself, getting her away from the house, getting her away from the rotary cutter, away from her thinking about cutting the bed sheets into a thousand tiny triangles and squares and strips. No way! And, of course, five minutes into the drive to the market she began getting anxious to go back home. Her anxiety showed up as she started to tap the dashboard.

"Everything all right?" I asked. She squirmed on the seat.

"How much shopping do we have to do?" she asked.

"Only as much as you want," I said.

"We only need a few things," she said. She tapped and tapped.

"All right," I agreed. Actually we needed a lot of things, and shopping would take at least an hour, but I understood her tapping, her squirming.

So, I was not surprised when we were in the market only five minutes and she said, "I have what we need." She had put three apples in the shopping cart.

"Nothing else?" I asked. I knew there would be nothing else. She was looking intently down into the cart.

"Do you think this would make a good quilting design," she asked.


"This cart. Look at the way its made. Look at the chrome-plated design."

"It's just a shopping cart," I said.

"Well, it has a nice design. Maybe I can make a wall hanging that looks like a shopping cart and appliqué some apples into it." She was very intent as she examined the cart.

"I'll drop you off home and you can go back to your ironing board or your sewing machine or your stash collection," I said.

"But what about the shopping?" she asked. She used her fingers to measure the mesh of the cart.

"I'll come back and do the shopping," I said.

"You don't mind?"

"Not if you have a lot of cutting or piecing or sewing or quilting to do."

"I just have to finish a few things," she said. "Then we can go for a walk later when you come back from shopping."

"A walk?"

"It's fall. We can take a nice walk and look at all the flowers in the neighborhood. Don't you ever notice how many flowers are in bloom right now?"

"Sounds fine to me," I said. "We might even take the time to smell them," I added.

Copyright 1998 by A.B. Silver

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