"The walls need quilts," she said.
"What?" I asked. I didn't think before asking the question. It was an automatic response to certain types of sounds that came out of her mouth. Almost all sounds that related in some way to her quilting.
"They're so bare," she said. "Don't you think so?"
"I think your mind is bare," I said. Lately, I had been thinking up dozens of new responses to use on her when she made some reference to the life she had left behind for a month. It was at her request.
Four weeks before, she had promised that on our trip to England she would need all the help she could get to keep her mind off quilting. Though we visited seven quilt shops and bought several "foreign" quilt magazines published in Britain and Australia, she had been faithful to her promise to enjoy the trip and not think about all the quilting she had waiting at home. But as the weeks went on, her pledge of abstinence became more difficult to uphold. More and more she was thinking quilts. Five days before we were to come home, she began to crack.
"War is hell," she said.
"Yes, I agreed, thinking about NATO and Serbia and Kosovo as we walked in tunnels dug deep into the White Cliffs of Dover where the British command was set up during the Second World War. We were at Dover Castle in Dover England, on tour of the underground tunnels where brave people had spent years defending freedom.
"It would have been better if there had been quilts on the tunnel walls," she said.
"You're probably right," I said, thinking of the horror of the bombing made lighter by a bucolic farm scene quilt hanging from the chalk walls.
A day later her absence from quilting got her going again. "They need quilts down here," she said.
"What?" We were in one of the deep underground tube stations below Picadilly Circus waiting to board the next train that came along.
"All these underground tube tunnels," she said, "they should have some nice quilts on the walls instead of all those travel posters."
"Quilts in the stations?" I asked, knowing full well what she was suggesting.
"Why not? Every time people go underground they could see Amish quilts and watercolor quilts and Stack-n-Whack quilts and paper-pieced flowered quilts, and even Sun Bonnet Sue quilts. These walls would be great for hanging quilts."
"Good idea," I said as a train roared into the station.
She said the same in Paddington Station where we waited for an early morning train to take us to the English countryside.
"Up there," she said as she pointed up at the huge board that listed the train schedules and the platforms the trains would depart from.
"Up there, what?" I asked as I looked for our train.
"Quilts," she said.
"I don't see any quilts," I said.
"Not yet, but if they put quilts up there all the people waiting would have something to look at until their train information was posted."
"That's true," I agreed as I looked at the hundreds of people with their heads craned toward the signs above. I looked up and imagined the a row of giant quilts, but then I got a stiff neck.
"Quilts in every window of Harrods," she said as we passed by one of the world's most famous department stores. "Everyone knows what a department store sells inside," she hurried on. "Instead of all that furniture and the clothes and the exotic gifts, there can be a nice quilt in each window. Thousands of people pass by here every day. They could look at quilts from all over Great Britain and the rest of the world."
"I'll put that idea in the suggestion box," I said as I hurried her past the store before she wanted to go in and find out that the famous food halls needed quilts in the bakery or meat market or tea shop.
"Do you think someone could make a really big quilt," she said.
"Maybe a guild or several guilds working together," she said.
I looked around for a wall or a fence she might have just chosen for another quilt site there in London. All I saw was the Parliament Building and the tower that held Big Ben. "Oh, no," I said.
"Oh, no, what?" she asked.
"No one wants to hang a quilt up there," I said.
"Not there," she said. "Don't be silly. I was thinking about the fence around Westminster Abbey."
"You want to hang quilts around Westminster Abbey?" Why not. She would make a quilt to hang from London Bridge if she had the chance.
"It's an idea," she said.
I had been wrong to think that spending a month away from her quilting, away from her stash and sewing machine, away from her books and supplies, away from her Internet quilt lists, would turn her into an ordinary tourist. Nothing about a quilter is ordinary. Even though she had pledged, promised, affirmed, and even sworn on a copy of Quilt Magazine that she would not think about quilting while we were in London, she had succumbed, given in, surrendered. Her blood, made up mostly of fabric and thread, was thicker than any watery promises.
Now that we are back home and she is busy finishing up a quilt she had begun before we left, she hasn't said a word about decorating England with quilts. But just because she hasn't mentioned it doesn't mean she hasn't been thinking about it. This morning I saw her look at the photos we had taken on our trip, and every once in a while she looked at one a long time and sighed. After the seventh sigh I asked her what she was thinking. "What are you thinking?"
"Oh, nothing much. I was just remembering when we went to Greenwich and stood on the time line where the sign said the millennium was going to begin.
"Maybe I should make a millennium quilt and send it to them...."
Copyright 1999 by A.B. Silver
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