She was bending over the wastebasket in her room. She was breathing out down toward the basket. She had her hands pressed against each side of her head. I watched her a moment.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"Emptying my head," she said as she blew more air out of her lungs. Her breath rippled the paper already in the basket.
"Why are you emptying your head?" I asked. I didn't ask her why she thought she could empty her head. I expected she could do anything. I just really wondered why.
"It's too full," she said.
"Too full of what?" I asked.
"Just too full. I have to have more room in my brain."
"Your brain's full?" I asked.
"I'm trying to learn something new," she said. "I don't think I have any room left to learn something new."
"What are you trying to learn?" I asked. I had been reading lately that the brain can still grow in people our age. We just had to keep on using it. I was using my brain as much as I could to understand her.
"Stack-n-Whack," she said.
"Oh," I said as if I understood her. "You need to empty your brain so you'll have room for something called Stack-n-Whack?"
"Yes," she said. Then she stood herself up straight. She took one more deep breath. "There, I think that's enough," she said.
"You have more room in your brain now?" I asked. Of course she did.
"Now I can face the book again,' she said.
"Is there a new book involved here?" I asked. Of course there was. "A new quilting book?"
"Magic Stack-n-Whack Quilts," she said. I've been reading it all week and I began to try it this morning."
"It?" I asked.
"Stack-n-Whack is a technique for learning an easy way to make a kaleidoscope quilt square. I just started one.
"How do you spell kaleidoscope ?" I asked.
"I just learned the word. My brain didn't have enough room to learn how to spell it."
"You have room now," I said.
"I have to learn how to do things in quilting I never did before," she said. "I need a lot of room in my brain for that. If I have room left over, I'll learn how to spell kaleidoscope. In the meantime, I need to get a new rotary cutter and a new pin cushion."
Somehow she had managed to go from emptying her head to a new quilting shopping list. "You have three rotary cutters and five pin cushions," I said. She had already explained to me months before why she needed so many notions. She needed a small rotary cutter for curves, a medium-sized one for cutting her fabric strips and squares and triangles, and a ripple bladed rotary cutter for, well, ripple cuts. And she had to have several pin cushions. She needed one for needles, one for regular pins, one for regular size quilting pins, and one for long quilting pins. Then she needed three of each so she could have one of each kind by the sewing machine and one of each on her cutting board and one of each near the ironing board.
"I need a large rotary cutter for whacking six or eight layers of fabric at once," she said.
"And I need another pin cushion for the new flower head quilting pins."
"They lie flat," she said. I need to pile up the fabric and pin layers together and see where I'm cutting."
"Why don't you use the yellow plastic ball head pins you ironed over by accident and made flat?" I'm not sure that's what they're called, but it's close enough.
"Do you want a flat head," she said. I didn't get close to answering that one.
"Is that all?" I asked. I never ever should ask that question. She went on to tell me.
That was on the day after Thanksgiving. This morning she went into her sewing room and didn't come out for four hours. I assumed, rather correctly, that she had gotten the hang of the directions and had been whacking away like heck.
"This is crazy," she said when she came out into the real world. Perhaps I had assumed wrongly. But she didn't look upset or bewildered.
"What is?" I was making a sandwich out of a lot of turkey, leftovers from Thanksgiving.
"Learning all these new techniques. Do you know I had to learn how to cut fabric at a sixty degree angle this morning." Her smile was wider than that.
"Sixty degrees? You never cut angles before?"
"I'm a beginner," she said.
"You were a beginner eleven months ago."
"This is new stuff. I'm a beginner to sharp angles."
"You're learning wacky quilting?" I asked.
"Stack-n-Whack," she said. "But it's crazy," she said.
"Stack-n-Whack is crazy?
"No, that makes sense now. It's crazy that my brain is full again."
"You need more room because of learning how to stack fabric and whack it?" If she decided to empty her brain some more, she would probably need a larger wastebasket than we had in the house. I was thinking of our trash cans outside.
"No," I'm fine. I have room for everything I'm learning."
"But what about your brain being full?" I was perplexed.
"I'm stretching it," she said. "I didn't know my brain could stretch to hold so much. And I can spell kaleidoscope," she added. I just bet she can.
Click here to see First Whacks
Copyright 1998 by A.B. Silver
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