Where the Wild Quilts Are





"My eyes are broken," she said. She was walking around in a crooked circle in the small space at the bottom of the stairs, leaning one way then the other.

"Sit down," I said, and I helped guide her to sit on the bottom step. After she sat, her head cradled in her hands, I asked, "Now, what about your broken eyes?" I looked at her eyes. They didn't look broken. A little bloodshot, yes, but not broken.

"My eyes are dizzy," she said.

'Well, I can understand that," I said. "You've been quilting all day."

"I haven't been quilting at all," she said.

"You've been up there in your sewing room for nine hours," I said. Oh, she had come down twice for a quick lunch and for tea in the afternoon, but she was thinking quilts during those times so she really wasn't taking a break.

"I wasn't quilting at all," she said again. She rubbed her temples and rubbed her eyes and slapped lightly at her cheeks.

"You weren't sleeping," I said. "I know you."

"I was arranging the blocks," she said.

Now, if a person came up to me on the street and said she was arranging the blocks, I'd smile politely and keep on walking. But being a quilt spouse, a role I had no thought of taking on for most of my marriage to my Darling Wife and which was thrust upon me in order to defend myself against being left out on the sidewalk in front of the first quilt shop she visited three years ago, standing there in the cold with some other bewildered men while she "discovered" the joys of buying fabric, by being that quilt companion, I understood what she was saying.

"So, how long could that take?" I asked. She had already spent weeks and weeks cutting and sewing a lot, many, quite a few, an overwhelming number of paper-pieced blocks for the stash quilt she was working on.

"That could take all day, and it did, and I'm not sure yet if I want to finish the quilt because I can't understand what I'm doing," she said. She hit her knuckles against the side of her head as if to wake herself up.

"Are you sleepy?" I asked.

"I'm wide awake, but my eyes are tired and my brain has become sloppy, and I'm still dizzy."

"All that from quilting?"

"I just told you I wasn't quilting. I was arranging. Do you know what it's like to arrange a zillion blocks into something that looks like something or other."

"No, I don't," I said. I didn't. I never will. I want to keep what sanity I have left.

"And all the colors are dizzifying," she added.

"Dizzy what?" Was that a quilting term I had missed?

"They're mad colors, and when I arrange them in one way, my eyes explode and I have to look away. Then I try to arrange them in another way, and I get vertigo."


"I feel dizzy."

"Then what?" I asked. I patted her gently on the back and urged her to go on. I was getting a little dizzy myself.

"Then I shut my eyes until the feeling passed, but then I opened them again and rearranged the blocks one more time. The design wall spun around and I was a kaleidoscope, and all the colors spun around and the design of the quilt top became wilder and wilder and I got a headache, so I stopped for awhile."

"And came downstairs?" That's where she was now.

"That was four hours ago. I started up again after my headache went away for awhile. Then my eyes finally broke."

'So, you finished the design?" I wasn't sure, but I thought that's what she was saying.

"I didn't say that, but yes, it's finished, but I can't look at it again to make sure because it's too wild and to bright, and too--too something or other."

"You want me to take a look?" I asked. If she were hinting that she wanted me to look, that meant she was finished but wasn't sure she was finished, or something or other. I was never sure. How can a quilter's spouse ever be sure?

"It's not safe for you to look," she said. "Your eyes will swell and burst," she said, a warning in her voice, a plea in her eyes for me not to go upstairs.

"It's dangerous?" I asked.

"It could be. I'm not sure anymore."

"I'll go," I said. Her life was worth the risk.

"Be careful," she said.

"Of course, I will," I said.


I was careful. I moved cautiously up the stairs, hesitated before going into her sewing room, kept my eyes open but narrowed to a small slit so as not to bump into her sewing table or cutting board, and finally I stood in front of the design wall. I covered my eyes with both hands and opened them slowly, parted my fingers a centimeter at a time until I could see the quilt top. I looked and looked, and then I turned away and hurried down the stairs.

"It's a wonder," I told her. I lifted her head by her chin as she sat; then, I moved my hands to rise her up to a standing position.

"A wonder?" she asked.

"A dazzle, a sight, a sparkle, even if it is a walk on the wild side," I told her honestly.

"What's all that mean?" she asked, concern sounding in her voice, her eyes staring me down.

"It means I like it and you like it or you wouldn't have left it up there for me to see."

"You think I like it?"

"Don't you?"

"It's more than I expected," she admitted.

"But a good more," I said.

"You're right about the wild," she said.

"Well, then, it's time to finish it and quilt it."

"Are the colors all right then?"

"All but one," I said.

"Which one?"

"The red in your eyes."


Copyright 2002 by A.B. Silver

Click here to see finished "Wild Quilt"

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