Winner Take All
Lately, my Darling Wife, Mother of our children, Blessed Grandmother, and Sewing Queen, had become a stranger. Oh, I knew who she was. I even knew where she was most of the time. But she had become so entangled in her sewing, her projects, that it was becoming more and more difficult to recognize her. Oh, occasionally I could see some of her face, maybe an elbow or a knee, and yesterday when she went in to shower I caught a blur of skin.
"I'm sewing,' she would say to me when I wanted to stop her for a meal together, a few minutes in front of the TV, a moment before bed.
"I wouldn't have known that by looking at you," I would say. Not only were her clothes good signs of what she was doing, their original look lost to the bits and pieces of thread and fabric that clung all over her, but her hair, too, had lost its graceful gray to become a rainbow of bits and scraps of color, some of which even the owner of the most punk hairdo would envy.
"I look like any person who sews a little," she said, dismissing my attempts to find the original woman I once knew behind that lint and thread disguise.
And I thought she was unique. She had her own peculiar way of looking, and I accepted it along with her need to breathe, eat, drink, and sew. But when last Saturday she took me along to the fabric store to buy a yard of yellow cotton to use in the making of her quilt, I realized she had relatives. Not blood relatives in her family or relatives by marriage. No, she had an extended family that had ties everywhere. Some of them were at the fabric shop.
"So, what are you working on now?" I heard from a woman standing by the dozen bolts of yellow 100% cotton. Each bolt was a different shade of yellow, a different tone, a different degree of brightness. The small woman was up on her toes, stretching herself to reach the top shelf above the yellow bolts. I began to answer that I wasn't working on any projects except sloth, lethargy and indolence, but she wasn't talking to me or my DW, who was getting her yellow fabric. She was talking to a taller woman who was helping bring down a bolt of tan fabric.
I looked at both women. One was wearing a blue flowered print summer dress and the other had on a pink halter-top and white shorts. At least that's what they wore underneath. Attached in some mysterious way to the tall woman's clothes was an array of colored threads and scattered bits of blue fabric. The shorter woman had red strands of thread woven between the auburn hair that curled above her happy face.
"I see by your outfit that you're sewing today," the shorter one said as she took the bolt of fabric and cradled it in her arms.
"I never have a chance to get all the thread off," came the answer. To prove her point, the taller one swiped at her clothes without effect.
"I never can get clean either," she shorter one said. "I don't try anymore."
"I know what you mean. Look at me." She made herself even taller as she as she pointed to a red thread on her shoulder. "That's from a blouse I was making last week."
"That's nothing," said the second. "This piece of batik came from a wall hanging I was quilting last month."
"Where'd you buy the fabric?" asked the tall woman as she touched the batik.
"Here," she said. "In the back of the shop."
"I got this here, too," she said as she pulled off a tiny green thread. "It's Sea Mist."
By this time two other woman and a man had gathered around. I was suddenly aware that I was out of place. My blue T-shirt was clean. My white shorts and white socks were clean. I didn't belong here. Not with these victims of "Sewer's Cling Syndrome." I didn't have a single piece of thread or fabric clinging to my clothes to prove I was sewing something in my life. I was an outsider.
I looked at the small group, all dusted with proof of their sewing, threads and small colored motes of lint, bits of fabric clinging to their lives.
"You've been doing a churn dash," said the man to one of the women. I see the pieces you cut off," he said, approaching her to look more closely at microscopic strips of black and purple on her polka dotted dress.
"Three weeks ago. I finished it and gave it as a wedding present." She fingered the decorative remnant across her waist proudly.
"This is from taking in a pair of slacks," the gentleman said pointing, with just a touch of humble pride in his voice, to a triangular piece of gabardine .
"I have this," a new woman said as she approached. The group widened to let her in. She was pointing to a flowered yo-yo the size of a dime. "It's from a vest I was making eight months ago," she said, but there was sadness in her voice. "I never finished. I got started on something else and never went back."
More people joined in. The voices seemed to get louder then, screaming all around me, each one louder than the next, all pointing and touching and explaining. I looked for my Darling Wife. I saw her just outside the circle of thread-covered humanity. I reached out for her, found her hand, and pulled her into the circle. "Stop," I cried out to the assembled crowd. "Look at this." I turned her around for all to see.
"What is it?"
"I don't see anyone."
"A pile of remnants, that's all."
"Is there someone there?"
"Is this a joke?"
I took hold of the pile of color in front of me, the scraps, the thread, the lint, the dropped stitches, the corners, the ends, the torn selvages, and I shook the woman I love. I shook and I shook until an avalanche of sewing debris fell to the floor and uncovered my Darling Wife.
"She certainly knows how to sew."
"She wins," I said as I pulled her, the bolt of yellow fabric, and myself toward the checkout counter.
It was a unanimous decision.
Copyright A.B. Silver 1998
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