Anisoptera and Friends
It began with our grandkids discovering a pair of golden dragonflies in our backyard.
"Do they bite, Garret (almost 3) asked.
"Do they sting?" Jacob (just turned 4) asked.
"No," this Grandpa said wisely.
"Let's see," said the two boys in unison as they reached toward the dragonflies, and before Grandpa or Grandma could react, they each had one in hand.
"Doesn't sting," said Jacob.
"Doesn't bite," said Garret.
It wasn't long before they let the dragonflies go and turned to Grandma Joan and asked, "Are you going to make a dragonfly quilt?"
"Well, umm, I don't--well, all right," said indulgent Grandma. And that began the search for a pattern.
And she searched and searched until she finally found just the right one. And, as usual, she sighed when she looked at the pattern and saw that it would be another impossible quilt to make. Pieces again. Paper again. She yelped, "It's impossible."
"You're just saying that," I said, having heard her say that too many times before. She could do it. It was just another challenge in a long line of challenges. Her hair wouldn't get any grayer by making the quilt. Her days wouldn't be any happier if she didn't make the quilt. "It's only a little wall hanging," I said cheerfully. "You're between quilts. You should go for it."
"Start driving," she said.
I drove to the fabric shop. "Why are we going to the fabric shop?" I asked, "You already have enough fabric to quilt the world."
"Wings," she said.
"What?" I heard, but I must have misunderstood as we went over a bump in the road just then and all I heard was "Whumph."
"Sparkling organza for the four wings."
"What's organza?" I asked. Was it organic fabric? Genetically modified fabric? Sparkling water?
"It's like organdy," she said.
"A kind of transparent light muslin."
"How come you know that?" I was suspicious of any new fabric, especially if it were not already in our house.
"I looked it up."
"And?" I am very good at asking questions with the word "And."
"And, I need good wings," she said, and at that, she pointed to one bolt of shiny fabric amidst a dozen bolts of other fabric that looked all the same, but her choice was shiny as well as transparent. More important, it sparkled.
"That's it? All done?"
"Half a yard."
"If not, we'll come back."
(We were back a few days later for another half yard, but there's nothing odd about that in a quilter's life.)
She began her groaning that afternoon. These were no groans of agony or pain but groans of anticipation, of foreseeing the future, of looking down the long path of quilting a wall hanging that had her remembering other quilts she had done. They were groans of, "Oh, no, why did I choose this project." I could tell from the sounds.
"For the boys," I said when I realized what the groans meant.
"For all the dragonflies and ponds and fish in the universe," she said.
"Why not?" I asked. Why not, indeed!
"The needle won't go through," she told me the next afternoon.
"Dull needle?" I asked.
"New needle. The section I'm putting together is like steel. Twenty-five pieces sewn through the paper all together. Feel it." She handed me a section of something bulgy and fat and stiff. It felt like steel.
"It feels bulgy and fat and stiff, like steel" I said.
"You think you can get a needle to go through that?"
"Can I use a hammer?"
"You can do it," I said.
"You want to sew it?"
"No." I meant, NO, but she knows what I meant. That's why she's the quilter and I am not. I want my epitaph to read, "I am not the quilter in the family."
"You think a hammer might work?" she asked as she hurried back to her sewing room.
She sewed, switched to a stronger needle to get through the clumpes of fabric and paper. "I'm using a size one hundred needle," she hollered down from her tower. "The ninety broke."
She pieced. She ironed. Well, she ironed some sections. When it came to the dragonfly, she caught herself in time. If she had ironed the sparkling wings, those organza wings made of nylon, she would have doomed the dragonfly to the fate of Icarus, the wings melted by the heat of the iron into a gooey mess. How would she have explained that to the boys? Whew!
And she sewed the next piece and the next, again and again. Hour after hour. Day after day. On occasion (at least twice a day), I asked, "How's it going, Dear Lady?"
Each time she looked at me, snorted, breathed a little fire from her nostrils, then smiled. "It's going," she said.
"All that work for a dragonfly," I said.
"And friends," she said.
"Friends?" Did dragonflies have friends? Not mosquitoes. Dragonflies ate mosquitoes and flies and lots of other things, like nice butterflies and sweet honey bees which didn't need to be eaten in our yard.
"There's a koi in the pond in the quilt," she said. "And a lily pad."
"I like koi." I said, feeling sad as we had just recently lost another one to our local blue heron which thought our pond was a restaurant for big birds.
"If I ever get all the pieces together in any way that resembles the right way, we'll have a nice pond with a dragonfly and its friends."
"With organza wings," I said. I remembered the two trips for the sparkling fabric to help the dragonfly fly away, perhaps to fly somewhere over a rainbow.
"With pieces of wings which still have to be sewn together so I can be finished and everyone will see me in public again and I will be able to enjoy a quiet moment."
"Time to go search for real dragonflies with the boys," I said.
"They'd better not look for ants or spiders," she said.
"Spiders!" I exclaimed. Then you could make a spider quilt," I suggested.
"Go outside," she said.
I went. By our pond there were three dragonflies sitting along a blade of an iris plant. I smiled at them. I waved at them. "She's making you a quilt," I said. "For you and your friends." They smiled back. At least, I think they smiled. Why not?
Copyright 2004 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see the paper pieces before piecing.
Click here to see "Anispostera Quilt"
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