I asked her what she wanted for Valentine's Day. We were engaged on Valentine's Day in 1959, and each anniversary we gave each other something practical.
"A floor," Joan said.
"I adore you, too," I said.
"Not a door, a floor," she said.
"A floor floor?" I asked.
"For standing on," she said.
"We have a floor. We have a floor in every room in the house," I said.
"I stepped on a needle again," she said.
"Go on," I encouraged. As she is a quilter, I have to deal with quilter's logic, and sometimes I get confused.
"It was in the carpet," she said.
"On the floor?" I guessed.
"In the old carpet which is dirty and full of hiding places for lint and thread and pins and needles."
"Ah, hah!" I said, an Ott -Lite bulb fluorescing above my head. "You want a new carpet."
"No carpets. Not old, not new. I want a floor. A smooth floor. I want a floor where needles can't hide and I can see the thread and dust and clean it all in a minute."
"Oh, that kind of floor."
"So I can roll," she said.
"You want to roll on the floor?" I know she didn't want to roll on the floor. She couldn't roll on the sewing room floor anyway. She would bump into the sewing machine cabinet or the cutting table or the ironing board or the small TV in the corner or the old dresser full of fabric. She bumps into them even when she's standing still. It's a crowded sewing room.
"The cabinet has wheels," she said. The cutting table has wheels," she said. "The TV table has wheels," she said. "The stacks of drawers full of fabric have wheels, she said.
"You want to roll them all around?"
"Sometimes I have to move everything."
"The wheels help," I said carefully, not sure where the conversation was going, but I had an inkling (clue, faint idea, foggy idea, glimmering, hint, hunch, idea, impression, indication, intimation, a sneaking suspicion).
"Not on the carpet," she replied faster than her sewing machine needle at a full speed of fifteen hundred stitches a minute. "I want a smooth floor so I can move anything with the slightest pressure of my little finger, with a breath of air squeezed out between my lips," she added.
"You want to stop what you are quilting now and get in the car with me and drive to a flooring store?" I asked. It was really not necessary to ask. There was a tell-tale glimmer in her eyes, a strong hint of desire, a fiery look of excitement and demanding.
"Yes," she said.
"All right," I said, but if she wanted the floor in the shape of a Valentine heartno, I wouldn't suggest that.
We went to the flooring shop.
"Do you have a lot of money," Fred, the floorist, asked. (Why not? Dentist, chemist, florist, floorist. That's what he does for a living.)
"A little," I said carefully. "She spent all our money on fabric," I whispered to him across the rolls on vinyl flooring, past the hardwood, above the tile and slate, by the wood laminate. Darling Wife was running her hands over the ten thousand samples lining the walls of the store. She was a quilter. She had to feel the hand. Fabric had hand, but flooring?
"Beech," Darling Wife called as she kneeled down on a patch of sample floor.
"We can go to the beach this afternoon," I said.
"I want a beech floor," she said. She stood and started to stomp on the floor.
"That's wood," I said when I realized what she was saying. "Wood is expensive."
"It's Valentine's Day," she said.
"Yes, it is," said Fred, the store owner. "And that's wood laminate, not hardwood."
"How much?" I asked.
"Not cheap. Not expensive," Fred said.
"I can roll on it," Darling Wife said.
"Not here," I said.
"It's what I want," she said.
"What about the others, all the different kinds of flooring?" I asked.
"She has a good eye for quality," Fred said. "I'll give you an estimate."
"Can we have it installed before Valentine's Day?" she asked.
"I'll make sure it's in by then."
"The old carpet is dirty and shaggy and full of lint and thread and....." she began.
"And it's hard to roll on," I interrupted.
"Roll?" the good flooring man said, obviously confused at dealing with a woman who quilted, even if he didn't know she quilted.
"The furniture's on rollers," I said, but I was not sure that helped him understand what she or I was saying.
"That will make it easier to move everything when we put the floor in. I'll come by tomorrow and measure the room," he said.
"And the closet," she said. She didn't tell him the closet had five stacks of plastic drawers full of stash, all of them on rollers, too. He would see it for himself, and then she would explain. Hah, would she explain!
The floor was installed yesterday. Afterwards we began to roll all the furniture in. First went her chair. She sat on it and rolled herself across the room, wall to wall, her body a blur, back and forth until she finally, quite dizzily, crashed into her design wall and brought down the quilt she was working on.
"Roll on," I said.
"Bring in the rest of the furniture," she said. "And don't scratch the floor."
Copyright 2005 by A.B. Silver
To see the floor, click here.
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