Graduation Day




"I graduated!" I heard her voice reverberate throughout the house. If I had been in another country I still would have heard it. The windows rattled, the doors swayed on their hinges, the walls rocked from the blast of those two words. I jumped as I stood before the quaking mirror in the bathroom, my face well-lathered, my razor inches away from accidentally removing the beard I had worn for the past twenty years. I dashed (and no it wasn't Santa on the rooftop this middle of April) toward the sewing room, the only place from which the sound could have originated.

"What in-" I began as I looked for some reason for the volume of my wife's scream.

"I graduated," she said again, more softly now, gentle now, and if the volume wasn't in her voice it was in the shiver of pleasure that rippled her body.

"You graduated over many, many years ago," I said, calm, reasonable.

"No, not that. I graduated in my quilting."

"What do you mean you graduated in your quilting? You're not in any class."

"I heard the dull," she said. Her voice was joyous.

"You heard what?" First she was insanely loud. Then she made no sense that I could discern. Now she was babbling some nonsense. What did quilting do to change a normal woman into what my wife seemed this moment to have become, a lovely but incoherent inhabitant of the Tower of Babel?

But I never wonder long. "I heard the needle," she said.

She was definitely out of any touch with reality, at least the reality I knew. I wondered that moment again, ever since that first moment when she had taken up quilting, if there were such a thing as a quilter's asylum. If there was none for her, maybe there was one for me. "What sounds do needles make?" I asked in a very normal, if dubious, tone of voice.

"I heard the dull," she said again.

"Would you like a glass of water?" I asked. I looked at her sewing machine to see what she had been working on, to get some clue as to what she was saying. On the sewing table was another quilt. "Maybe some hot tea to relax you?" I asked. I really wanted to bring her back from outer space where she was probably riding on a comet.

"I heard the clunking," she said.

"You heard the clunking? What clunking?" That at least made some sense. Did she graduate clunking school?

"The sound of dull," she said, still cryptic.

"So tell me about your graduation?" I asked, trying to bring her back to the reason for her scream of glee minutes before that must have awakened every Emergency Room Technician for miles around.

"I feel like a master," she said.

"You have another master's degree?"

"Just my own degree in quilting. I finally know what they were all saying. And now I can do it." She was firm in her commitment to make things clear to me.

"Now you can do what?" I asked. I was still in command of my "cool."

"I can hear when the needle is dull. It makes a clunking sound going through the material."

"You can hear the needle going through the fabric, and you can hear it make a clunking sound when the needle's dull?"

"I just said that," she said. "I didn't believe it when Claire (our quilting daughter-in-law) said she could hear the sound a dull needle makes. I didn't believe it when some of those people in the Internet quilting groups said they could hear when a needle was dull. But it's true. I heard it."

"Oh, so this time you graduated needle school?" I assumed she would now want a graduation present. She had wanted presents when she had "graduated" block school, paper-piecing school, log cabin school, ripping fabric school, bias school, appliqué school, binding school, batting school, on and on and on.

"Yes, I feel I've graduated."

"And so what does that mean?" Was this some turning point in her life, our lives together? I expected a profound graduation speech now. She was my chosen valedictorian.

"It means it's time to change the needle." She looked at me. "What did you think it means? I'll have that tea now."

Copyright 1996/2005 by A.B. Silver

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