"As gut limp ups mhy noise," she said. And then she sneezed. It was a sneeze heard around the world.
"Bless your small but compact head," I said.
"Lass ub lim," she said. And she sneezed again.
"You have lint in your nose and it's making you sneeze?" I guessed.
"Quilt fever," she said.
"Lint from the fabric?" I guessed. Actually, I wasn't guessing. I knew my quilter. Sometimes there was lint. Lint made her sneeze. But it was a very loud sneeze, which was unusual.
"The fabric," she said. "Soft wonderful fabric, but when I rip it, the lint finds a new home in my nose."
"I thought it was the unusually warm weather and the wind blowing the particulate pollution in the air," I said.
"It was the fabric that was dyed in some country where they add wonderful colors to the cotton and the colors find a way to envelop my life.
"But you said you thought it was the pollen and the leaves falling and the wind," I said.
"I only thought that until I put two and two together and discovered the I only sneezed when I was in the sewing room."
"But there's always lint in the sewing room," I said.
"I wet-mopped the floor and cleaned the blinds and scrubbed down every surface yesterday, but that didn't help."
"So how are you going to finish the quilt?" I asked,
"I'll sneeze," she said.
And she did sneeze. For days and days, she sneezed. Only when she left her sewing room and reentered the rest of the world did her sneezing stop. "Is it worth it?" I asked.
"I stopped ripping fabric, so now I should stop sneezing. Now I have to sew and sew and snip and cut and sew some more. No sneezes allowed."
"All right," I said, and, with my permission, she stopped sneezing. Actually, my permission had nothing to do with it. Her quilting and my thinking I can give permission for her about anything have nothing in common. She does what a quilter does. She does what she wants.
"My hands hurt again," she said. It was five days later, and as she sat down at the kitchen table, she rubbed her thumbs and fingers and palms and knuckles and fingertips.
"Take a break from quilting," I suggested, a suggestion which in the past eight years never had any effect on her quilting.
"It's my bones and it's my muscles. Arthritis and other hand stuff," she said.
"It might be arthritis, or it might be muscle loss, or it might be strains or worn out parts," she said.
"What do you think?" I asked.
"I think I'll get the cream the doctor suggested I try."
"The chili pepper cream?" I asked.
"I'm seventy," she said. "If chili can help, I'll try it."
"Not chili beans, though?" I asked.
"Let's go to the drugstore," she said. "Then I have to get back to my quilt."
"You're not going to take a break at all?"
"No," she said. Actually, she didn't just say 'No.' She added a few dozen more words, a few of them best left out of any description of what she said, but I got the message. We went to buy some cream for her hand stuff.
"The directions say it might take four to six weeks," she told me after she read the direction on the tube of chili pepper cream.
"But you're not going to wait?"
"Wait? Wait? Do you know or do I know any quilter in the middle of making a quilt who knows the meaning of the word wait?"
"Sorry," I said.
"Unscrew the cap on the tube of cream for me," she said.
"The cap's on tight?" I asked.
"My hands," she said.
"No need to explain," I said, and I unscrewed the cap. She squeezed out some chili and rubbed into onto her thumbs and hands.
"Can you quilt now?" I asked, just in jest, but she was not in a jesting mood.
"It makes my hands hot. Hot hands make good quilts," she said.
"Is that an old quilt saying, or did you just make that up?" I asked.
"Four to six weeks," she said, and she was gone. I screwed the cap back on the tube of cream.
Our children came to visit in shifts from the middle of December until New Year's Day. They came, we celebrated birthdays and holidays and opened gifts and went for walks and ate too often and too much. The family visits were welcome, wonderful, and over too soon. But they were bad for her quilt.
"I need to get back to the quilt," she wailed from time to time.
"After the holidays," I said. "We agreed," I added.
"I thought I'd have some time to work on the quilt."
"The time off will help you get back in shape. Your hand stuff will get less stuffy. You won't have to sweep and mop your sewing room every ten minutes to keep the dust and lint from tearing your nose off."
"I haven't sneezed much at all," she said.
"See. The kids and grandkids all helped make you a healthier person."
"I have a quilt to finish," she said, and from time to time, when I wasn't looking, when the house was temporarily empty of visitors, she disappeared up into her sewing room for a few moments. I suspected she might be quilting, but I was never sure.
And then it was New Year's Day and everyone was gone and the house was still and she told me, "I'm dizzy."
"Dizzy dizzy or just dizzy."
"I've been looking at the quilt too much."
"I thought you weren't quilting," I said.
"I didn't want to worry you."
"But you're dizzy. That worries me."
"It's not a bad dizzy."
"There's a good dizzy? Do you need to sit down and put your head between your knees and take a lot of deep breaths?"
"The quilt makes me dizzy. It's optical."
"As in illusion."
"You didn't make a quilt? You made an optical illusion?"
"You'll see. Now ask me how my nose is and how my hands are."
How are you?" I asked. That question included all the questions in my mind.
"I'm fine. Do you want to see the quilt?"
"You finished the quilt? When? You said...?"
"I'll show you the quilt. Then you have to hang it up on the wall for me."
"You finished the quilt?" I asked again to no purpose. She, of course, had just answered my question.
"My hand still hurts, but not as much," she said, and she led me up the stairs to her sewing room and showed me the quilt.
I looked at the quilt. I looked away. I looked at it again. My head began to swim. I felt dizzy. Then I didn't feel dizzy. I felt confused. I looked at the quilt. "It keeps changing," I said.
"It's supposed to. It's an optical illusion."
"You're hand still hurts?" I asked.
"Not as much."
"Happy New Year," I said.
"Hang it up," she said.
"I'll need the ladder."
"All right, but don't get dizzy."
I hung the quilt on the wall at the end of the hall and I didn't get dizzy and fall off the ladder.
When it was hung and we both stood and looked at it, she said, "Now I need a new project. I really do need a new project." And then she sneezed.
Copyright 2007 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished ""Gotta Quilt" Quilt
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