If I had simply asked her what she was working on, my quilting wife would have said something like, "A quilt." So, I had long ago learned to ask my questions more directly.
"What kind of quilt and what design are you using and what kind of fabric are you using and how large is the new quilt going to be and how far along are you?" I did ask that question several months before.
"Just a quilt," she said way back then.
"I'm not sure. I just started it," she said way back then.
"What kind of quilt did you start?" I asked. "And why didn't you finish the quilt long ago?" I asked. She had never taken so long to finish a quilt she had started except when she had decided that the quilt was meant to be unfinished or only in progress. But she had wanted to finish this quilt way back then.
"I've been on hiatus," she said.
"Hiatus? Is that a new quilting term after all this time?" After more than half a dozen years or so, I thought I knew her odd vocabulary.
"It's not a quilting term. It's a break from quilting."
"You're taking a break?" I stared at her with my question fierce and burning.
"I've taken a break from quilting."
"A long break or a short break?"
"I started the big quilt but I stopped it and then I started it, but I'm not making a quilt right now."
"Oh, you're on hiatus, then?" I guessed.
"Sort of like that," she said.
She had been looking for just the right design for a long time, but as she looked she quilted something else and then something else again. Finally, those long months before, she had begun a large table-sized quilt, a simple design, an easy paper-pieced series of squares and diamonds, but as easy as she thought it would be, even though she had prepared the needed 2,080 small pieces and had the design ready, and even though she went to her sewing room faithfully every day, in those many months the quilt had grown very slowly. Occasionally, I used some smart-aleck and clever excuse to wander into the sewing room to see what she was doing, such as, "Did you see a bird fly into the house and up the stairs and into your room?" Not once had she told me she was on a break.
Part of it was my fault. For Mother's day I had bought her a small guitar, light enough as not to hurt her back, a guitar which I hoped would get her back into playing as she had twenty years before when she first hurt her back and had back surgery and had to give up sitting for any great length of time. When she could sit again for short periods, she discovered quilting. Now, years later, I had to wonder if she had taken a new and passionate interest in the guitar, and, as a result, quilting was no longer a driving force in he life. Would that explain a hiatus?
I did worry about her. I worried that without quilting she might find sorrow and, perhaps, madness in her life, but she did keep on quilting, only slowly, quietly, occasionally, without the sprit that had previously filled her soul and brought her rapture. So, was that what the hiatus was all about, to renew herself? She hadn't forsaken quilting. Playing the guitar had not taken over her life. She was pausing, setting up a new rhythm in her daily life, and now, as I stood before her, she beckoned me up the stairs to her sewing room to tell me the hiatus was over.
"The hiatus is over. I just have to do the binding and then I'm done," she said, and she showed me her new quilt.
"Nice," I said. I said it coolly and firmly, dramatically and pleasantly, passionately and gently. I do know how to give my quilter the type of compliment that brings a smile to her face and a shiver of pleasure to her mind.
"It's just a quilt," she said.
Now, it's time for a little secret to be exposed to the world. There is no such thing as "just a quilt." Not in her life. Not in my life since she began quilting. Every quilt is special. Bad quilts, good quilts, great quilts, boring quilts, exciting quilts. None of them was ever "just a quilt."
"And it will be done when? I asked.
"I have to do the binding, and then it's done."
"Is it done now?" I asked three days later.
"Is what done?"
"The new quilt."
"Not yet," she said. Her tone of voice was cool, without interest, without passion.
"Soon?" I asked.
"I have to do some more quilting on it," she said.
"A lot more or a little more?" I asked. Though she was long past taking out a ruler and measuring every space between the quilted lines, the stippling, the meandering, her abiding by the directions on the batting label, six inches, four inches, close quilting, all done to regulation, though she now could tell almost down to the last eighth of an inch what was necessary. Somehow, and I never asked her how, she just knew whether the quilt had enough quilting or not.
"It'll be enough," she said.
"All right. Go for it," I said. Once again I could be the head cheerleader. At least she was quilting again.
"Is it done now?" I asked a few days later when she sat down at the table for dinner. She had spent the afternoon in her sewing room.
"Is what done?" she asked.
"The quilt," I said.
"A problem with the quilting?" I asked.
"No, the quilting's done."
"The binding?" I asked.
"Soon?" I asked.
"It may be a while. I'm on hiatus."
"Hiatus?" I asked, puzzled. Again?"
"Uhhmmm, yes. Pass me the bread."
"You already had a hiatus," I said. She did have one. I just explained that, didn't I?
"There's no limit," she said.
"But you will finish?"
"Of course I will. I'm a quilter."
"All right, then," I said. Oh, yes, all right. I passed her the bread.
She finished the quilt today. She showed it to me. It is a nice quilt. It is splendid. I looked at it for awhile, but then I stopped looking at it when she folded it and put it away. "Do you like it?" she asked.
"Do I have to answer that now?"
"Is there a reason why you can't answer that now?" she asked.
"I'm taking a break," I said.
"From quilting," I said.
"But you have to write about the quilt," she said.
"I will," I said.
"Now, I'm on hiatus," I said.
"Hiatus? You can't be on hiatus."
"You were on hiatus," I argued.
"But you're not a quilter," she said.
"A hiatus is a hiatus," I argued.
"Pooh. Go write something to explain how I came to take so long to finish the quilt."
"You want me to write that now?"
"Other quilters need to have an explanation."
"About what?" I asked.
"About my hiatus. Why I took so long."
"All right," I said. So, there you have it. Hiatus. H-I-A-T-U-S.
Copyright 2006 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Hiatus" Quilt
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