"Hummmm," My Darling Wife said.
"Mmmmmm," I hummed.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Love, honoring, and obeying," I said.
"I didn't ask you to hum," she said, "and we didn't have obey in our wedding vows."
"You told me to hum," I said.
"I said, Hummmmm. I wasn't talking to you, anyway."
"You were talking to yourself again?"
"This is about your new quilt, isn't it?" I asked, knowing a little bit about her quilting mind.
"I'm having a little trouble with the hummingbird," she said. "Maybe I should throw it away and start over."
"Are you asking my advice?"
"Of course not. You would tell me to keep on with it. You demanded this wall hanging. And I wouldn't throw away a hummingbird just because a piece of its wing is missing."
"The bird lost a piece of its wing?"
"I skipped it by mistake. Paper piecing this bird is nearly impossibly. Too many tiny pieces."
"That's what you always say when you paper piece," I said. She did say that. Every time. She said that because there always were too many tiny pieces. I know. She had shown the pattern to me every time she did a paper-pieced project.
"So, let me get this straight. You were saying, 'Hummmmm,' because you were sewing together a hummingbird with a missing wing."
"Just a small part. I can probably fix it."
"Of course you can," I said.
I had chosen her project for her. She had been at a loss after completing her last quilt. I came to her rescue. I wanted a wall hanging to put on the wall where I had dropped and broken a framed print as I was dusting the top of it. It fell and crashed and banged, and the frame broke. I cleaned up the glass and threw out the smashed print. I had a space. She offered a wall hanging. I said I wanted a hummingbird. She agreed.
She went back to her sewing room and I stared out the kitchen window at real hummingbirds which were feeding at the hummingbird feeder I had just refilled with nectar. "Can I scream," she said.
"Say, 'May I,' not 'Can I,'" I said.
"You don't want to hear me scream," she said.
"Something worth screaming about."
"You hurt the hummingbird?"
"I skipped a page," she said.
"Well, go back," I said. I really had no idea of what she was saying or what I was saying, but my sweetheart of many years was a quilter, and when she became a quilter, both our brains were stimulated and gears turned, and life had become a maze with no entrance or exit. In time, I learned to understand much of what she said to me when she talked of her quilting. But not always.
"I cut out all the fabric for the quilt and sorted the pieces out to match the pattern, and I had just enough to make the quilt." She paused, took a breath, and started again. "I skipped a page in the pattern, and I don't know if I have enough fabric now or where it all is now. I put all the fabric back where it came from in a hundred different places. A hundred different places. A hundred ."
"You'll find the fabric," I said.
"Oh, oh, hummmmm," she said.
Three hours later she had found almost all the same fabric she needed. What she couldn't find, she replaced with fabric that looked similar. Who would know? She won't tell. I won't tell. Never.
"I appliquéd the missing piece of the hummingbird. I used fusible webbing to hold it on. But it's not paper-pieced, so I don't know if it's all right."
"It's all right," I said.
"But, the piece isn't paper-pieced, and I can't take the bird apart and fix it."
"I know the rules," I said. "It's all right to have a small piece of a hummingbird appliquéd on." She looked at me, about to hum again, I thought. I stopped her. "It's rule eighty-nine," I said.
"What rule is that?"
"The rule that says you can do what you want. You're making the quilt."
"Oh, that rule. I know that rule." She smiled.
"Will the wing fall off when the hummingbird flies?" I asked--just to be certain.
"I'll sew it on," she said.
"How will that look?" I asked.
"I can't," she said. "Can't, can't, can't."
"Now what?" It was a day later, and as I hadn't heard a sound from her sewing room while she quilted, I assumed the hummingbird was alive and well.
"I was going to do a satin stitch around the surgery on the wing, but it won't look right. It will look badly bad," she said.
"Well, you can do something else."
"I will," she said.
Now, all of this took place during the past week. It was not an unusual week in our house. An unusual week in a week of her quilting would be for everything to go absolutely right. Start, finish. Done. New quilt. Hooray! Even if a quilt took her months, it would be the same. The usual was unusual. Perfection was a fantasy. A fairy tale. Reality was different.
"I'll quilt it so the wing stays on. Maybe some embellishments so no one will notice. No one will be allowed to get close enough to the quilt to see the sorrowful wing."
"Then you're almost done?"
"You'd better really like this quilt," she said in answer. She made a small fist and raised it toward me. (It was big enough.)
"Hummmmm," I hummed.
Copyright 2004 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Hummmmm Quilt"
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