Our niece Jenny had made a donation to the San Francisco Zoo and "adopted" a giraffe in her mother's name as a birthday present, and when Jenny and her mother came to visit last week, Jenny said, "I love giraffes."
"You love all the animals," my darling wife said.
"I love the cat quilt you made me for my birthday," said Jenny to her aunt, this wife of mine. The quilt had been a surprise for Jenny's upcoming birthday in honor of Jenny's passion for her two cats at home. "It's so nice to have a quilt for animals I love," Jenny added. "And now I love my mom's adopted giraffe at the zoo, too." She smiled broadly at my wife.
"Oh-oh," I said. I didn't have to look at my wife to know that she had tensed up a few tiny muscles in her jaw. It was her body's way of showing "request" tension. Not that she didn't love our niece enough to make a second quilt, not that she hadn't made quilts for almost everyone in our family. It was just that her mind and body went berserk for a split second when someone asked her to make a quilt or even hinted at it, and the madness was even more extreme if that person added, "Just a little one," or "Maybe in your spare time" or "Wouldn't that be great of you to do that for me?" Darling Wife most often said no.
No, she didn't say, "NO!" Instead she squirmed a bit, closed her eyes, caught her breath, and said, ""I'm full up for a while," or "if a get a chance, but it might be a long while," or, if the request was from a total stranger, "I'm sorry, but...." And her voice trailed off.
Of course, Darling Wife is generous to a fault, but when she began quilting and people began asking her to make them quilts, she asked the advice of other quilters, and almost all of them said their biggest problem was saying no. It involved time and money and, of course, all that pressure to perform on command. To make a quilt someone asked for would undoubtedly keep her awake at night, keep her tense through the day, and all the while she would be asking herself why she had promised, especially if she herself didn't like the way the quilt was going. Or, more than likely, the problem was that she felt a loss of creativity, and that loss eliminated the passion, and without that passion, there was no desire.
"I need to be in the mood. It takes a long time to pick a project. I would never get around to doing what I wanted the way I wanted." That was what she told me time and again.
Most of all, she wanted her quilts to be a surprise. She wanted them to be her idea, her gift of caring or love, her passing on her joy for that very special occasion. She did give in, however, when our grandchildren were young, if they asked in a way that would press her motivation button, such as, "Grandma, could I have a quilt?"
So, when Jenny said, "You make such nice quilts," my Darling Quilter smiled and nodded. But she didn't volunteer any promise for a new quilt.
When the visit was over and our niece had gone, my wife went back to her quilting. She was in the middle of a baby quilt, the fourth or fifth in a row to give to the new babies that seemed to be popping up everywhere among our extended family and friends.
She quilted day after day, and as she was likely to do, as she neared the finish of her current quilt, she fretted about her next quilt, that project not picked out yet. Until it was, I knew, there would be no peace in the house we lived in.
"I don't know what I want to do next, and it's driving me crazy, so maybe I'll make something in the meantime until I can figure out what to do next."
"That sounds like a fine plan," I said.
"I'll do a giraffe," she said.
"Just one, to keep busy between quilts, a small giraffe for Jenny," she said.
"Did Jenny ask for a Giraffe?" I asked. I did remember something about the zoo, about "Nice quilts," but I had not bothered to keep it foremost in my mind-or anywhere in my mind. My mind was cluttered enough.
"No, it's just an idea,' she said.
"Go for it,' I said.
"Just a small paper-pieced giraffe. I have a pattern somewhere."
"I'm sure you do," I said.
She finished the quilt she had been working on, and she found the giraffe pattern, but the pattern was for a four inch giraffe. "Giraffe's are bigger than this," she said, showing me the pattern.
"Make it bigger," I said.
"I will," she said. In another time, she wouldn't have been able to, but for her last birthday, what she wanted for her present, what she said she needed, what she had to have (and she promised it would be useful to us both) was a copy machine that enlarged up to 400 percent. Guess who got a copy machine? (She did get flowers, too, of course, but they eventually faded, and she still has her shiny copy machine.)
"How's the giraffe," I asked a few days later.
"It's done," she said. "All done."
"Do I get to see it?" I asked.
"Of course," she said, and she showed me her giraffe. It was a cute giraffe.
"Jenny will like this giraffe," I said.
"It's no big thing. It's just a trifle. I could have made it much bigger, but I have to start on my new quilt."
"You have your new project picked out?" I asked. I hoped so.
"No, but I'm working on it. I'll know soon, and then I'll be busy again."
"How busy?" I asked.
"You know how busy," she said, and she gave me a "You know" look.
"Too busy to make me a little quilt?" I answered and asked.
"I thought if I asked you, you'd like to make another quilt for me."
"I don't make quilts on request," she said. "You know that."
"Yes, of course I do," I said. I know that very well. Something about creativity. Something about pressure. "I can wait," I said, and I probably will wait. Maybe if I adopt a gorilla in her name.
Copyright 2005 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Giraffe" Quilt
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