She had the best of intentions.
"I'm going to do another queen," she said.
"You said you were through with large quilts," I said.
"I was, but I have time and room now."
"You said you were going to rest after everyone went home and the house was clean again," I protested. She needed her rest. The holidays were over; the thirty truckloads of trash and debris had been hauled off; the wrapping paper from 100,000 gifts in the recycling bin; her promise to never again have two weeks straight of kids and grandkids and relatives and neighbors turn the house into a room and board and playground had been made over and over again.
"I'll never be rested again," she said, "but I have to quilt. I have to quilt a big quilt and not think about anything else in life for awhile. You're in charge of everything. Good-bye," she said and she escaped into her sewing room.
"You'll be back," I said behind her. I hoped so.
She came back in an hour and held a pattern in her hand, a photocopy of a geometric design. To me it looked as if she were holding a paper full of scribbles. "I have a thousand scraps to use up and I'm going to make a thousand blocks like these and arrange them in some way and sew them into a large quilt,"
'You came out of your sewing room to tell me that?" I asked. I felt her brow for a fever.
"I'm going to do something that I've never done before, and I need your opinion."
"Go ahead," I said. I was puzzled but cooperative. I didn't know yet how much the commotion and chaos of the holiday had affected her brain, and I didn't want her to fall any more apart than she already seemed to be.
"I think know what the block will look like, but I need four blocks to make a square and then I have to sew a lot of squares together but I don't have any idea for a design."
"You want my opinion on a design?" I asked. I couldn't design an ink spot.
"No. I just want to know if it's all right if I don't have a design and make the quilt anyway."
I felt her brow again. "You don't have a fever," I said. "Maybe you should take a nap."
"That's not the kind of opinion I wanted. Do you think I should go ahead. I might make a mess of it and use the scraps."
"Go ahead. You have too many scraps," I said. Actually, I only said "Go ahead." The rest of the words stayed in my mouth and rattled against my teeth. I would never say anything like that. Even if I had a fever....
"And I'm going to try some different colors," she added.
"A queen-sized quilt without a design and different colors? Is that right?"
"Thanks. Wish me luck."
"Luck," I said. She went back upstairs to her sewing room and I went out to take down the holiday lights.
The next day she called me to come upstairs to see what she had begun on her queen-sized quilt. She had several blocks on her design wall. "What do you think?" she said.
I hesitated before I answered, for she rarely called me upstairs into her Land of Quilting Oz at this early stage of a quilt. She said I was too honest and too critical and too picky and if I said the wrong thing about what she was doing it might hamper her creativity and dampen her enthusiasm. "What do YOU think?" I asked just to be safe and to have enough of my life left to enjoy the new year.
"I'm not sure," she said.
"I like the colors and I like the design," I said in my always honest way (which, as I've said, can be dangerous in the vicinity of a committed quilter).
"They look all right now. How do I think they'll look in a big quilt?"
"Why don't you ask yourself?" I said. I wasn't going there or anywhere. I wanted to be back downstairs where I could vacuum the rug or take out the garbage, two tasks which though not much fun-or any fun-were at least safe.
"I'll make it a little and see," she said.
"Good," I said. "I like it so far," I added as I backed out of the room.
"So far," she said.
A quilter's scream is sometimes quiet and barely audible. That's why I didn't hear her the following day when she came into the kitchen. I sat sipping tea, reading the comics, a blueberry muffin half eaten in my hand. I munched away as she sat down next to me.
"That's all you have to say?" she asked.
"About what?" I asked.
"The quilt. I just told you how I feel about it."
"Oh, the quilt," I said. "Tell me again. I was chewing and I didn't hear every word." I didn't hear any word.
"I'm not sure about it anymore," she said. She grabbed the other half of my muffin, took it all in one bite, sipped at my tea, and waited for me to reply.
"Do you want some tea?"
"I want to know if I like the quilt so far," she said.
"Do you like the quilt so far?" I asked.
"I like the color and the design, but I don't think I want to make a whole queen-size quilt. That will just make the part I already finished bigger, and bigger isn't always better."
'You like what you finished so far?" I had to be clear about this before I committed myself to any future conversation. I had already lost half my muffin.
"Go take a look," she said. "I'll have some tea."
"You want me to make you a cup?"
"No, I'll just finish yours."
I went to take a look and came back. "It looks good so far," I said. I liked the colors and the design as much as I had before.
"I'm going to make it smaller," she said.
"Smaller than it is now?"
"No, just not a queen. Maybe a double or smaller."
"Right on," I said.
She finished the quilt this morning. Only it's not a bed quilt. It's a runner quilt. It fits perfectly on the cabinet in our hall where we keep some of the family photos.
"I was going to make it a UFO or put it in the someday pile or just wait until next year to finish it. But when I put the new photos up of the grandchildren, the bare wood called out to me for a quilt to keep it warm,. and when I measured the counter, it was exactly the same size as the squares I already completed, so I quilted it and put the binding on, and it's a perfect quilt." She spoke proudly. It was now 2002 and she had complete control of the new quilting year.
"But it's not a queen," I said to test her mood. Was she disappointed, frustrated, angry?
"It's a little queen," she said. "It's just right."
"It's the littlest queen-sized quilt I ever saw,'" I said.
"Nothing wrong with a small queen-sized quilt," I said. Nothing wrong at all.
Note: Darling Wife says she certainly did not eat the other half of my muffin.
Copyright 2002 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Littlest Queen Quilt"
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