Night and Day
"Help," she yelped.
"Now?" I asked. I was in the next room, ten feet away, hanging a framed photograph of our grandchildren. I could see her standing by the dining room table. Her body was swaying, and her head was bobbing slightly, but she did not seem to be in any distress that needed immediate attention. I hammered lightly at the nail that held the hook that would hold the frame.
"I need you to see," she said.
"I can see you from here," I said. One more tap of the hammer and I could hang the photo.
"Not me. The quilt." She took a step back and swayed and turned her head from left to right to left and then her face remained still.
"I can see the quilt from here," I said. "It looks fine," I added, assuming she wanted an opinion, but I had learned never to assume too much about her quilts and quilting. I always waited for her to ask my opinion. I put down my hammer and lifted the frame from the floor where it sat and hung the frame on the hook. That was the extent of my crafting skills. I didn't quilt, as she did 36 hours a day, and I avoided all other crafts or variations thereof so I could live in peace. Mostly, I wanted my time to be used wisely in avoiding work. I still knew how to say and write "lethargy."
"Can you block the light?," she asked.
"What light?" I asked. It was mid-morning, and as sunlight swept in through the windows, there was plenty of light and I was sure I couldn't block any of it. "I can see the quilt better in the light. You can see the quilt in the light." That logical statement seemed logical to me.
"I can't see the steps," she said then, apparently changing the subject completely without giving me any kind of notice whatever. That's a quilter, a person whose mind is already in motion, probably free motion with her.
"Which steps?" I asked. I stepped back from the wall and looked at the photo of our grandchildren and stretched my hand forward to straighten the frame.
"The courthouse steps," she said.
"Oh," I said. Now, to tell the truth, which I must always do in our house, I use the word "Oh" a great deal when discussing quilting with my darling quilter. My D.Q. That little word, "Oh," was a sign of respect for my wife's last statement, whatever it may have been. I knew there was some aspect of quilting involved in our relationship at that moment and, regardless of what I thought I understood about what she was saying, I probably didn't understand at all. I had to get into further discussion, ask a few more questions, and finally either get her to explain herself or try to understand it all by myself, a process of communication that caused me to either have a headache or say, "Oh," in the hope of avoiding a headache.
"You have to come look," she said, words that led us back to the very beginning of this conversation.
I walked ten paces and looked. "Now what?" I said.
"What don't you see?"
There was a slight electrical charge in my brain which foretold of a blistering attack on my brainwaves if I tried to make sense of her question, let alone answer it. "What am I supposed to not see?" I asked. It was the right question.
"The courthouse steps," she said.
"You can't see them and neither can I and I just spent a billion woman-hours, hard-quilting hours, making that quilt," she said.
"Because I wasn't blocking the light?" I didn't actually say that. I whispered it to myself in my brain.
"They don't show up in the light, so if you could have blocked itit's all very weird," she said, and now she mused, talking not to me but to herself, staring at the quilt, musing, humming, sighing. Finally she looked back to me. "Wait until dark," she said.
"Is this going to be a scary story," I asked.
"You have to see it in the dark," she said in explanation, yes, an explanation that might make my headache, which had not yet begun to come on fully, go away.
"I can always see better in the dark," I said.
'Look at the quilt and remember what you see," she said.
"And what I don't see."
Later in the day, a short winter day that brought dusk early, when we came into the house after a trip to the market to buy the tomatoes that we forgot to buy on a trip to the market earlier in the day, she set the bag of tomatoes and grabbed my hand and pulled me into the dining room to look at the quilt again.
"Now you can see them," she said.
"Yes, I think I can," I said. "What am I seeing?"
"The courthouse steps," she said, a bit of impatience in her voice. "What did you think you are looking at?"
"The globs all over the quilt?" I asked. I shouldn't have said "globs." She had admonished me time and again not to use nonsensical words when talking about quilting, and "glob" is not a quilting term.
"They are not globs. They are the courthouse steps." She spoke very slowly and very clearly. I heard her.
"Of course," I said, trying to recover.
"It's dark out. There's no sunlight hiding the globs-courthouse steps."
"I can see that now," I said.
"It's the fabric," she said.
"I can see that," I said. "Plainly."
"I tried to match the fabric in the furniture, but the colors don't work in the light."
"Like a vampire," I said.
"Likes the dark better,' I explained, but she wasn't listening. Most of the time she didn't listen when I said something mystical and wonderful even if incomprehensible.
"Watch," she said, pointing her fingers toward the quilt for me to follow with my eyes. I obeyed. I looked, and she went to the wall switch (a movement I could only sense as I was watching the quilt), and she flipped the switch to turn on the overhead lights.
"The globsthe steps are gone." They were gone. Vanished. Disappeared into nothingness.
"Weird, huh?" she asked as she flipped the light switch to off, and the steps reappeared. Off, steps. On, no steps."
"It's a miracle," I said. "A quilting miracle," I added.
"But, I can't keep the lights off forever," she said.
"A magic quilt," I said. "Maybe we could sell tickets, line up quilters at the door, charge to see the on/off quilt. Use the money for more fabric. Maybe."
"It's the fabric and the colors and the light," she said. "No miracle."
"It looks good in the dark," I said.
"I wonder if there's room in the storage closet."
"Frank Sinatra would have liked the quilt," I said."
"Night and Day. Day and night. You are the one." I sang.
"Let's have dinner," she said. "With the lights on," she added.
"You definitely are the one," I said.
Copyright 2006 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Night and Day Quilt"
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