Patchwork, Anyone?




She had her resolve. Quilting came first. Quilting was everything. The only thing her sewing machines knew for the past three years was how to punch holes in fabric and stitch things together that wanted to be a quilt or a wall hanging quilt or a pillow top quilt or a pot holder quilt or a cozy quilt or.... Top. Batting. Bottom. In the beginning was the word, and the word was quilt.

But there was another word or two words or three. "Please, Grandma. Pleeeeasssse." This was the plea of one of our five grandchildren, all these children forgotten, exiled, lost in time when the sewing had ended and the quilting begun, but she, Shira, was pleading to be forsaken no more. "It's only a little bit of sewing," she said. "You can still quilt right after."

"Your mother can do it," she said.

"Your mother should do it," I said as I picked up the telephone and listened in on the conversation.

"She doesn't have a sewing machine," Shira said,

"Yes, she does," I said. I remember taking it to her when my good wife was quick and relentless in her bid to have a new sewing machine for herself, and ridding herself of the old sewing machine by giving it away to our daughter would assure a new one in a rather quick amount of time. In fact, Darling Wife had that new sewing machine in no time at all.

"The fish won't let her use it," Shira said. They say (whoever THEY are) that out of the mouths of babes comes wisdom. But Shira was now eight, and I could make no sense of her last statement, wise or not.

"What fish?" asked my Darling Spouse, in that voice she knew how to use to uncover the secret meanings from the mouths of eight-year-old s.

"The fish in the aquarium," Shira said.

"Is there something we should know about the fish in the aquarium?" I asked, wondering what had happened to the original topic, but I didn't wonder long, for I have long ago learned that there would be some explanation following soon behind, however slowly it might make it to my ears and into my brain.

"We have the fish in the aquarium and they're swimming over the sewing machine," Shira said shrewdly, positively, and with the perfect assumption that we would know why her own mother could not sew on the numerous patches she had earned in striving to be the best Brownie ever to wear the shirt and sash that would carry all her numerous patches and make her family proud.

"The aquarium's sitting on the top of the sewing machine cabinet, and the fish won't let anyone in that house sew on the patches and save our granddaughter from embarrassment and possible banishment from the neighborhood," my Darling Understanding Woman said to me over the telephone as if I needed an interpreter to understand what our granddaughter meant.

Now, I, a level-headed man of experience in things practical, might have interrupted this conversation that was quickly leading to a change in my wife's lifestyle, if only for a brief time--I would have suggested that our granddaughter tell her mother, our Darling Daughter, to move the aquarium from atop the sewing machine, open up the cabinet, and sew on the ten billion patches that I was sure our delightfully energetic granddaughter had earned. But, as level-headed and practical as I may be, I was not a man without experience, and my experience told me to keep my lips so tightly together that they hurt for days after. I waited.

"Please, Grandma, please," Shira said. Those words, like other famous magical words, such as "Open Sesame," or "Abracadabra" worked immediately.

"Tell your mother to bring the patches and the jacket and the sash up when she comes to visit on Sunday," my generously weak wife said to Shira with a sigh that only I was meant to hear. The sigh meant she had broken her promise never to interrupt her quilting (a promise which, of course was made to be broken when it involved real need). Her sigh also told me that between that moment and the coming Sunday, I would not see her as she would quilt day and night and in-between to not only get caught up on her quilting, but to get far enough ahead to leave enough time to do the type of patchwork not alluded to in any quilt book in the world.

And thus it happened. It happened on Sunday. I don't know exactly when or where or how the transfer took place, but just moments after our daughter arrived at the house, I lost my wife. Oh, I never really lose her in body. I knew where she was. I knew if I went into her sewing room I would find her, but I was met by the delaying tactics of our daughter who plunged me into conversation about the effect of the president's proposed tax cuts on the price of fish food. Or something of that order. I only know that I disengaged myself from that conversation, and several similar in importance, and made it back to the sewing room to see how my wife was getting along with her patchwork.

"How are you getting along?" I asked.

"Did you ever try to sew through a patch that was awarded for pouring concrete?"

"They have a patch for that?"

"Probably. These patches must be made of concrete."

"So it's coming along?" I asked as I looked over her shoulder to see the back of Shira's Brownie jacket covered with patches, half still held in place by pins.

"One's crooked," I almost said, but I bit my tongue, the pain of which matched the residual pain from having had tight lips several days before. But I didn't say it. I really didn't.

"Did you ever try to sew a piece of concrete on a fleece jacket that stretches from here to there to Washington Square?"

"Can't say so, no," I said. "That means you have a way to go?"

"I'll be finished when I'm finished," she said, which is what she always says, no matter what she's working on.

"Shira will appreciate it," I said.

"Do you see how many patches there are?" she said, quite proudl of the work she had done, I thought.

"Billions," I said.

"This time it's worth it," she said.

"And next time?" I asked.

"Have you thought about fish for dinner?"

Copyright 2001 by A.B. Silver


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