"Come in here," I said to my shopping wife as we walked through the mall toward the kitchen shop where she planned to buy a new angel food cake pan. I led her into the Wedgewood store where dishes and dishes were piled on table upon table.

"This isn't the kitchen shop," my Darling Wife said.

I winked at her. "I know. I just want to show you something," I said.

"All I see are dishes," she said.

"Pick a design," I said.


"You said you wanted dishes. This store sells dishes," I said.

"We don't need dishes. We have too many dishes. We just gave some dishes away," she said. She gave me a puzzled smile. The puzzle part was that she didn't know what I was talking about. The smile was just in case I didn't know what I was talking about and to let me know she could still put up with me.

"You said you wanted ten plates," I said.


"Ten plates. You can get more if you want."

"Ten what? Ten plates? Oh, no," she said. She looked at me, not puzzled, not smiling. "I never said ten plates,' she said.


"Templates. Templates. For the new quilt. I need to make some templates and I need to buy some more template sheets to cut out the templates."



She did not laugh long, nor did she comment upon the waxy buildup in my ears or my getting too old to hear her when she talked about quilting. She was, as ever, kind. Instead of a quick kick in the shins or telling the world what I had done, she said, "Three and a half yards of space fabric. Now, repeat that so I am sure you heard what I said.

"Something about a race maverick," I said. She pinched my arm. "Space fabric," I said.

"Bryce needs a new quilt to replace the one I made for him when he was younger and smaller. He's eight now and he wants planets and astronauts and space labs."

"I have to order that for him?" I asked.

"You have to order that for me so I can make him the quilt. When you've done that, I'll let you know what else I'll need."

"Are you sure it wasn't ten plates?"


She made templates for the new quilt. Cutting some fabric as the templates required gave her the pieces of a missile, a rocket, one of many that would cover the quilt top. Only, when she made the first block (to check the pattern before she wasted enough fabric to cover our house), the missile was a bit bent, crooked, firing off in the wrong direction, unable to make it to space no matter what scientists might have wished for.

"Something's wrong with the templates," she told me.

"All of them?" I asked.

"Just one part. The pieces don't go together the way they should."

"Bad directions?" I asked.

"No, the directions are fine."

"Bad design?" I asked.

"No, the design is fine."

"Bad templates?" I asked.

"Maybe," she said.

"You'll work it out," I said. I said that because I knew she was about to agonize over the templates, go back over ever snip, every cut, every measurement. And that's what she did. I smiled at her, patted her on the back, escorted her to the bottom of the stairs, and watched as she went back to the sewing room and the twisted rocket. I decided to take a short nap.


"I found it," she said as she shook me from a dream where I was having a good time riding a space shuttle into space and playing among the stars, jumping from planet to planet.

"Found? Found what? Mars? Venus?"

"Stop sleeping and wake up. I found the problem."

'What problem?" I asked, but then she shook me again and I opened my eyes and saw the sheet of paper she was holding in her hand, the page full of those strange lines and letters and numbers that only a quilter would understand.

"I left off a section when I made the templates. I didn't follow the arrows."

"I shot an arrow into the air. It landed somewhere, I know not where."


"Nothing," I said. "Good work. You made a new template?"

"A new template and a new block. Look," she said, and she held up her other hand to me and displayed a missile, a rocket, some mechanical monster that could take off into space with a blast of power. Quilting power, no doubt.

"So, you're ready to make the quilt now," I said, pride for her in my voice aimed like a missile to her heart.

"No, this one is no good."

"No good? But you said you corrected the template?"

"I did. But I made the rocket a little too large."

"How little too large?" I asked. I am a whiz at asking quilting questions even though my questions do not always make sense.

"Just an inch all around."

'So, you're going to fix it?" Of course, she would!

"I already did," she said, and from nowhere (perhaps from her other hand which she held behind her back), she showed me another rocket block.

"So, you can go ahead now?"

"No. It's too small."

"A lot too small?"

"Don't worry. I made a third block, and it's just right."

"Just right. Quiltilocks and the three blocks," I said.


"Goldilocks. Porridge. Too hot, too cold. Just right," I explained. The blocks weren't bears. I knew that, but the story turned out the same.

"Oh," she said, but it was a non-specific "Oh" which could have meant anything.

"I have to make twenty-nine more blocks now," she said.

"That's a lot of rockets," I said.

"It will take forever," she said.

"How long did it take to make the first block?" I asked.

"Hours, days, a week or so."

"That's a long time for one block," I said.

"One just-right block. The finished block is only the last part. I had to copy the pattern, I had to cut the templates, I had to find a mistake I made, I had to cut a new template, I had to select the right fabric, and I had to cut a thousand pieces before I could sew them together. You know that. You know how long it takes to do something right."

"It took you a year after we met for you to marry me. Did you get that right?"

"Time will tell," she said. "In the meantime I have to go cut all the fabric. You may not see me for awhile. Maybe a year."

"You're going up into your sewing room for a year?" She didn't mean that. She was exaggerating. Wasn't she?

"We'll see," she said.


She was down again in an hour. "I'm hungry," she said.

"You get the sandwiches out of the refrigerator. I'll get the templates."


"Plates, dishes, whatever," I said.

"And a glass of wine, please."

"Wine? Now?" Of course now.

"It's our daughter's forty-second birthday. We have to celebrate."

"She's not here. She's seventy-five miles away."

"We can still celebrate."


After we ate and after we called our daughter to wish her a happy birthday, my Darling Wife went to work on her quilt. I went to work on doing nothing with renewed energy. An hour later, as I was still deciding whether sloth or lethargy better described my state of being, Darling Wife came down from her sewing room.

"I made another block," she said merrily.

"That was fast," I said. That was very fast.

"Do you want to see it?"

"Of course." Did I ever have a choice? Breathing, eating, sleeping, and even a tender hug were often not as important as saying "YES!" when she asked if I wanted to see a block or a quilt or even a quarter-inch seam allowance carefully cut.

She showed me her rocket block, and she giggled. Then she hiccupped. "It's a little off," she said.

"Not just right?" I asked as I looked at the block. It was a rocket. But it was not quite the same as the other rocket block she had shown me. The side fins were on the nose of the rocket. The body of the rocket was a plain tube of fabric without fins. The whole rocket was a bit off-kilter. It would never take off, and if it did, it would fall to earth in a heap.

"Too much celebration," she said.

"Too much wine," I said.

"Our daughter's birthday," she giggled.

"Que-You-Eye," I said.

"What?" She turned the block upside down and looked at it. Then, she turned it sideways.

"Quilting under the influence," I said. You deserve a big fine."

"I'm already fine," she said. "I feel very, very fine."

"No more wine for twenty-nine more blocks," I said.

"Not until I finish the quilt," she agreed. As she rarely had wine, it was an easy agreement to make.


She had a glass of wine when she finished the thirtieth block, and she had a glass of wine when she finished the quilting. Never again will she quilt under the influence. She promised me.


Copyright 2005 by A.B. Silver

Click here to see finished "Rocket Quilt"

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