Kalahari Sideways




"Well, what do you think?" she asked.

"What should I think?" I answered. I wasn't about to get caught in a quilt trap.

"How does it look to you?" she asked.

"It looks fine to me," I answered. Any other answer would have meant I had to face a life on the run, an escape into another dimension away from anywhere a quilter lived, and I doubt if there is such a place.

"I'm not asking if it looks fine or not. I'm asking how does it look when you look at it?"

"It looks good," I said, playing it safe.

"Well, I don't like it the way it's supposed to be. Don't you think so?"

"I'm supposed to agree that you don't like it the way it's supposed to be?" I asked.

This was not an unusual conversation, though the purpose of it eluded me so far. When one who tries to live a calm and peaceful life gets into a conversation about a quilt, calm and tranquillity become only a goal to dream about.

"I just want another opinion. I did it the way the directions say and I turned it the way it looks in the illustration, but it doesn't look happy that way, and I don't think I could live with it that way."

"You're talking about how to hang the quilt?" I asked. The quilt top was on her design wall, a quilt with an African motif, a quilt she had named her "Kalahari Quilt" because she had used mainly ethnic fabrics designed to represent Africa and, mainly, because she loved the colors in the fabrics.

'It's supposed to hang the way it is now, but I'm thinking of finishing it and turning it sideways."

"Don't you always have that option?" I asked. I knew she did. She hung quilts in so many different ways that one, not knowing to look away as she did so, would become dizzy and fall down in a clump of flesh on the floor.

"I try to do what I'm supposed to do," she said.

"I can understand that," I said. Certainly it would look odd if a quilt with frogs on it was turned upside down so the frogs were all standing on their heads. Odd, yes, but if she wanted upside-down frogs, she would have them.

"All right. Now what do you think?" she asked as she pulled the quilt top from her design wall and rotated it 90 degrees and patted it back in place.

"It looks sideways," I said.

"Good sideways or not-so-good sideways?"

"What do you think?" I asked. It was better to know how to answer before I answered. Otherwise....

"Wait one more turn," she said, as she pulled the quilt top free and turned it 90 more degrees and patted it in place. "Now?" she said, looking at me for the right answer.

"It looks upside down now," I said.

"Good. It is upside down from the way it's supposed to be."

"Good?" I asked, expecting no reward for getting the answer right because I knew it was the wrong right answer.

"It's upside down, but it looks wrong upside down. It has to be sideways, but I'm not sure yet which sideways looks better."

"There are two sideways," I said, confirming with my words that I was in more trouble than I thought I would be in regardless of how I answered her questions. I should have gone for a walk long before getting entrapped so badly in Darling Wife's which-way dilemma.

She turned the quilt top one more time and it was sideways the other way, now 270 degrees from where she started. "So, what do you think."

I looked at the quilt. I wasn't about to rush to judgment. I looked and thought and pondered and said, "Uh, um, eh, well, ah," and then I shut up and looked at her for the right answer.

"I'll put on a border first, and then I'll decide," she said, but she wasn't talking to me; she was talking to the quilt top as she ripped it off the wall and put it down on her cutting table.

"Glad to be of help," I said as I began edging my body toward the doorway.

"I'll need you later," she said.


Later she called down the stairs and through the living room, past the kitchen, out the open window, through the mesh of the screen, into the back yard where I sat looking at the koi in our pond swimming sideways.

"I need your opinion," she said.

"Bye, Kids," I said to the fish as I went back into the house and slowly climbed the stairs, taking my time so I could think about what answers I could give to whatever questions she asked. I practiced saying, "Yes" and "No" in my head.

"So, what do you think?"

The quilt top was the same, except this time there was a thin black border around the quilt top, the black setting off the design of the quilt. It actually looked better than it had before, but I was wary of a trap. I hesitated a long time.

"I still have to add the final border and binding," she said to urge me on to my final answer.

"It looks terrific," I said.

"Not how it looks," she said. How it looks the way it's turned."

"Is it sideways?" I asked. I couldn't remember how it was supposed to be or how it was originally or how she liked it best.

"Yes, it's sideways. It has to be sideways."

"It's good sideways," I said.

"You don't think it should be the way it was supposed to be?"

"I think it should be this way because it's supposed to be this way," I said.

"Then I'm going to finish it up so it looks this way."

"Then that's settled?" I held my breath. It did look better turned sideways.

"You don't think I should feel bad for turning it?" she asked.

"Do you feel bad?" I asked ready to comfort her. She had probably been through fire and ice in her effort to get the quilt right. I had to stand by my quilter.

"I feel good," she said. "No one has to follow the directions exactly."

"Exactly," I agreed.

Copyright 2001 by A.B. Silver

Click here to see the "Sideways Quilt."

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