Cool Crooked Valentine




I walked a crooked mile wearing a crooked smile, and all the while,

My Darling Wife was using up some Kaffe Fassett shot cotton to make me my Valentine quilt. I had recently been arranging some of her jumble of quilt magazines and books, and I came a cross a book of jazz quilts and a book of folk quilts and a book of primitive quilts, and I had said, "Cool." I save the expression cool for those quilts that especially attract my eye and remind me that beauty can be found in all kinds of styles and patterns and fabrics. That moment, I was "cooled" by the idea of a simple quilt.

I didn't know it, but at that same time my Darling Wife was upstairs in her sewing room, pacing back and forth and wondering again how she was going to use up the snips and scraps and orphaned hunks of fabric. It was at that same time that she realized it was time to make something for Valentine's Day, and that was when I called her down for tea and told her I wanted something for Valentine's Day that was delightful and impressive and emotionally satisfying, perhaps a simple collection and splash of color. She gave me a suspicious look. Perhaps it was due to my smile again.

"So, when is Valentine's Day?" I had asked her two weeks before.

"The same as it always is, the 14th."

"Oh," I said. I was hoping for a better answer, such as her telling me it would be the same day she finished the quilt she was making for me but didn't want me to know what kind of quilt it was.

"You'll have to wait," she said.

"Two more weeks then?" I asked.

"Two more weeks," she answered.

Now, every year for the past ten years she has quilted me a small or large or tiny or impressively large quilt for Valentine's Day. I expected a quilt, not out of greed, but because quilts can decorate our walls or warm our bed or just be for the purpose of being. So, now I would have to wait to see what it would be this year, but I hoped it would be something cool.

From time to time in the past two weeks she gave me hints without telling me anything. "I have so many scraps," or "Colors can be fun," or "Your smile is crooked." I didn't get much of a clue from such "hints," especially the last one even though I looked in the mirror to see if my smile were really crooked. Sometimes it was. Sometimes it wasn't. I practiced straightening it, but that only made it more crooked and gave me no more information about the quilt than I already knew which was very little.

In the meantime, which means during the time between then and now, I had to round up a card and some flowers and keep working on my smile. We had started going together on Valentine's Day, but that was 49 years before, thirty-nine years before she took up quilting so she could make me a soft cloth something or other in place of a card each year.

"Will you be finished in time?" I occasionally asked as Valentine's Day came closer.

"Finished with what?" she asked.

"With whatever it is you're quilting," I said.

"If I were making a quilt, it would be done when it was done," she said. That was her quilter's creed. I don't know where she got it, perhaps in a magazine or book or quilt show, but that was it. "It will be done when it's done."

"So you are making a quilt?" I asked.

"Go water the yard," she said even though it was raining outside and she knew it was raining because her quilting table is right next to a window and she looks outside now and then and tells me about the weather which she can see from a long way off while I am usually not near a window and can only guess at the weather unless I go outside, which I don't do much if it's raining.

"I'm going to write about this," I warned.

"That's not a threat," she said, and she smiled and her smile wasn't crooked.

Yesterday we celebrated the evening she had called me forty-nine years ago to tell me that she had broken up with her previous boy friend and that we should get together the next day, which was, of course, Valentine's Day. "Tomorrow's Valentine's Day," I said last night. I looked at her for some sign that the quilt was done and that in a few hours it would be mine.

"All day," she said.

"Starting at midnight," I said.

"We should get some sleep," she said, and she yawned. "Tomorrow will come soon enough," she said.

"And?" I pushed her for a last minute hint.

"It may rain," she said.

It did rain. But when I came into the kitchen, there it was, a small bundle wrapped in tissue paper on the kitchen table. The night before, after she had fallen asleep, I had put her card and the flowers I had hidden in the garage on the table at her place. In turn, while I was still getting dressed, she had put the quilt at my place. I knew it was a quilt because when I opened it and unwrapped it it looked like a small quilt. "Wow, for me!" I exclaimed.

"I don't know if you deserve it," she said.

"My smile is better," I said, showing her a smile I had practiced to not be crooked.

"It's the same, but it will match the quilt," she said.

"It's a crooked quilt?" I asked, but I was already unfolding it.

"Like it?" she asked when I held the quilt up, unfurled to celebrate the day.

"Cool," I said. And it was. Jazzy, folksy, simple, colorful, and primitive.

"Cool?" she questioned.

"I'd walk a crooked mile for it," I said.

"Don't expect one next year," she said, but I did.

"And learn to smile better," she added.

"I will," I promised. I will.

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