"Do you need any help with that?" I asked as she began her newest quilt.
"Are you sure?"
"You can open up the package of batting," she said.
"I hate that job," I said. I did. The fusible queen-sized batting came wrapped in a plastic bag the size of an ant's foot. Mischievous monsters using monstrous machines must have laughed hysterically as they compressed that 90 inch by 108 inch batting into the tiny plastic bag, oh so gleeful as they pictured the quilter (or his poor spouse who foolishly volunteered for the job) breaking fingernails and fingers as she (he) tried to pull the batting free and then, even more torturously, unpeeling the batting, layer by layer, until it was free of the two hundred pounds of fusing that held it together.
"You wanted to help. I could do it myself," she said, but she didn't really want to do it herself. She wanted me to do it.
"Well," I said with passionate empathy, "you're the one who has to fuse it to the quilt top and iron it to the bottom and keep it wrinkle free and only lift it off the fabric a dozen times as it sticks in the wrong place."
"I hate that part,' she said.
Fortunately, both those horrible tasks were well ahead of her, for she was just starting the quilt, and starting was the fun part.. So was the finishing.
When, weeks later, the quilt was finished, when she smiled with the success of completion, when my fingers had since recovered from being twisted and bent from unpacking the batting, then I said to her, "Great job. And you did it all by yourself," I added.
"No," she said.
"No what?" I asked.
"No, I didn't do it all by myself."
"Well, except for my small part, that part where I slaved for hours and hours to unwrap the batting," I said.
"The village helped," she said.
"What? What village?" I asked.
"It takes a village," she said.
"It takes a village to raise a child," I said. I knew the saying and what it meant.
"It takes a village to make a quilt," she said.
"Explain," I said. Whenever I didn't understand what she was talking about, especially when it came to quilting, I asked her to explain. Though there was no guarantee at all that I would know any more after her explanation, no guarantee at all, sometimes it helped. Sometimes it gave me the courage to leave the conversation and go outside and water the plants. Sometimes I needed to clear my head, my mind. Going into the yard didn't always help with my allergies, but they were soon forgotten as I pondered the wonders of a universe where quilting wasn't in charge.
"Someone grew the cotton," she said. "Someone picked the cotton and ginned it and made it into fabric. Someone designed the patterns for the fabric and dyed the fabric. Someone bought the fabric and sold the fabric and someone drove the trucks that carried the fabric and someone delivered the fabric and someone."
"Go on," I said. The garden was looking all the more inviting just then.
"Maureen," she said.
"Maureen sent me some of the fabric from South Africa, some authentic African fabric."
"I remember," I said. I did remember the package arriving all the way from South Africa and my Darling Wife's surprise and happiness at getting the gift of fabrics, the designs of animals and people and flowers on all of it. One piece was covered with king protea, South Africa's national flower, and one piece showed off the coral tree. Maureen was a quilter, too, and she understood something most non-quilters do not know, that fabric is the earth, wind, and fire--the breath of life to quilters.
"I've been waiting forever to use some of that wonderful fabric," she said, "and now, after spending so much time deciding which fabric to use and what design to make, it's done." She smiled and looked at the quilt. " And I still have enough of her fabric to use in another quilt."
"Yes, you did it," I exclaimed.
"We did it," she said, emphasizing the "WE" again. "To make this quilt, I needed tools that a lot of people made, people who made the rotary cutter and the mat and the iron and the spools of thread and the batting, and everything else. Many people helped me make this quilt."
"So, you're saying that the African fabric in your new African quilt is-is. What are you saying?"
"It's a village. The whole quilt, inside and out. There is whole lot of life in the quilt."
"Our whole world is a quilting village?" I guessed.
"Don't you have something to do out in the yard?"
"Maybe I can get the neighbors to help. Our neighborhood is like a village. I can round up ten or twenty neighbors and have them all help."
"Why should they help?" she asked.
"It's what villagers do," I said.
"Do you like the quilt?" she said, knowing exactly when to change the subject.
"It looks like an African village quilt," I said.
"Thanks to a lot of people," she said.
"You should thank Maureen again," I said.
"She's part of the quilt. She'll know that. Everyone who is part of the quilt will know that."
"I know that," I said. "I'm part of your village quilt. I did unwrap the batting."
"Of course, you did," she said.
I'm in the third block from the left. Or is it the second block from the bottom? I'll find me soon. I just have to keep looking.
Copyright 2006 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "It Takes a Village" Quilt
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