It was supposed to be a green chameleon, and she had looked at her green fabric, but none of the greens that she had satisfied her.
"None of my greens satisfy me," she said.
"Well, it's a chameleon. It's not always green. It changes color to match its background," I said. She knew that.
"I know that, but I'm beginning to think I don't like the greens I had. Lions aren't green anyway."
"They're no lions in the quilt design," I said. She had the paper-piecing book open in front of her on the kitchen table. I didn't see any lions, just a fancy lizard.
"It's a ground lion. That's what chameleon means," she said.
"How do you know that?"
"It reminded me of the word dandelion," she said.
"Dent de lion means teeth of the lion. The leaves look like lion's teeth. It's a French word. So is chameleon. In biblical times it referred to a land crocodile." I gave her a bewildered look, which was easy for me to do, as I had had a lot of practice with that look since she had taken up quilting. "I looked it all up," she said.
"So, what have you decided about the color then?" I asked. I knew she had decided something about the wall hanging she had planned to make.
"It doesn't have to be green. Maybe red or brown or gray. Chameleons change to those colors a lot. What do you think?"
"You decide," I said. Quilting lizards or crocodiles or even dandelions was her thing, not mine.
"Yellow," she said two days later.
"Yellow what?" I asked, not at all aware of what she was referring to as I had just asked her what she was thinking about because she had just gone through a long quiet spell and frowning before her face broke into a smile.
"The chameleon's going to be yellow."
"Can they change to that color? I thought you said red or brown or gray."
"Mine can do yellow," she said. "It's my quilt."
"You can certainly have a yellow chameleon," I said.
"Yipes," she said that afternoon as she came down the stairs and handed me a piece of paper.
"What's this?" I asked. I took the paper and saw a small snippet of fabric paper-pieced to other snippets of fabric. The whole thing was very small.
"Turn it over," she said. I turned it over. "I made the tip wrong," she said.
"You made the tip wrong? What tip?"
"The tip of the tail. The yellow part was so small I didn't know it was supposed to be a different color. Now I have to do it over. And this piece took an hour to do." She pointed to a section so small it could pass through the eye of a size 90 metallic needle. "Can't you just take it apart?" I asked. Hah, hah, hah.
"I have to do it all over, but I'm changing the color anyway. It's too yellow."
I squinted to focus on the tiny tip of what she wanted me to believe was the tip of the tail of her chameleon. "Too yellow." I agreed.
The second mistake she discovered four hours of paper-piecing later. I left out an asterisk," she said as she showed me the square with the yellow tip of the tail redone in a darker yellow. "I blinked and I missed that piece there," she said, and she pointed to a speck on the square that I thought was a speck.
"There's a speck of dust or something there," I guessed.
"It's not dust. Look at the pattern piece," she said, and she showed me the design on the paper she was using to piece that end of the chameleon's tail. Being retired and having already eaten lunch that day, and wanting to keep my life happy, I had plenty of time to look at the asterisk that designated a change in shape and color from all the other specks nearby.
"So, no problem? Can't you take it apart and fix it?" Hah, ha!
"I have to do the whole thing over again," she moaned.
"You feel all right about that?" Her tone of voice suggested that maybe all was not right with this quilt and that a vacation from quilting might be in order.
"Actually, it gives me a chance to change the color. This yellow is still not right for the lizard-crocodile."
"Yes, I can certainly see that," I said. What did I know about yellow chameleons anyway? I did know that she could discard hours and hours of work and start over again, all that because she was a quilter who wanted her chameleon to have a happy life.
Speck after speck, piece after piece, she worked away, sewing together pieces so small that they were invisible to any normal human eye, but I only knew this because she occasionally told me when I asked her how the yellow thing was coming. "It's coming," she said time after time, but she didn't show me her progress again. I assumed that creating a proper chameleon took a proper amount of time.
I practiced retirement and doing as little as possible while she rode her sewing machine through the forest home she was making for her chameleon. February ended with an extra day for quilting. March came in like a lion, a ground lion, and she gave her regular progress report when, occasionally, I asked. "It's still coming," she said.
"Cammy's done," she said this morning.
"Cammy?" She had been baking blueberry muffins that morning, so I thought I had misheard her. Doesn't Cammy sound like muffin?
"Cammy the chameleon," she said, and she unfurled the rolled up wall hanging she had in one hand behind her.
"All done," I said, which is as much compliment as she ever wanted at first. The praise would come later.
"Do you like the color?"
"Mellow," I said. If nature didn't provide chameleons with the ability to change to the cool yellow color I saw before me, that was all right. My quilter could.
"You're right. I do feel mellow," she said.
"Mellow yellow," I said.
"That's one happy chameleon," I said.
"Yes, I think."
Copyright 2004 by A.B. Silver
Click here to see finished "Mellow Yellow Quilt"
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