February 24, 2014
When Amazon/Kindle emailed my wife Carole, asking if she wanted to review my new book “Indiscriminate Distinctions,” which she had bought for a friend, she agreed. But her agreement came with a “suggestion” that I post one of the columns I wrote for the Orange County (VA) Review regarding her first love, quilting. (You can read her review by going to Kindle Indiscriminate Distinctions.) So I offer here that column in the hope that those among you who enjoy quilting might find it amusing.
LIFE WITH CAROLE: The diagnosis is quilting…the prognosis is fatal.
My wife, Carole, is a quilter. For a husband to confess that his wife is a quilter is akin to admitting that she has a lingering disease that can be treated only by the laying on of hands on small pieces of cloth known as “fat quarters.” At the moment, our house is overrun by 61 various kinds of complicated structures made of fabric. Fabric holds for quilters the same emotional appeal that a new driver holds for a golfer, just to put it into a perspective the male species can relate to. Unlike golf clubs, however, which are normally contained in a bag that will fit nicely into the trunk of a car or a handy closet, and which are limited to 14 or so clubs, fabric seems to breed and spread like some movie monster into every nook and cranny it can be stuffed into.
Recently, I opened the cabinet above the washer to find some soap and, you guessed it, fabric had taken over. In a moment of pique, I decided to count this collection. I stopped counting when the screen on the calculator filled up. It does me little good to point out to Carole that the house is becoming infested with fabric. “What about your books?” she counters, knowing that is the best coup de grace she can deliver. Books, you see, dominate the rest of the space in the house. Not that I am really complaining. At least not much. The undeniable fact is that those 61 pieces of fabric are really an art form that can be astonishingly beautiful and require considerable skill in using a machine that takes a pilot’s license to use. That’s another thing. The sewing machine.
When Carole first told me that she was interested in quilting and that she needed a sewing machine to pursue her passion, I thought to myself, “What the heck? What’s another $300?” I had images of my sainted mother at her treadle Singer whipping up clothes for her and my sister. “Sure,” I said aloud, “Where do we get a sewing machine?” “I thought we’d go to Bernina’s,” my lovely wife said innocently, secure in the knowledge that I probably thought some lady named Bernina owned the shop. Not two hours later I learned that I had mis-estimated the cost of a Bernina by a zero on the wrong side of the decimal point. “That’s more than I paid for my first car!” I protested. Carole smiled and assured me she was getting the low end of the line. “You’re getting off cheap,” she pointed out. “Deb got a long-arm!” In our relationship, this is known as a diversion from the main point, a not-so-subtle way of putting me on the defensive by making unfavorable comparisons. “I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “She looked perfectly normal when I saw her last.” This pitiful attempt at regaining control of the discussion faded away at the same rate as the smile on Carole’s face. So, knowing when I am beaten, I sat down on a handy chair, resigned to waiting while Carole chose her Bernina. That’s when I noticed that I was sitting at a work table designed especially for quilting. The price tag was $2,000. Today, that Koala Sewing Station holds the Bernina in Carole’s 300-square foot quilting room That’s only 100 square feet less than our daughter’s condo in Manhattan and 50 square feet more than my library. But she deserves it and I’m proud of her. The quilt guild she belongs to in Madison (VA) contributes generously to needy causes, mounting quilt shows that require as much planning as the Normandy invasion and making quilts for children’s shelters. I just wish I had room for more books because I’m stumbling over the latest shipment still on the floor.
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