Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Real Men

by Dawn Goldsmith
(previously published in Christian Science Monitor Home Forum)

He loves me. I know he loves me, but when my husband, Derrol, agreed to accompany me to a quilt show on a Midwestern May perfect-for-fishing day, I got an inkling of the level of his devotion.

He had second thoughts while hunting for a parking space in the crowded lot. He watched the clusters of women streaming toward the entrance and muttered, “I’ll be the only guy there.”

And walking in the front door of the local community college, he issued an admonition, “Don’t you dare ask me to discuss these quilts with you.”

I agreed to his terms, knowing how little he liked to analyze anything except accounting reports and spreadsheets. I grabbed his arm and joined the queue of women, anxious to soak up the display of fine fabric art and imaginative interpretations in cloth. Maybe my enthusiasm was contagious; for it didn’t take him long to stop dragging his feet and start eyeing the various ‘blankets,’ as he called them.

“That one’s not bad,” he volunteered.

“I like the colors,” he said, admiring a vibrant black and orange creation.

We strolled up and down the corridors bordered on both sides by bed-size pieces of art that not only provided beauty but a more basic offering of warmth. What other kind of artwork can wrap around its admirers in a fabric hug?

I ohhed and ahhhed over the tiny stitches, more than 16 to an inch. I stood back and leaned forward while examining the fabric, color choices, intricate quilting designs and perfectly executed piecing and appliqué. I marveled at the teeny tiny pieces of fabric sewn in place, the perfect place, and held there by invisible hand stitches. Thousands of stitches in each quilt. I saw the same pattern used by various quilters and admired the totally unique quilts that sprang from the same triangles and squares, but took on one of a kind personalities through color and quilting, borders and appliqués. My favorite geometric quilts held Derrol and me captive as they performed their illusions. One minute we saw ocean waves, with a turn of the head or a squint of an eye, the pieces broke apart like a kaleidoscope and presented another design.

We had almost completed our tour of the auditorium when a PA system announced the guest speaker, California master quilter Patty McCormick would soon begin her presentation. She would speak about her role as a ‘quilt expert’ during the filming of Steven Spielberg’s movie “How to Make an American Quilt.”

“Do you mind?” I asked.

He shrugged. “Sure, whatever you want. Any excuse to sit down.”

We sat in the last row of chairs gathered around a makeshift riser and a backdrop of quilts that had been featured in the movie. I couldn’t wait to examine the colorful appliquéd quilt, the central figure of the movie, and I admired the simplicity of the African picture quilt, but my eyes kept returning to the black velvet embroidered baby quilt. The thought, “I could do that,” kept running through my head like a streaming tape until she began to speak.

Patty, a middle-aged pixie, reeled us in with her energy, humor and ease. We relaxed and listened, laughed and applauded.

“Let’s meet her. I’d love to get a picture of her and me. Would you mind?” I asked Derrol at the conclusion of her speech.

He jumped up, shouldered the camera case and said, “Let’s go.”

We headed toward the front where the speaker and author of “Pieces of An American Quilt” signed and sold copies. By the time we worked our way through the crowd Patty had stepped away from the table and was mingling, attempting to find the exit and escape. I tentatively asked, “Ms. McCormick, would you care if we took a picture?”

“I would love it,” she crowed and threw herself into my husband’s arms. “I saw you at the back of the room and so appreciated your smiles,” she said grinning up into my husband’s beaming face. “It takes a brave man to spend the day alone with hundreds of women.”

I hesitated, gaped, then reached for the camera and asked them to pose.

Patty wrapped her arm around behind him and leaned against his chest, snuggling into his arm that automatically embraced her just like he held me. She lingered a moment after the flash and said, “I enjoy seeing a man who appreciates quilts.”

“Oh, yeah. Quilts are great,” my husband responded, not moving.

I took another picture.”

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