When I visit big groups of quilters to lecture or teach, it’s not uncommon for one or two of the ladies to ask me if I’m single and then, when I reply that yes, I am, they suggest that I date their son.
“Oh, he’s very sweet, very sweet,” they say, and usually something about how handsome he is. I have no doubt all these men are both, but as sincere as they are, it’s probably unlikely I’ll go on a date with one of these sons. I live in D.C., which is a long way from Omaha, say, or Pensacola. Most of the time the proud moms will sigh and say something like, “That is a problem, isn’t it?” Yesterday, this did not deter one mother.
“You are single, aren’t you, Mary? My son’s coming to pick me up after the lecture,” she said, “And you need to meet him.”
“Yes,” I laughed, “I’m single.” To humor her (good-naturedly, of course) I asked, “What’s his name?”
“Brian,” she said. “You’ll love him!”
“Well, I’m sure he’s fantastic,” I said, “but I live in DC. It’s not so convenient to date someone in St. Louis, you know.”
Without skipping a beat, she said, “Oh, he’ll move! He’ll move.”
I didn’t meet Brian. It might’ve been a little awkward, but it’s not that I avoided it; Mom and I were absolutely wiped after our third day in Missouri and we high-tailed it out of there. I should book more gigs in the D.C./Virginia area. There are many moms with many sons and no one has to move.
For New Year’s Eve, I will be here in Washington and Yuri will be in Los Angeles. We texted and have arranged to talk at midnight tomorrow, which means that now I have plans for the evening. When I woke up this morning, I did not have plans. I don’t know if this suited me or not; New Year’s Eve is always a little problematic on account of all the people wearing paper hats and drinking Rumplemintz.
You know what’s hard? Breaking up.
You know what’s harder? After all that.
I’ve been working my house pride. There were leaves on my stone steps; I swept them away before any snow could fall and lock them into the corners. I’ve been sewing up a storm the past few days; I tidied my sewing table and vacuumed up thread this morning. I did laundry. I baked. Keeping the ship ship-shape is my tendency, but now, anything less than sparkly is non-negotiable. I can be on my own, in a new city, with colder weather bearing down; I can miss my boo and actually ask various people, “What are you doing New Year’s Eve?” with no hint of irony, but I cannot do any of this with a sinkful of dirty dishes or mud on the living room rug. Only clean countertops will do.
Here’s a bit of unsolicited advice: If you are going along after a breakup and feeling relatively fit and optimistic, do not under any circumstances begin to hum the Rosemary Clooney rendition of Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do?” This is dangerous. Circling sharks dangerous. You’ll forget one of the verses and be so crippled by how applicable this gorgeous, sad song is to your very life, you will have to go online and find it and listen to it.
As editor of Quilty, I schedule, select, and edit a great number of features about the quilters of today. But this summer, friend and colleague Katy Jones, editor of the UK magazine Quilt Now, featured me. I was flattered and wrote a “Day In the Life” piece for her. Here is the text from that piece. It’s great until the part where I talk about how great it is to be in love. I forgot I wrote that part.
Anyhow, thank you, Katy! And everyone, if you can get your hands on a copy of an issue of Quilt Now, do it. It’s a great magazine and I’m honored to have been able to write for it.
A Day In The Life of Mary Fons
by Mary Fons
“Whether I’m traveling or at home, I wake early. Usually very early. Pre-dawn. When I was a kid, it was so hard get out of bed. I remember thinking how weird it was — weird and enviable — the way adults like my mom just naturally got up in the morning with minimal fuss. Of course, I would learn that plenty of adults would like to sleep in, but for most of us, getting up in the morning does get easier as we get older. This is likely due to the fear of responding in an at least somewhat timely manner to the crushing pressure of daily living.
If I’m home, I rise and immediately made a large pot of tea. If I’m on the road, I rise and immediately make hotel room coffee. Either way, there is lots of milk and sugar involved. I can do exactly nothing until I’ve got hot tea or coffee in my hand in the morning, and that’s that. The morning tea or coffee time is for me to write in my journal or read. Sometimes, when I’ve got a big event coming up or I’m under deadline, I’ll use that tea time to work. But I prefer to have my tea or coffee for an hour with just personal pursuits that involve both reading and writing.
Then it’s time to produce. I edit Quilty magazine, and plan and host the Quilty show online. I speak and teach across the land, host a webinar each month, I’m working on a new book, and I do numerous other projects at any given time, so there is always slightly too much to do. I do not, at press time, have an assistant. That would be amazing.** So I’m on my own to write copy, tweak copy, book travel, send bios and teaching plans, stitch, and otherwise coordinate All The Things. I also blog (nearly) every day and I see my blog, PaperGirl, as an integral part of the Mary Fons “thing,” so that is most certainly a priority, even though it makes me zero income.
I’m a freelancer, a contractor. It’s kind of an odd set-up, since I do the vast majority of my work for one company (F+W) but I’ve been a freelancer since ‘05 and I’m stayin’ alive. I like the freedom that comes with it, even though there are frequently invoicing headaches, checks to track down, and of course I have no employee benefits and have to do my own taxes. Still, for a creative person such as myself, I can see no other way to live. I can work at 6am or 6pm, on the road or at home, and there are no clocks to punch. (I would probably actually punch a clock if I had to “check in” for work at this point.)
There is a downside to working this way: I work almost constantly. It’s not the working I mind, but there are times when I wish a janitor would like, shut the lights off in the office and tell me to go home. There is no janitor. I do have a partner now, which is very good; he can tell me to stop working or not take on another project. When I was just a single gal, living for the city, there was no reason to not take another road gig. No one needed me at home to make dinner or, you know, just be home because that feels good. I’m not suggesting my existence was bleak — I rather enjoy being a career gal — but it’s been wonderful to have someone sort of put their hand on my shoulder and tell me to chill out for two seconds and sleep in once in awhile.
I do have my fun. I’m a Bikram yogini, so I go sweat it out in the hot yoga room. I just moved to Manhattan from Chicago, so now I have NYC as a playground and I do intend to start playing asap. I like to dance. I love to read and write. And I really, really love to design and make big scrap quilts. So that’s fun for me. And I mentioned the partner thing: I am wildly in love with someone who fascinates and delights me and teaches me all kinds of new and wonderful things. That’s my fun, too, just being with Yuri.
I think a lot about how short life is and how I, Mary Fons, have to do something extraordinary with my time here. I don’t have a choice. I don’t know when I go to bed. When I’m tired, I lay down. I suppose it’s usually around midnight. And I dream, dream, dream. And then I do it all again.”
If you’d like to consider with me Option One, you’ll need to read the full post here. Now, in your mind, please take this wig off me and get me out of those barrister robes and into something sensible as I proceed with what, as I see it, is my second option:
Option No. 2: Sunrise Cottage — Washington Island, WI My family has blood ties to an extraordinary place called Washington Island, a 23-square-mile island seven miles off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula. My grandparents are buried there. My great-grandparents are buried there. My aunt and six cousins live there. My mother taught quilting at the fiber arts school up there; two summers ago, I taught quilting there, too. As children, my sisters and I would spend weeks of our summer vacation, splashing in the lake waters and lazing around watching VHS videos, trying to get MTV on some old TV set. Even through the divorce and on through all four years of college, every summer we were (and are) playing and relaxing and communing with WiWi. (W.I. = Washington Island, W.I. = Wisconsin, ergo, “WiWi.”)
About six years ago, my family finally made a home up there. We had been cabin renters through the years, but now we have a cottage — a cozy, beautiful, light-filled, perfect cottage on the lake. Because of this happy event, we can now have Thanksgivings, Christmases, and winter escapes up there, too. There’s a fireplace, a boathouse, and lots of board games and if heaven is real, it probably looks a lot like a snowy afternoon on WiWi while a pie bakes in the oven and you’re smack in the middle of an amazing book. Sounds brilliant, right? Why not go there, sink into the comfort and joy of this magical island?
What are you, nuts?!
I can’t be on an island in the middle of winter! I travel for work a good 40% of my time! It’s a good thing I love airports because I’m in them a lot. Getting to and from the airport, to and from a gig, to and from a shoot, etc. is always a bit of a schlep. Adding an icy ferry boat ride, a 2-hour drive to the nearest airport (Green Bay) and Wisconsin weather from October through about May is not my idea of a wise plan.
The other problem with WiWI is that it is a remote place in psychic terms as well as geographical ones. Just 660 people live there year-round. I wrote most of my book up there during a two-week stretch in the winter of ’13 and I got a little squirrelly. The frosty, starry sky is beautiful at night, but the land is plunged into pitch black starting around 5pm until the sun rises around 6am. Staring into a roaring fire is super over a four-day weekend up there; staring into the fire night after night and you start becoming the one-woman sequel to Altered States. Mom and Mark aren’t there year-round for this very reason. Six months on WiWi and I might end up curled up on the couch, listening to the all-Catholic talk radio station, eating jumbo marshmallows out of a wicker basket.
New York out. Chicago out. Iowa out. Wisconsin out. Tomorrow, Option Three.
*Note: I cannot believe all of the gracious offers I have had since yesterday from people offering me to stay in their home or come to their city. Thank you.