In our family we remember the unpleasantries and the hurts that we have experienced. My mother will regale you with stories about the way her younger sister constantly failed to keep the electric bill paid. And my sister tells of the time when some of our relatives ripped off our mom’s younger brother. We rarely share stories about what made us a family and how we survived the Great Migration. We had land in the south but our ancestors we forced to leave, so the story goes.
But coming north did not keep us together generations have past and the divisions have cut a hole in the things we share. Perhaps creating a hanging quilt and listing our relationships with one another can be a step towards becoming a family once more. I know that our present situation doesn’t work for me any longer.
To me it is very important that the color scheme reflect and celebrate diversity. My nephew is in an interracial relationship, and has an amazing daughter Grace, of whom we expect great things. I would like to have our family members’ names embroidered onto the quilt and have enough space for new names to be added. Quilting is celebrated in African-American and many other traditions. My mother learned it from her grandmother and we are hoping that Grace will learn it from our mother. I also want the quilt to travel and be passed down from generation to generation as an heirloom because at this point we don’t have anything that we can say has bound us together. Instead we are more of a family being pulled apart by bitterness and old bad memories.
This picture above is my nephew John and his daughter Grace.
The woman in the middle of the picture in this blog is my soon to be 91 year-old mother. She is one of the sources of strength in my life. My companion and I sleep under a quilt that my mother made. Quilting is a part of our heritage as African-Americans. So today when Liz and I went to the St. Charles resale shop I was drawn to a series of quilts nicely displayed in a prominent corner. I am hoping to be able to get a quilt for hanging in our living room and another to send my dear mother. Even though I am giving up the name she gave me, I hope to give her something back. perhaps the woman who makes the quilts will make one I can send my mother.
The quilts I saw were by Ella Brooks, who describes herself as a quilter, teacher and an artist. Della Wells, an artist, author and teacher at UWM, had some pictures of Ella’s work on her Facebook page. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published an article about Ella several years ago.
I am somewhere over Ohio on a big Airbus plane with six seats across. I have three seats all to myself as the fasten your seat belt sign was turned off. We were advised to remain seated in case of unexpected turbulence.
So naturally people are moving throughout the cabin. The connection from my Milwaukee to Chicago flight was so quick I wasn’t able to charge my cell phones. It was much different from when I traveled east for mom’s 90th birthday. Delay after delay finally forced me to rent a car to drive the last 60 miles. It was ridiculous. But today there was none of that.
In the fall, I was in a new relationship and struggling with repair bills from my old car. And my companion and I experienced a type of metaphorical unexpected turbulence. We survived a painful time because of our commitment to one another. Now I am on my second vacation of the year and Milwaukee is warming up after a frigid stretch of below freezing days. Lizzy will be driving our little car and the cat will be doing backflips without me being there to tell him go side down somewhere.
I am grateful for the companionship from Lizzy and the cat because they help distract me from my electronic devices. There has never been a cat that did not decide the perfect time for sitting on your lap was whenever you begin to read a book. I get endless pleasure seeing Mickey distract Lizzy from her reading. We three are a cozy little group, with Mickey’s pink nose, Lizzy’s laughter and caring and my wonderfully smooth skin. Thanks mom. We are set for the next turbluence.
I just finished talking with my older sister Chris, whose childhood picture is just above. It took place just after the Green Bay Packers and the Buffalo Bills won their respective football games. I used to hate the Packers when I was growing up and cheering for the New York Giants. The Bills were the hometown favorites who began playing in the American Football League. They were champions with Jack Kemp at quarterback. After retiring, Kemp became a congressman and then Secretary of Housing.
But this is a story of home and my wonderful mother’s quirks or flaws, as Lucy from the old Peanuts comic strip would call them. There are several things to know about Mom: she is a retired nurse, she grew up in a small town and she is always involved in some small business which fails due to poor planning. Today I learned that some of these ventures involved black walnuts and squirrels.
Black walnuts like those above may seem harmless but in the hands of an experienced person, they can be power weapons for chaos or make you a fan of squirrels everywhere. My sister talked about how, mom had collected some black walnuts at our old home and left them in the back of a pickup truck overnight. The next day she awoke to find a bunch of squirrels hung over from the walnuts and some marijuana a neighbor had generously donated.
I grew up unaware of this story so as an adult I was free to create my own disaster with the dreaded nuts. When I was living in a small apartment a carpenter friend Brian said that he and his wife had some of these tasty black walnuts they had collected out in the country. If you know anything about these nuts, you know that their shells are as hard as titanium and they have a strong and loud scent. That was what I learned after a week of keeping them in a window. One day after returning home from work, I found a squirrel in the apartment and my roommate and I had to get help from the apartment maintenance man in chasing the overfed rodent out of our humble abode. The walnuts found their way into the garbage and never darkened my door step again.
Today I learned that black walnuts are gracing mom’s garage while the squirrels eagerly sit and watch mom and puff away on their Colorado gold. Some things never change. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.