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 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.