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.
Cover from the soundtrack album for A Charlie Brown Christmas (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This week Lizzy and I spent time with one another’s friends and relatives. This included meeting her daughter and her family, some of Lizzy’s closest friends and Lizzy talking with my mother. For some reason, I was telling her a story about when the characters on How I met you Mother decided that they don’t like someone who one of their friends is dating, they try to sabotage the relationship. To me, anyone she could have dated before me is probably a man who is running around wearing hoodie footie pajamas and giving them friends as gifts. These are the sort of men enrolled in women’s studies classes expecting to get easy passing grades and complained when the teacher rejected their one page handwritten papers. These are not the sort of men one would want to enter the era of post racial enlightenment 2014 with, now would you? Of course not.
Of course, I am slightly exaggerating because Lizzy has a couple of wonderful adult daughters. And, no I don’t think her friends will be doing any weird stunts to set her up with their unmarried cousins. you know, the ones with the chipped teeth from playing hockey or rugby. One thing her friends were curious about was the Christmas quilt because I had no idea what it looked like because my memory was at 24%. I had slept under the quilt 3 weeks ago but that might as well be last June for all I knew. It also seems that I see a lot of things in black and white, as my other blog talks about adding a little color to local events.
After the first weeks of romantic adventures where you are half-naked in each others arms, you begin to notice certain idiosyncrasies. The kind that Charlie Brown discussed with Lucy in the Peanuts comic strip. I had a distinct memory of Lucy handing Charlie Brown a long printout of what she called his flaws. And he responded that they were character traits. Well I picked up on a few of Lizzy’s . My sweet, darling little sweetheart is a kicker. This week I counted about 5 kicks she gave me for certain indiscretions in talking with her family and friends. Fortunately, I had seen that movie before and avoided the worst of it.
The meeting between Mom and Lizzy brought out another difference between us. I called home Christmas Day and was sitting around leisurely getting ready to visit her friends while Lizzy was frantically getting dressed. I have never understood the layers of clothes that women wear which is why I figured there was plenty of time for family bonding while Lizzy did whatever she was doing. I put Mom on speaker phone and listened while Lizzy went from room to room. Finally I decided to introduce them to one another. It was a scene of much hilarity and fortunately there were no pictures. Or kicks. So that is how we spent our first holiday together.
English: Kulipuʻu, quilt from Kauai, late 19th or early 20th century, Honolulu Academy of Arts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The quilt was begun by my great grandmother, a woman who I never met but apparently had a strong influence on my mother. She passed along lots of skills to mom, including quilting. In fact far more than her mother did. I have seen pictures of great grandmother, who was born in the 1880s. Long after slavery had ended. she knew the stories of freedom and determination and she was determined to pass them along together with practical skills. There was my mother soaking up everything like a sponge. She knew those things would come in handy for years to come.
Mom has a loom somewhere in the basement where she works on her projects. She also has one of those sewing machines with a foot pedal. There’s enough going on in her mind and body to last for the next ten years.
When I visited mom and my sister I saw a a bright, wonderfully decorative quilt on the bed where my uncle had slept and I knew I wanted it. So I asked for her to send it to me. Tonight the quilt is on the bed where I will be snuggling with my sweetheart Lizzy. I posted pictures of it on my facebook page. Lizzy asked me not to let mom know I would be sharing the quilt with her. But I’m certain mom knows what’s going on. After all, she didn’t fall off the truck yesterday. The quilt will share her love and warmth for many years to come.