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.
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.
television (Photo credit: jeevs)
I wrote about surviving this morning and that seems so appropriate. Look at the things I talked about and yet forgot to mention the person who meant the most to me for much of that earlier period: my brother. there is not a day that passes when I don’t have a thought about him or see someone who reminds me of him. If you’re in my age group, you have probably lost people like my brother: a sibling, or a parent or fellow soldiers who meant something to you and you think: who am I to have survived? What was so special about me? I don’t deserve this.
But like me, you learned that as the survivor you were meant to carry on and live your life to the fullest because that’s all we can do. If I had died earlier there are so many millions of things I would have missed. Including the simple joy of holding “Margaret” while she cooked yesterday.
- Guilt and Forgiveness (shelleymariex.wordpress.com)