Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Everyday Use

Yo-yo quilt by made by Faye Fletcher

I haven't been blogging lately because I received word on November 16 that my grandmother had been admitted to the hospital. With Zoe as my furry sidekick, I made the two-day drive from Texas to Ashe County, North Carolina, in the Appalachian Mountains (where my cell phone and mobile Internet are useless). Unfortunately, I did not "win" NaNoWriMo, but  I don't really care. I am so glad I was able to spend time with my grandmother and help make her more comfortable, and that I was able to be with my family during this time.

My grandmother passed away on Friday.  Her memorial service was held in the same small country church were my parents were married over forty years ago. The family cemetery where she is now buried stands on a hill overlooking that church, a small creek, and the house where my father was raised. Just down the road is the hollar (hollow) where the house my grandmother was born and raised in once stood. 

Granny was a school teacher. Several of her former students who attended her memorial service shared their memories of Miss Faye teaching them to read from a Dick and Jane reader. I can remember her reading to me from the same book when I was young. I also remember how much she loved to read. When I was little she would read a short novel and work an entire book of difficult crossword puzzles just about every day. I am certain I get some of my book nerdiness from her. She also taught me how to sew, cross-stitch, crochet, make fabric yo-yos and a hundred other skills I use every day.

Detail of Embroidered Table Cloth with Crochet Trim Made by Faye Fletcher

Over the years she and the members of her quilting circle made hundreds, if not thousands, of quilts. They gave many of them away to people in the community, and a few of them keep their loving descendants warm each night. Granny was also famous for her pound cakes and left drawers full of handwritten recipes. We are also left with fond memories of her quick wit and fierce independence, and her examples of unfailing kindness and generosity to try to follow.

In the days since she became ill, my brother has made several cakes using her recipes, trying to make one that tastes as good as hers did. I have crocheted a scarf for each of my nieces, and am teaching them to knit and crochet just  like Granny taught me. When I think about my grandmother and her life, I am reminded of Alice Walker's short story, Everyday Use, which is about truly appreciating one's heritage and family traditions. The things my grandmother taught us – about reading, cooking, quilting and life – are her legacy.

So it touched my heart when I got back to the Interwebs yesterday and learned that a blogger in Guam had linked to my article about making yo-yo quilts and had made some cute fabric yo-yos for herself and her daughters. My grandmother, who spent most of her 95 years living alongside that one-mile stretch of creek that runs through those North Carolina mountains, left a creative legacy that now reaches farther than she ever imagined. If she knew, she would just smile a little and say, "Well . . . " And then just go on about her business.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother's death, but how wonderful that she left you with such beautiful memories and so many lovely skills. Your post is a fine tribute to her. My own grandmother was a talented needlewoman, too, and I've always wished I had paid more attention when she tried to teach me to crochet. I was too impatient then, but now I'd think of it as a very comforting link with the past. Your nieces are very lucky to have you!

  2. I'm so sorry to hear about your grandmother, Alison. You are very lucky she left your family with such treasures both material and immaterial.

  3. Okay, pass the Puffs plus lotion tissues please. I sadly but tenderly enjoyed this post. *sniff* *dab* I am so, so sorry for your tremendous loss. Oh, that I could impact the lives of the young, and even the not-as-young as our grandmothers did. May we see the potential to sow the seeds of goodness which they entrusted to us. Thank you for sharing a fraction of her legacy today.

  4. I'm so sorry to hear of your Grandmother's passing, but what a wonderful legacy she has left behind. She would be so pleased, too, that you are passing on to the next generation the skills she taught you. My son-in-law lost his uncle and grandmother a week apart just before Thanksgiving, and I know it's hard to lose a loved one at holiday time. I hope the many warm memories of your Granny will ease the pain of her loss. What a wonderful tribute your blog is to her memory. Thank you for sharing it and her with us all.

  5. This is a beautiful post! It brought tears to my eyes. Your Granny would be happy to see how much you and your family loved her and how much you treasure her memory and everything she stood for... and still does.