16

“Some of the pieces, like those lavender ones, come from old clothes her mother handed down to her,” I said, moving up to touch the quilts. Dee (Wangero) moved back just enough so that I couldn’t reach the quilts. They already belonged to her. 


“Imagine!” she breathed again, clutching them closely to her bosom. 


“The truth is,” I said, “I promised to give them quilts to Maggie, for when she marries John Thomas.” 


She gasped like a bee had stung her. 


“Maggie can’t appreciate these quilts!” she said. “She’d probably be backward enough to put them to everyday use.” 


“I reckon she would,” I said. “God knows I been saving ’em for long enough with nobody using ’em. I hope she will!” I didn’t want to bring up how I had offered Dee (Wangero) a quilt when she went away to college. Then she had told me they were old-fashioned, out of style. 


17

“But they’re priceless!” she was saying now, furiously; for she has a temper. “Maggie would put them on the bed and in five years they’d be in rags. Less than that!”“She can always make some more,” I said. “Maggie knows how to quilt.”

Dee (Wangero) looked at me with hatred. “You just will not understand. The point is these quilts, these quilts!”

“Well,” I said, stumped. “What would you do with them?”

“Hang them,” she said. As if that was the only thing you could do with quilts.

Maggie by now was standing in the door. I could almost hear the sound her feet made as they scraped over each other.

“She can have them, Mama,” she said, like somebody used to never winning anything or having anything reserved for her. “I can ’member Grandma Dee without the quilts.”


18

I looked at her hard. She had filled her bottom lip with checkerberry snuff, and it gave her face a kind of dopey, hangdog look. It was Grandma Dee and Big Dee who taught her how to quilt herself. She stood there with her scarred hands hidden in the folds of her skirt. She looked at her sister with something like fear, but she wasn’t mad at her. This was Maggie’s portion. This was the way she knew God to work. 


When I looked at her like that, something hit me in the top of my head and ran down to the soles of my feet. Just like when I’m in church and the spirit of God touches me and I get happy and shout. I did something I never had done before: hugged Maggie to me, then dragged her on into the room, snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero’s hands, and dumped them into Maggie’s lap. Maggie just sat there on my bed with her mouth open. 


“Take one or two of the others,” I said to Dee. 


But she turned without a word and went out to Hakim-a-barber. 


19

“You just don’t understand,” she said, as Maggie and I came out to the car. 


“What don’t I understand?” I wanted to know. 


“Your heritage,” she said. And then she turned to Maggie, kissed her, and said, “You ought to try to make something of yourself, too, Maggie. It’s really a new day for us. But from the way you and Mama still live, you’d never know it.” 


She put on some sunglasses that hid everything above the tip of her nose and her chin. 


Maggie smiled, maybe at the sunglasses. But a real smile, not scared. After we watched the car dust settle, I asked Maggie to bring me a dip of snuff. And then the two of us sat there just enjoying, until it was time to go in the house and go to bed. 


Making Meanings 
Everyday Use 

 

Reading Check 

a. According to Mama, how is Dee different from her and from Maggie? 
b. How would Maggie and Dee use the quilts differently? 
c. When she was a child, something terrible happened to Maggie. What was it? 
d. How did the mother choose to resolve the conflict over the quilts? 
e. Find the passage in the text that explains the title . 


First Thoughts 

1. Which character did you side with in the conflict over the quilts, and why? 

Shaping Interpretations 

2. What do you think is the source of the conflict in this story? Consider: 

3. Dee is referred to as the child who has “made it.” What do you think that means, and what signs tell you that she has “made it”? 

4. Use a diagram like the one on the right to compare and contrast Dee and Maggie. What is the most significant thing they have in common? What is their most compelling difference? 

5. Near the end of the story, Dee accuses Mama of not understanding their African American heritage. Do you agree or disagree with Dee, and why? 

6. Has any character changed by the end of the story? Go back to the text and find details to support your answer. 

7. Why do you think Alice Walker dedicated her story “For Your Grandmama”? 

Extending the Text 

8. What do you think each of these three women will be doing ten years after the story ends? 

9. This story takes place in a very particular setting and a very particular culture. Talk about whether or not the problems faced by this family could be experienced by any family, anywhere. 

Challenging the Text 
10. Do you think Alice Walker chose the right narrator for her story? How would the story differ if Dee or Maggie were telling it, instead of Mama? (What would we know that we don’t know now?)


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