Several of you asked about the chair and the suitcase that I used in some of my Alabama work.
The chair belonged to my grandparents. My mother remembers it as far back as the 1930's, but she thinks it originally belonged to her grandparents. A simple wooden chair with a hand-woven cane bottom, someone, many years ago, painted it green. Mother says when she was six or seven years old, she sat in it in the kitchen and shelled peas. Rain came down on their tin roof, competing with the noise of the peas hitting the big metal pan. My grandmother stood over the stove, frying chicken in a skillet for the family's dinner. They were a poor farming family, and the house had no dining room. There was a big kitchen, with a cast iron stove, lots of cabinets, a pantry, and a long table made by my great-grandfather. A bench for the children was on one side of the table, while straight-back chairs were on the other. Mama said she always wanted a chair, because too many kids had to crowd onto that bench to eat their meals.
The chair's seat has been re-caned many times. My great-grandmother Lucy would walk out into the woods, looking for white oak saplings. From those, she would remove the bark and cut it into strips. The strips were then woven together to make the seat.
Every time I visit my eighty-one-year-old mama, she says, "Take what you want. I'll be gone soon enough, and y'all will sell evrahthang I own at a garage sale!" I always tell her not to die, and there's nothing I need to take. This time, though, I thought about it and said, "I'd like the chair." "Well," she said, "I can't give you that."
A few days after I returned from my Alabama trip, mama called. "I've been thinking," she said, "You can have the chair." She'd discussed it with my uncle, and decided it was okay to let it go. Now I just have to figure out how to get it back to Dallas. Stay tuned, and I'll tell you about the suitcase.