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Everyday Use

This Week’s Writing Prompt

Maggie can’t have these quilts!” Dee 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!” 

“But they’re priceless!” 

“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. 

 —Excerpt fromEveryday Use, Alice Walker 

In Alice Walker’s short story, Everyday Use,, a mother and daughter are debating the best way to honor priceless family heirlooms—quilts that were pieced together and sewn by several generations of women. They used fabric scraps from Grandma’s dresses, Grandpa’s shirts, and even a teeny faded piece of Great-Grandpa’s Civil War uniform. Each square in the pattern held a bit of history and told some of their stories. 

Should the quilts be safely stored in a hope chest? Hung up and displayed? Laid across a bed and snuggled under day after day? Which method most honors the quilts’ history? 

What about you? Do you have a sacred family heirloom or a special object that was passed down to you?  

      • Describe it in detail and why it is so valuable to you and your family.  
      • What was done with it before you received it?  
      • What have you done with the item since receiving it?  
      • Create a short dialogue depicting a discussion between family members about how to use or preserve this object. 


  • Janet Evans
    Posted October 22, 2020 at 4:35 pm

    I have a handmade quilt made by me, a yet to be a heirloom. Which child should I leave this quilt to? My son’s wives would probably not enjoy it. I can hear the comments already. What will I do with this? It does not match anything in our master bedroom.
    One daughter likes modern so that leaves daughter number two who thankfully, is an antique lover and loves to do handmade sewing projects.
    This quilt was made totally by hand by me during my many hours spent at AlAnon meetings. The piece work was easy to transport and the time spent there was plenty and quiet.
    As I approach my declining years, I am hopeful that someone in the family will cherish this beautiful quilt made with coordinating pinks, burgundy and green prints with a solid pink back cover. It was quilted hand by a group of friends taking many hours. The only one I ever created.
    I am so grateful that I have enjoyed using it.

    • Sharon Rhyce
      Posted October 23, 2020 at 5:00 am

      Your quilt sounds like a true work of heart. I believe your thoughts are not those that many of us share. Will our children want any of these pieces of our history? What’s even worse is will they want it for our grandchildren after they’ve disposed of it and it’s too late.

  • Sharon Rhyce
    Posted October 23, 2020 at 5:34 am

    A treasured object is the “Pompadour” pattern Rosenthal China that my parents purchased in Dresden, Germany in the 1950s. My dad was stationed in Germany then. My mother told me this was purchased over time, small payments were made until it was paid in full. When my daughter got married her Grandmother had passed away years prior. I asked my daughter if she’d like Grandma’s China and she said yes. The cream colored China had carnation pink colored roses bordering the dishes and cups, with gold trim at the very edges. Her grandparents history would live on.I wrapped a cup and saucer so that her friends could see the China at her shower. I included a note written in present form as if her Grandma had written it. The note explained the struggle to make a slow purchase over time, the history of this China from Germany to America. I wanted her to know this China was used for special occasions and entertained many over her grandparents 64 years of marriage.Now the torch was passed and she could use this heirloom to entertain and create new memories. Sadly, her husband passed away in a car accident ten months after their wedding. This China now sits in a Rubbermaid bin in my closet. I’m not sure if Pompadour Rosenthal will ever be used by her. Will the memories trigger what we once thought would be magical and was cut short? Will my son’s daughter, our only grandchild, take these dishes and treasure them one day? (They’re not my daughter in laws style, which I understand) While I wonder, and it will be out of my hands one day, I can only hope they do not end up on a shelf at the Thrift Shop.

  • Jacqueline Trudeau
    Posted October 26, 2020 at 4:16 pm

    China Service for Twelve
    Recently I described such heirlooms as “treasures” that need to be catalogued, photographed and documented for my family. After adding the “project” to my computer, I began to make the list from memory in a place far from home. This is a difficult task, because I cannot walk around my home and see these artifacts resting on a bed or hanging on a wall or taking up space as furniture or place settings.

    One of the “treasures” left home more than 25 years ago. My daughter married in her middle twenties, and we talked at length about the lovely china service for 12 that belonged to my maternal grandmother Lena.  Our family had used it over the years at our homes in Providence, Orlando and Apopka when entertaining extended family from near and far. At the Orlando house, I displayed the dinner plates, salad plates, cups and saucers, bowls, and serving platters in a built-in cabinet with tall, glass doors at the end of the dining room.  The bright blue traditional print on pristine white china with a narrow, gold trim provided an artistic display of its own against the dark walnut wood. Every time I walked into that room or cleaned the glass, I remembered Gram Lena and her dinners served on that china. While I did not want to burden my child with a set of dishes she did not want, she accepted my offer and selected a lovely set of stemware for her bridal registry that would complement the fine china.

    She has dutifully moved this china a few times and it is now neatly organized and tucked away in quilted storage coverings in the main closet of her Florida home. I do not recall the last time I saw the dinnerware, and I have not asked her recently about whether she plans to use any of it. Her current lifestyle is busy with family and work, and opportunities for extended family dinners are few and far between. Formal entertaining is largely lost in her family’s informal lifestyle.

    Mom: “Hi! Do you still have Gram Lena’s china stored in your closet? I know you are taking stock of possessions and just wondered if you might donate them or sell them anytime soon.”
    Daughter: “You know I would never part with them, but we just don’t have meals that work with place settings, best china and stemware.”

    I suspect that possession of “treasures’ from an earlier generation do not survive as “treasures” in the next generation. 

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