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Hill Country Living

Local Quilts Are Headed To D.C. Museum


Another winter week has gone by and I feel like all I do is work for Christmas gift money and move that dang Elf on the Shelf around. I swear my youngest child gets up at three in the morning to check the whereabouts of the Elf, who he named Speedy. I have another secret name for that Elf that is unprintable in the newspaper but I call him Speedy in front of the kids to be nice.

If you are a child who believes in the magic of Santa Claus, then I suggest you stop reading my column right now. Read my column again next week but for now,  Spoiler Alert! If you keep reading then your Elf will tell Santa Claus and you won’t get that iPhone 10 you hilariously asked for. 

The Elf routine at my house goes like this: I forget to move the Elf. Then, in the middle of the night, I hear my youngest boy’s feet hit the floor as he jumps out of bed to check on the Elf. So, in turn, I have had to jump out of bed like I’ve been electrocuted and move the Elf as fast as possible before my kid makes it to the next room. 

This means I’m really not very creative with the Elf, as I’m always dealing with him in a panicked and semi-conscious daze. He basically jumps back and forth between the Christmas tree and the window sill, stuck in some perpetual time loop where he can only find two places to sit. World’s lamest Elf, living right here in Water Valley.

Speaking of special things in Water Valley, a curator from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American Heritage and Culture in Washington D.C. was just down at my fabric store this morning discussing with local Water Vallian David Buford the logistics of the museum acquiring his grandmother’s handmade quilts. y’all. This is huge.

This museum is brand new, is yards from the Washington Monument, is the most attended museum on Earth (yes, Earth!) and they were here in Water Valley this morning getting artwork that one of our townspeople made. They are the quilts of David’s grandmother, Ethel Lee Benson. David brought them into my fabric store last year wanting one repaired. When I saw it I told him it was incredible. He said he had a bunch more in his truck. And, man, he really did. He plopped down about 14 or 15 of the most strangely made and beautiful quilts I had seen in a long time. We decided not to repair them, as I didn’t want to mess with Ethel’s work, in case we could make something bigger happen with the quilts.

Well, through a series of lucky breaks and good timing and David’s devotion to the collection, the quilts went straight to the top. The Smithsonian museum in D.C. took 10 quilts this morning, including pictures of David and his grandmother, and even Ms. Benson’s own sewing machine.

It’s hard for me to express what an honor it is for Water Valley to have work go to this museum. It’s an honor for Mississippi. It’s exciting for me as an art person to have been involved in this and I am so thankful that David decided to walk in my store that day with his old quilt. 

I’ll keep you all updated on the progress of this Water Valley collection as it goes through the ins and outs of actually making it onto the walls of the Smithsonian’s newest and most admired museum. Congrats to David. Congrats to Ethel, who I hear was a real firecracker, as I wish she was alive to know this was happening. The lesson here: don’t throw your quilts away! 

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