“Cute+” — a demonstration of a child’s ability to see the facts (in this case, facts that aren’t usually considered positive in America –being overweight) and not let that hinder her loving impulses. But as it turned out, the making of the quilt became a challenge to my sensibilities about racial matters in America 2010 and political correctness.
This is the story: four-year-old big sister asserts to little sister about their preschool teacher, “Miss Patty is sooooo fat and I just LOVE her!” My daughter, their mother, overheard this comment, thought it was so fun and nice and told me the story. A couple of months later, I had decided that I would make a quilt about this story. I was talking to my daughter about it — I wanted it to be as accurate as possible about the “characters” in the story. I asked, “How does Miss Patty wear her hair?” My daughter said, “Corn rows…she’s African-American — she wears her hair in braids in a ponytail.” My heart sank. How could I, a 66-year-old white woman, make a quilt about a fat, black woman without being accused of being racist — or, perhaps, it would indeed be racist to do so. If not full-blown racism, at the least, it would be a not-so-flattering caricature/stereotype that I know exists in some people’s minds. My daughter and I discussed this — she understood my concern. We talked about making a white Miss Patty. After all, we said, the main idea would be maintained of the “loving innocence of children.” But I didn’t know what to do — and, besides, I became very interested in making those corn rows and braids. I thought it would great fun to braid embroidery thread and put them in Miss Patty’s ponytail. I was still noodling all this around, when I told the “problem” to my good friend who has an Ecuadorian father and a Caucasian mother and is very assertive/sensitive about racial/ethnic matters. She understood what I was explaining and quick as can be said, “If you make her a teacher, someone in authority, it wouldn’t be a problem.” In other words, not a maid or dare I say, “a Mammy.” So I made Miss Patty the owner of the preschool and proceeded. I have never met Miss Patty, but she must love my granddaughters and therefore, I love her too. The QuiltToon™ is 18″ H X 16″ W. Machine pieced and top-stitched. Machine and hand embroidered. Completed in August 2010.
The Photo and Narrative © 2010