Little Black Girls Who Don't Crochet

Issue No. 3: Words from the Wise
Words - Carmel Brown

Willa Mae’s fingernails were painted a mahogany red. She wore nail polish from a free sample that accompanied each Fashion Fair lipstick purchase. I remember watching her hands twirl and bend as if she were swinging a baton during the May Day parade. The baby afghan she prodded and snatched around was a pale yellow.

Her ability to twirl that hook coincided with her quick tongue. "Why you always putting your hair behind your ears like a little white girl?" Willa Mae only asked questions she really wanted to know the answers to, and she only asked them once. I thought to myself, because that’s how the girls on Nickelodeon wear their hair. I didn't answer but instead untucked my hair from my ears. Aunt Eustacia interceded by asking me if I wanted to learn how to crochet. Eustacia was Willa Mae's companion, the eldest child, and only girl. She was mostly silent. She smelled like roses and Virginia slims; and often times, she shielded me from Willa Mae’s unsolicited critiques.

I sat at the kitchen table, which was a square metal card table with a plastic red and white checkered table cloth over it. Eustacia gathered some yellow yarn and sat beside me.

"Ok, you take the hook in ya' right hand, and put it thru the hole." Although I was left handed I held the hook in my right hand and proceeded. "You gon' make a chain of loops, watch ma' hands." Eustacia's fingers were thin but strong, pointed and un-aged. I never knew exactly how old she was because she was so childlike. I imagined that Eustacia was really a doll and was never born, but showed up at the tiny duplex on the northside of St. Louis City in a life sized doll box. Her hair was always perfectly combed. She lived in the apartment above Willa Mae’s, and it was always neat. Tiny framed pictures of white Jesus with scripture readings hung on the wall evenly, in a path leading to the only bed room. Inside, her comforter set was satin pink with a white wicker furniture bedside table. Every night she got on her knees and said her prayers.

My chain was crooked and the loops were too loose so we tried another hook. This one was one of Willa Mae's. "Here chil’, let me guide your hands." Eustacia placed her hands on top of my tiny stubby fingers and gently corrected my rebellious jerks. "Look, watch ma' hands." My muscle memory took over, and I was whirling the hook with yellow yarn making perfect loops. "I can't believe nobody taught you how to crochet, don't you know that's what little black girls do?"