- Addy Walker
- Ben Walker
- Ruth Walker
- Miss Dunn
- Esther Walker
- Harriet Davis
- Sarah Moore
- Reverend Drake
Addy is in M'dear's room at the boarding house on Sunday, working on a quilt for her parents. Her placement in relation to the fire makes her think of her brother's saying, that sitting in front of a fire is being caught between two seasons--winter at the back and summer at the front. She says that she won't complain about the summer when it arrives, and M'dear says everything has a season. Addy wishes that she could skip straight into summer, but M'dear reminds her that she would miss her parents' wedding next week. She asks Addy to let her "see" the quilt by running her hands over the stitches and says that Addy's work has improved.
Addy has been working on the quilt for weeks at M'dear's, ever since her parents said they were holding a wedding in the church. While they had been married twenty years earlier on the plantation, they had not been married "properly" in a church due to the laws banning enslaved people from marriage and had instead jumped over a broom. Since Addy didn't have money to buy a gift, she had chosen to make one. Her mother had saved scraps to start a quilt, but since she did a lot of sewing for others she had never been able to start it; Addy has taken the scraps and put it together.
Addy discusses that the squares she did today belonged to a shirt of Uncle Solomon's, and laments that he and Auntie Lula did not live to see her parents married. M'dear says that one of the good things about quilting is that the fabric can be a reminder of the past. She has Addy get a quilt from her bed. She made it after her husband died and most of the squares are from his clothing. There are also cutouts on the quilt, and Addy says she'd like to put them on hers. M'dear tells Addy that they are called appliqués and the ones she picked talk about her husband's life as a blacksmith. Addy says she has no idea what to pick for Momma and Poppa; M'dear says she should start with an important one and then let the others come. That night in bed Addy thinks about what she can do, such as a spool for Momma and carpentry tools for Poppa, but feels none of these are right and that she might not even have time before the wedding to add them anyways.
The next day, Addy takes the quilt to school--Miss Dunn is going to write her parent's names and the new wedding day, then Addy will embroider over the writing with Miss Dunn's help. She looks forward to their time together but feels bad telling Momma a half-truth. When she tells Momma she will be kept after school, Momma asks her if she's been getting in trouble with Harriet. Addy says that she's helping with a special project and Momma decides it's all right for her to stay as long as she comes straight home afterwards. Addy thanks Momma, kisses Esther, and heads to school; she makes a quick stop at M'dear's apartment to pick up the quilt.
During afternoon class, Addy loses her place in the reader waiting her turn. Harriet is sneaking raisins from her pocket and eating them, and snacks are not allowed in class. Addy thinks about telling so that Harriet will get in trouble, as her family can't afford her to bring treats to school and if she did anyways, Harriet would tell. She decides not to tell because Miss Dunn says that children should not be tattletales; anyways, she'll get to spend the afternoon with Miss Dunn, which is a better treat.
That afternoon, Miss Dunn takes out the embroidery silks for Addy, who is impressed by the many colors. Miss Dunn places the center of the quilt tightly in a hoop and neatly writes Addy's parents' names on the quilt and their wedding date on the fabric with ink. She starts a few stitches of embroidery and then gives the needle and thimble to Addy to continue. She encourages Addy to take her time and says that if she does steady work, she can complete the embroidery in time for the wedding. Addy works slowly for now, even though she wants to be quick and neat to complete this and any appliqués she may add. As embroidery silks are expensive, she can't easily cut out her incorrect stitching and redo it.
As Addy works, she watches Miss Dunn work at the tasks of cleaning up the classroom for tomorrow, and says that she didn't know there was so much work after class. Miss Dunn wishes for elves, but notes that she must be quick as she has a meeting. Addy offers to help with the chores both because Miss Dunn has helped her with the quilt and because she expects she'll be doing the same tasks if she is a teacher. Miss Dunn gives her the remaining tasks and leaves for her meeting. Addy sets her quilt on her desk and quickly brings in new kindling for tomorrow, sweeps the floor, and moves the seats back. After completing the chores, she gives herself a little break. Addy sets the broom on the floor and starts jumping back and forth, singing a little rhyme:
- Soon as I miss, I'll know this.
- There'll be a letter, sweet as a berry,
- For the name of the boy I will marry!
Addy then jumps back and forth over the broom, saying a letter each time she jumps. Harriet enters the classroom, startling Addy and causing her to trip at the letter J. Addy accuses Harriet of spying and Harriet says she wasn't because spies hide and she was there long enough to see that Addy would marry a boy whose name began with J. Addy fights being nasty and says she was just playing. Harriet says it didn't look like playing and, as she picks up the broom, says that Addy will marry Joshua, a classmate. Addy snatches the broom and says that Harriet will marry him, and Harriet says Joshua will never marry anyone if he won't stop picking his nose. The two girls laugh, and Addy puts the broom back down on the floor. Harriet goes to look at the quilt Addy is working on and, seeing the date is next week, exclaims that Addy's parents aren't married. Addy says that they were married on the plantation but they are now getting married in freedom and the quilt is a secret gift. Harriet says that more than the quilt should be secret because her parents aren't married. Addy demands Harriet take it back and Harriet refuses, since enslaved people couldn't marry. Addy doesn't know if this is true, so says her parents jumped a broom to marry. Harriet takes a book from her desk--the reason she returned was because she forgot it--and mockingly jumps over the broom, teasing that she's just married herself. Addy says that she's not funny and she'll have to marry herself because no one will marry her ever, not even Joshua. Addy also says she will jump a broom when she's married. Harriet says she won't because jumping a broom is a "slave way" and to be left in the past with slavery. Addy argues that it is not. Harriet says she didn't come to argue with Addy, but no one jumps the broom because it was wrong and never had meaning. Defiantly and mockingly, she jumps over the broom again and smirks at Addy as she leaves.
Addy is worried as she walks home due to Harriet's words. She thinks to discuss it with M'dear, but since she's not feeling well, Addy works quietly in her room. The question still bothers her, so she goes to speak to Momma. Momma is working on a dress while Esther is playing with her doll, Janie. Addy plays half-heartedly with Esther, catching her mother's attention. Momma asks her what's wrong and Addy asks her why she and Poppa need to get married in a church. Momma says that they want to do so, and Addy asks if jumping the broom was wrong and just "slavery ways." Momma asks Addy if Harriet has been giving Addy these ideas, and Addy tells Momma what happened after school.
Momma first tells Addy that Harriet needs to mind her own business instead of nosing around other people. She does acknowledge that Harriet may be right because it was a slavery custom, and that since she and Poppa are now free, they want to do what couldn't be done in slavery, such as taking vows in a church and getting a certificate. This makes Addy realize her mother will like the quilt embroidery, but still asks if jumping the broom didn't count. Momma says that in the Bible, there is a part about man and wife staying together til death they part, and that when enslaved couples married, that part was skipped because a master could sell couples apart any time they wanted. While Ruth and Ben had not had any words spoken over them, they jumped the broom and pledged themselves to each other. Even though this might not mean much to Harriet, it meant a lot to Momma--and to Addy, or else it wouldn't have bothered her at all. Addy should know her own mind, she advises--Harriet might be book smart, but she can't know about people's hearts and so she can't tell anyone how to feel.
Addy says she wants to jump the broom at her wedding and Harriet thought it was funny. Momma laments that no one jumps the broom anymore, and that she jumped quite high at her wedding. Esther chirps in that she wants to jump the broom too, and amuses Addy and Momma. Addy asks about Poppa; Momma says he jumped high too because stepping on the broom was bad luck. Momma was very happy on her wedding day. Auntie Lula made a feast and all the enslaved people came together and played music and danced. The important thing is there was no master or overseer there. Momma concludes that while she had many sad days when enslaved, her wedding day was one of the happiest days because she felt free and happy.
The next day, Addy finishes supper and goes to M'dear's room to complete her quilt; most of her embroidery is done. She decides in bed that she can do an appliqué if she takes it to school to work on, and wonders what to use. As she comes up with an idea, she says "I got it!" out loud. Esther asks for some of what Addy has, Addy tells her to go to sleep, Esther repeats her, and Poppa tells them both to go to sleep.
At recess, Addy stays at her desk working on her quilt. She has basted a broom onto the quilt to appliqué. Some girls come into the classroom to warm up, and Mavis sees Addy's work and says it's very good. Other girls agree, and Addy points out all the scraps, including that the broom handle is made of Poppa's old cuffs and the broom is from one of Momma's dress hems. Harriet comes over and says that Addy's still making that "slave quilt." Addy snaps that it's not a slave quilt, and Harriet says it must be or else it wouldn't have a stupid broom on it. Before Addy can respond, Miss Dunn comes over and compliments Addy on her progress and the broom she has appliquéd on. Harriet says that she thinks that slave ways should be left back with slavery.
Addy, standing up for herself, says that she didn't ask Harriet her opinion and that she can think what she wants, but she feels that this quilt is about her family, and the appliqué is for her parents. They might have been married in slavery, she continues, but they were married and as the broom jumping was part of their story, she's telling it. Miss Dunn agrees and says that while slavery may be over, the memories and events done then are part of what families, and all colored people, are about, and Addy is right to honor them. The other girls agree and Miss Dunn asks Harriet if she agrees; Harriet gives a quiet yes.
On the day of the wedding, Momma wears the plain blue wool dress she wears every Sunday to church, but has given it a new collar and cuffs and placed a veil on her hat. Poppa's shirt has a new collar and he is clean-shaven. Reverend Drake has the two repeat the vows after him, and when they reach "til death do you part," Momma cries. Addy is crying too and Sarah gives her hand a squeeze. At the wedding supper, they have various foods. Momma and Poppa get several gifts and love Addy's quilt. Momma reads the date and praises Addy's good stitching.
Addy takes the quilt to M'dear and has her run her hands over the appliqué; she is able to tell that it's a broom. Addy says that she's not sad today as she expected to be, because she knows that Auntie Lula and Uncle Solomon would have loved the wedding and that her parents jumping the broom meant just as much as this wedding. She also says that she is going to add another applique to the quilt--the broom is for the past, and she will add the church for today--and she likes both.
Meet The Author
Connie Porter talks about the revival of African-American couples adding the broom jumping back into their wedding ceremonies and that if she were to ever marry, she would include this in her ceremony.
Looking Back: Weddings in 1864
Discusses weddings in the 1860s with an emphasis on African American ceremonies. Topics covered:
- Southern governments viewing enslaved people as properties instead of families and people, thus why marriages between enslaved people was illegal.
- Jumping the broom, and superstitions around it, such as not touching the broom to avoid bad luck.
- Enslaved people having to ask permission to marry from those that enslaved them, and reasons for why many masters would allow their enslaved people to marry.
- Masters or preachers reading the vows at wedding ceremonies, and the celebrations that happened afterwards.
- The masters who held elaborate ceremonies for their house servants, who some viewed as family members.
- Ceremonies for enslaved people often leaving out the words "til death do you part" due to their masters' abilities to split couples apart for profit.
- How the ability for Blacks to re-marry legally after the Civil War as a sign of true freedom.
- Other rights given to freed people such as education, ownership, official citizenship, and the significance of being able to keep their families together.
Activity: Make a Love-ly Pillow
Instructions are given on how to make a small appliquéd pillow.
- Sam is listed on the cast page, but is only mentioned in passing by Addy.
- While Sarah is noted as still in school (she speaks about Addy's quilt before class) the timing of this book--very soon after the events of Changes for Addy--means that she mostly likely would have no longer been in school. However, it is also possible that the story is set just before Sarah has to fully drop out, and she is being allowed to finish the school term.
- ↑ Addy's parents are married on January 28th, 1866, as written on the quilt; M'dear states that the Walkers will be married next week at the start and as Addy has school in the morning, it must be a Sunday.