Mozell Benson’s Improvisational Life

In this month’s Lee Magazine

She is small — small enough to make a playhouse of a quilt draping over a quilting frame. Webb, her constant companion, huddles with her, fenced in by the legs of the stitching ladies. The children play jacks. Little rocks stand in for the jacks, and a bigger rock for the ball. Webb, six months her junior, is Mozell’s nephew. Sometimes he thinks they’re twins. They might as well be. They share twins’ conspiracies, secrets, and hiding places. Every once in awhile, Mozell’s mother interrupts their play, handing needles and thread to the two little ones beneath the quilt. The sharp-eyed pair threads them and hand them back up.

Mozell says the needle threading was her first step to quilting, safe in her tent with ladies singing and praying and gossiping overhead. But look, instead, at the jacks. Here is the heart, the making of the woman to come, the child who knows the possibilities in a pile of pebbles.

A ceiling fan turns lazily over the small group on the front porch of Mozell Benson’s quilting studio on a birdsong-filled plot on Lee Road 72. Two dogs snore beneath a bench, noses twitching at intervals, critiquing stray aromas mid-doze. The sky is soft, like a fuzzy blue blanket.

Benson, seventy-four, is the natural center of this or any circle.

“They call you an artist. Do you think of yourself as an artist?”

“Noo-oo,” she says, drawing the word into two notes. “I’m a quilter! And I was struggling hard to get those quilts made for my kids to keep warm.”

But she acknowledges, “That’s what they call me. They call you names too, don’t they?”

Read the rest of my story about Mozell here.

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