Karen Musgrave (KM): This is Karen Musgrave and I'm conducting a Quilters'S.O.S. - Save Our Stories interview with Tangie Thomas. Today's date is July 21, 2009. It is now 9:35 in the morning. We are at the Franklin Pre-Release Center in Columbus, Ohio. Tangie, thank you so much for taking time out of your day to do this with me. Please first let's start out by telling me why you're here.
Tangie Thomas (TT): I'm here because the system let me down in the sense that myson had done, stabbed in his eye. They made the mistake and let the gentleman go and he was eluding the police. His brother was sending messages to my family and he was stalking my 13 year old daughter when she was going to school. I worked for an engineering company out of town and my son was home when she told me he was stalking her. I had a melt down and I ran into him. I'm in here for attempted murder and felonious assault.
KM: Let's move on to the quilt. Please tell me about your quilt "A Mother'sDream Shattered and Broken."
TT: My quilt is about my son, CeDeno. He is my only son and he is my bestfriend. I had him when I was a teenager just out of high school. At the age of 19, I really didn't know how to raise children. He was my second child so we kind of raised each other. I was raised in a dysfunctional home myself and I decided to move away from there. I decided to move to Columbus and I went through counseling with my children so that I could be the parent that I wanted to be. He was a son that any mother would be proud of. When he was about six a friend of mine--I was dating--his son was in football and he kept bragging about his son being in football. So the next year I put CeDeno on football and he made the cut and two days later he quit the team. I was like, 'Why did he quit the team?' 'Because he didn't want to practice.' He wanted to just play and I was, 'No, let me go talk to the coach,' and the coach was, 'I've already spoken to CeDeno.' I was, 'Well look, you are just grounded for the next four years. I'm not doing no sports or anything.' I had put out all this money and time. Probably a couple years later when he turned eight I got him and his sister into karate at the local recreation center. They were doing this during the summer and fall came along and the sensei said that CeDeno had potential. He joined the dojo [Japanese martial arts place.] and he was in competition. I would go to the dojo. They would call me from daycare that CeDeno was acting up, so he was like a little problem at daycare. When her husband took CeDeno with him, CeDeno was fine. I've been going from work cause of CeDeno, so I had a problem with CeDeno. With the dojo, when CeDeno got in trouble at school, I would call Sensei Carter and he would have CeDeno come up to the dojo and do extra chores and everything. Later on I found out through counseling, I had him and his sister tested, that CeDeno is dyslectic. Had a very high IQ though. Then I got him into tutoring. That helped a lot with him but he still, CeDeno was very outspoken. He was not disrespectful, but he is not going to let you talk down to him like a lot of teachers will do. So I would have to go to the school all the time for CeDeno and he would tell me what he had done wrong so when I get in there I would be, 'Yes, CeDeno told me what he has done. You tell me how you handled it. You handled it wrong,' like that. I decided to join the dojo, but in the style that we took CeDeno was over me [laughs.] so I would be, 'Show me this move and he would be, 'No, I will show you,' this and that, and I would be, 'No, I'm not doing all of that.' Being at dojo practicing, it would be me and him practicing. I would be trying to get him really good and the people wouldn't believe that I was his mother. They were like, 'Look at this she is tearing him up.' 'That is his mother,' and then like, 'Oh, I didn't know that.' We did tournaments together. He was undefeated. He ended up fighting grown men at the age of 12. He was very good. The dojo there is a strict code that they follow and he got into one fight at after school and he ran home and told me, 'But it was the karate creed, Mom.' It was the karate creed and I'm like, 'What is it?' He repeated it to me and there were some witnesses there and they told me what happened so I was like, 'Okay.' He did good on that. Later on I got sick. I was going to school for engineering. I went to school for mechanical and I changed mine to civil, but I had a lot of female problems and endometriosis and a couple of cysts in my ovaries. I got real sick, but CeDeno had got this--I bought him this leather jacket everybody wanted and I'm never going to forget this time. I came home and we have 125 gallon fish tank and there was this money on top of the fish tank. I usually leave money on top of the fish tank for the kids to pay bills or whatever and he had sold his jacket for me to pay bills. That is the type of kid he was. He was 15. 15 year olds don't do that; that is the type of person that CeDeno was. When he turn 18, I got him a place next door to where I live at and a lot of his friends were going to college and I told him I said, 'Well, I don't want you to go to college because I want you to go to college. I want you to go to college because you want to go to college. Take a year off.' I didn't mean not to work, but he took the whole year off so I was paying all of his bills and I would get off of work and 'The word of the day is j-o-b.' [laughs.] I would go over there and harass him and his friends would be, 'That's your mom. She's coming over.' When 911 happened that was a turning point because I was so proud of him because he decided to go into the Reserves after that. His last name is Mohammad because my last name was Mohammad. I didn't know this until after I had my kids. My mother was an Islam. She never told us, but it was on our birth certificate so I had to get my name legally changed from Thomas because all of my stuff was in Thomas. His name is CeDeno, which is Cuban and I guess in the Koran it has something close to that. He was running into problems getting jobs. He was in the Reserves. Even getting his security clearance, they didn't do his security clearance until a whole year and a half after he had gotten in there. He was getting ready to go to Afghanistan or Kuwait. We had a kennel together and he named it "Tangie and Son Kennel." We did Boxers. What happened was he had decided that he was going to go full time. We had our master plan because we were getting ready to do a big business together and his high school girlfriend, they had planned to get married when he turned 27. He had everything mapped out. How everything was going to go. November 10, he went to a friend's house and the two roommates were fighting and he intervened to try to stop them from fighting and the guy stabbed him in his eye. It went into his brain and he had frontal lobe brain damage. With frontal lobe brain damage, you're not the same person, your personality is changed. You are not the same person who you were. On top of that, he had a stroke on the right side while he was in a coma. At this point, he is in a nursing home. I dedicated this quilt to him, "A Mother's Dream Shattered and Broken," because it was the dream that I had for my son from a child to an adult, things that he would do. I had always planned to live with him in my old age and I would be like, 'Make sure you get the little apartment over the garage for me when I'm older.' We were so close that he had his own place. I had moved and purchased a house and he was over there all the time and when he was going back to his house, I was like, 'Man, I sure do miss CeDeno,' and he was like, 'I sure do miss Mommy.' His pipes busted so he got out of his lease and moved back home. That was the reason for the master plan to get our business and stuff and I'm like, 'Wow, why are we so close CeDeno?' He is, 'Mommy, we just think alike.' That was the thing, we just think alike. I had one of his friends over there and I was telling them I said, 'I've been going to school for CeDeno since he was in daycare.' He was like, 'Daycare? Daycare?' Because I had just went to school for him and I said, 'If I hear the speech from the principal one more time, I think I might have to give you a spanking son.' They go through the speech again and we look at each other. 'CeDeno, what it was?' He was so outspoken that they didn't like the way he spoke, but he never disrespected them. He gets offended, 'Okay, I just want to go back to school.'
KM: How did you come about creating the quilt?
TT: Chaplain [Jami.] Burns at Marysville had a seminar for Sacred Threads and alady came in and she had this one with the tree. I forget her name.
KM: Vikki Pignatelli.
TT: Yes, she was telling us about it and I was, 'Okay.' When she was talking, Iwas like swirling in my mind, but when we had the group and Chaplain Burns, 'You have a year to do the quilt.' So I thought about it and I said, 'Well, I want my quilt to be different than anyone's.' I had a friend who does sketches for me and I spoke with her about doing the original painting of the mural and she didn't think she could first do it. [Jena.] Churchill is her name and she was like, 'You really think I can do it?' and I was like, 'Yeah, I think you can do it.' I told her how I wanted CeDeno as a child, as an infant, and a little bit older and then as a grown man with the bull coming out because that is his zodiac sign. The bull just represents how his personality, the stubbornness, how when the doctor told me that he was going to die that Saturday. I was like, 'My son is not going to die because I know my son. My son is a fighter.' When he was in the coma and they had him on a machine, I was talking and you could see the machine, how he was trying to come out of it. It would go up and I was like, 'My son is a fighter. He is not going to go out of it. This is just not his time to die.' Then the tombstone is the things that he has lost, all the things that he would normally have: a personality, things that everyone would have in their lives, the dreams that he had because now he has to have someone to look after him, to take care of him because he has changed. That's the part there that with me overlooking his life, the dreams are gone and they are shattered and they are broken. It is his life, just everything and it's just worthless. All of that because he never got justice for it. With him being in the coma, he has forgotten what had happened to him with the guy stabbing him so he never got justice at all. That just shows [inaudible.] the brain and everything.
KM: Tell me about the back.
TT: Oh, you saw the back. The back of it is--well it is kind of unfinished. Itrepresents the zodiac sign of me being a Leo and then my daughter is Pisces, the fish. I wasn't able to finish all of it because I had to come to Pre-Release. How I looked--the lion just looks over. You know how the King of the Jungle just looks over things. He is just sitting there and everybody else is doing things for him, but he is over everything. I am the head of the family and I try to look over my children and I still feel that way.
KM: Why did you decide to do two sides?
TT: Because of my girls. I have two daughters [Yazmin Mohammed and IndiQuiller.] and I have a granddaughter and I just wanted them to be included because they are part of my family too. I had a daughter, Jasmine and another daughter, Indi, who is 17 and then I have a granddaughter, Ayend Mohammed, who is 7 years old. So I wanted my girls to be in as well because they are a big part of my life. On the front is all my boys. The infant is my grandson, CeDeno, the other young man on there is my grandson, Navire. Those are the pictures of them. I wanted my girls to be included as well.
KM: Have they seen the quilt?
TT: No, they haven't seen the quilt at all. They will be very surprised to seethat. CeDeno hasn't seen it either, so that will be a good thing.
KM: How do you want to finish it?
TT: The two sides, the Gemini is the two girls, my daughter, my granddaughter,I'm going to have an African mask with beads. I have the beads laid across the mask and then on the other side is the African girl, who is a dancing girl, mirror image and they have the different color with the blacks and then they have the different colored strips in their hair with multi-color rainbow of color of head dressing that is in their hair. Like that.
KM: What was your favorite part of making the quilt?
TT: Favorite part of making the quilt was watching the characters, as far as herpainting my grandson, the infant, CeDeno [daughter named her son after her brother.], Navire [the middle one on the quilt.] and my son, CeDeno, how that just came about. The pictures are just so lifelike of them. She did such an excellent job on there.
KM: How does she feel about that?
TT: It was awesome. To her, she didn't think she could do it and while she wasdoing it, other people were watching her and she got other business from that. That was the first time she had ever done something of that magnitude so she was just so surprised about how it just came out. Very good. She took her time on it and it is just awesome. I love it. That quilt is just fantastic. It helped me do a lot of healing, like Chaplain Burns said, as far as dealing with my son. I still have a long ways to go but.
KM: What do you plan to do with the quilt?
TT: I was going to have the quilt hanging up. I was going to send it to my sonin the nursing home but then I said to my daughter, 'Keep it.' [laughs.] It has her two sons in it, but I was going to send it to my son in the nursing home for him to hang up. It was so beautiful and awesome. I know he will take good care of it. My daughter, she will just keep it and we'll see, we'll see. I really want it for myself though. [laughs.]
KM: You will be out soon.
TT: Yes I will.
KM: You had to write an essay. How was writing the essay for you?
TT: That really took a lot out of me. I really couldn't of done that. It wasvery hard for me to do it. I broke down. [inaudible.] It's from my heart and it is about my son, what he means to me. Chaplain Burns is just the greatest. She understood everything because it was very hard for me to do, to pour out my soul. Like that.
[Her artist statement: A mother dreams for her son. From the first moment I knewI was carrying him. The soft whisper in the night, as I would softly speak to him still a fetus in my womb. The music I played, the first time I felt him move inside of me. The birth of my little man.
The journey of growing myself as a parent; with a son, learning that being asingle mom that I can not raise a man alone. I do need the help from the village.
From volunteering at daycare to high school, from the football team, where hemade the cut and then quit, to the great karate can and undefeated champion. He was always a leader in what he said and did. CeDeno has always been someone who stood up for what he believes in. When he decided to join the army, I know that was something he needed to do. From taking care of his niece and nephew to helping a friend out, no matter what, and always unique, always the "bull," always CeDeno. Always my heart, my soul, my only son.
Now from stopping a fight, to fighting for his life. Now with frontal lobe braindamage, his personality gone, cognitive skills diminished and his sight gone, unable to communicate or even walk. My son, my heart, my soul, my son, my CeDeno. This is one mother's story.
A personal note from the quilter: I am in my 40's and am serving a nine yearsentence. I have three children, one son and two daughters. My quilt is for my son CeDeno who tried to stop two friends from fighting. He was stabbed in the eye and suffered severe brain damage. I am serving my sentence for protecting my daughters from his attacker. My quilt is not finished because CeDeno's life is not finished. There is still hope.]
KM: Have you heard about how the quilts have been received?
KM: They loved them.
TT: Did they?
TT: That's great.
KM: Very good. You did a good job. You did a really good job. Do you think youwill ever make any more quilts?
TT: Most definiely, most definitely. I love doing the quilt. That was my firsttime doing the quilt in that detail, I like doing it. That is something else that I'm going to do most definitely when I get out, because it's awesome. It really is and the time that you put into the quilt, the love. Yes, I definitely plan on doing this. They have some quilts here but nothing on that magnitude like what we were doing, most definitely nothing. I wish they could have something like that here. I definitely will do some quilting.
KM: What advice would you offer somebody making their first quilt?
TT: Lay it out, take your time, think about it first and what you want to do.Sketch it out. Take your time. Mostly just take your time and get the material that you want to use. You can't go wrong with something that is in your head if you sketch it out first, then you do another draft. It is basically taking your time and what you see. That is the best thing I can say. There is nothing wrong with it at all, just taking your time and having the room to do it, because if you think you are doing something wrong where a color doesn't match, to go outside the room and lay it out, walk outside the room and then come back. Then you will see it a totally different way. That is the main thing. That is what I would do. I lay it out and then if I don't think that it is right I walk outside the room, come back in a few minutes and then I'll see, I will get another idea. That is the main thing.
KM: Did you do yours all by hand?
TT: Yes, we do not have no machines. It was all by hand. Everything was by hand.I was using some of that nylon thread and to do the frame around his face it took hours just to do. Yeah, it took hours to do that. I think that is the best way to do it. You've got a machine that is good too, but to do it by hand, to put the love into it, most definitely put the love into it. That is the way I did.
KM: What was your favorite part of making this?
TT: My favorite part was putting in my face, my silhouette, on the side. Workingwith the vinyl materials with the eyes, I love that part. Kind of looking over it and then I would lay it back down and really just kind of putting it all together, in how I want it laid out was the best part. Seeing it in my mind and then putting it down and then redoing it, because it changed several times on how I wanted it. I knew how I wanted the baby, the infant and stuff. The graveyard that is hard. Not the graveyard, but the headstones kind of changed a couple of times. That was the best part. Just trying to lay it out to see how I wanted it to look good on the quilt.
KM: Is there anything else you would like to share before we conclude?
TT: No, I just think that anyone can do quilting. I wasn't the quilting type.I'm an engineer, I mean I sewed buttons and such so I think anyone can do good at quilting if you take your time. This is something that you can pick up. You don't have to do it everyday. It is something you can pick up and take your time to do it, lay it down and pick it up when you feel like doing it. I think anyone can quilt.
KM: I want to thank you for taking time out of your day to share with me andtalk with me. I really appreciate it.
TT: Thank you.
KM: We are going to conclude our interview at 10:03.