It used to be that the phone would ring four times a year. Rosita Lee would be calling from Crownpoint, NM to say that, “Mom has some rugs she wants to bring up Tuesday.”
My dad used to buy Mae’s rugs fifty years ago and I think I can safely say that she is the weaver that all of us have known the longest. She used to weave larger, floor sized pieces. Today, in her nineties, she weaves small beautiful hand spun weavings. Several years ago, she had a stroke we thought that was the end of her career as a weaver, but a young doctor with the Navajo Health Service encouraged her daughters to get her weaving again. It brought her back.
Mae never learned to speak English, but she understands it pretty well and when she comes up, it is time for a family visit. She has never missed coming up before Christmas when we all trade presents and spend time visiting and drinking coffee. It was the week before the holiday this year and I hadn’t heard from her.
When I got to the office my mom met me at the front door and said, “I have good news! Rosita called and Mae is coming tomorrow!
Those calls are only about twice a year now as Mae has slowed down. He has troubles with her ankles, but won’t to the doctor, and just keeps pushing forward. When she comes, she usually has about 12 really nice weavings and we spread them all over the floor, take pictures and spend some time visiting. When she and Rosita showed up this time, the weather was coming in and they couldn’t stay as long, but it was great to see her.
She will smile the whole time that we are talking or negotiating (actually, no negotiating as Mae just names her price), but when I get out the camera to take a photo of her, the smile goes away. “I don’t know why,” says Rosita, “she just won’t smile for a picture. She thinks it is serious.”
So, we have a great selection of Mae’s weavings in the gallery and on the web site now. If you want a very nice weaving by a woman that began her weaving career in the early part of the 1900’s and has seen the evolution of the Navajo Nation since it was all dirt roads, boarding schools and poverty.
She has seen her children go to school, get good jobs and life change for everyone. What she doesn’t have, in all her children, nieces or nephews, is a single weaver. She is the last link in the family to this wonderful art form.