The story centers around one day when the older sister, Dee, visits after time away and a conflict arises between her and her mother over some heirloom family possessions. The struggle reflects the characters' contrasting ideas about their heritage and identity. Throughout the story Dee goes back and forth on being and rejecting her heritage. For example, when she decides at dinner that she wants the butter churn, she shows that she respects her heritage because she knows that her uncle carved it from a tree they used to have. However, she wants it for the wrong reason, saying that she will use it only for decoration. Another example is when she wants the quilts that Mama has. She states that she wants them because of the generations of clothing and effort put into making the quilt, showing her appreciation for her heritage. The fact that she changes her name, though, from Dee to Wangero disrespects her heritage because "Dee" is a family name that can be traced back many generations. The story is narrated by the mother.
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