I arrived in Alabama from New York on December 23rd, 2000, to start the project that has become Alabama Chanin.
When I was writing the proposal for the project, I called my aunt Elaine to ask if she might help me find a house to rent near her, in the community where my grandparents had been raised. She had just moved back herself, after years of living and working abroad and I thought – who better to help?
My aunt was living in my maternal grandparents’ home. As a newborn baby, I was brought home to this house. It has been the only constant in my life since my birth. Growing up, I spend a LOT of time with my grandparents and knew their land like the back of my hand.
In the late 1940’s, my grandfather built a house on the adjoining property for his best friend, Mr. McCorkle (one of the founders of Alabama’s famous Coon Dog Cemetery). Because I could look over the back yard and see this house, it was well integrated into my memories of this time with my grandparents.
Imagine my surprise when my aunt called me back in New York one day later to say, “You are not going to believe this, but we just bought the McCorkle house, would you like to rent that?” I was so excited at the prospect and eagerly accepted her offer. Little did I know that the house had been sitting empty for some years and the privet hedge (which can devour whole towns in a number of years) had taken over the small estate. My aunt and her husband had to literally cut their way into the back door with a chain saw.
It was here that I arrived on that cold, dark December day. And it was to this back door that April Morgan arrived in response to a little ad I had run in the local paper’s classified section that read, simply: “Part time hand-sewing and quilting.” April came into the house that day and brought her big, laughing voice. She has been with us since that moment.
“I thought someone was going to cut me up and put me in the basement,” laughs April as she recounts the meeting. “The house was really overgrown, I had to part the weeds as I got out the car.”
April went home with a few shirts and some instructions and returned the next day, finished garments in hand. I am thankful that she wasn’t deterred by the condition of the house. We often joke about how only the very brave ever made it to the door.
April’s personality is absolutely contagious; she has a sharp wit and an easy laugh that she rarely hesitates to share. An adventurer at heart, she’s up for anything spontaneous and loves time outdoors with her beautiful family.
April chose her husband in an instant, but her recollection is more matter of fact than overly sentimental. “I saw him and decided he was who I was going to marry…and so it goes.” Nineteen years later they are still keeping the roads hot, traveling in a modern day caravan whenever the opportunity arises.
“The more we do, the happier we are,” she says.”Sometimes we have up to nine trailers in a group….I usually bring my sewing,” April explains and then immediately cracks a joke about their reality TV destiny. Truth be told, I’d watch.
The Morgans have two incredible daughters, an aspiring forensic scientist and a young fashion designer. As a teacher’s aide, April has had the opportunity to log many hours with her daughters. When she speaks of them, the pride in her voice is unmistakable.
“They are really great kids. I have the best kids in the world…”
It has been a privilege to watch her girls grow up. They are lucky to have such a wonderful mother. And we’re lucky that they share her on occasion, because I can’t imagine an Alabama Chanin without an April Morgan. If you find an “AM” initialed inside your garment, you know that April has touched your life.
An great friend to Alabama Chanin and to all that know her: April Morgan – a part of the heart and soul of Alabama Chanin.
*Photo above taken from the “Stories are Gifts” series from the last holiday season. (Thank you again to Jamie, David, and Luke for including Alabama Chanin in their travels! & to Starbucks for telling our story…)