by Margot McMahon
Illustrations by Franklin McMahon & Margot McMahon
If Trees Could Talk is a hybrid historical fiction/memoir that uncovers family secrets through the clues of Margot’s father’s paintings and her mother’s writings. “This is all they left to follow the breadcrumbs of their life story. The fear of losing my mother and her patterns had already happened, now Dad was ailing and I don’t know my grandparent’s names let alone where I came from. As I discover my Northern Irish Catholic roots, I realize my adventurous life has been a quest to understand my past.” –Margot McMahon
Dad entered and sat in his rotating leather chair where two walls of windows met. He said a museum was purchasing part of his collection, the Chicago Seven and Emmett Till Trials art, but not the complete Civil Rights Movement.
“I hoped they’d want more,” he grumbled.
I looked at the flow of lines of open collared Till trial jurors slouched in short sleeves like they were on a front porch swing in sweltering Mississippi.
“When I think of the risk we took…” Mom said, looking to the ceiling for deliverance and shaking her head. “We never should never have attempted a year in Spain.”
That’s not an answer, I thought. We were sitting in their Keck and Keck mid-century living room. Full glass walls with wood frames and broad eaves kept the passive solar home cool. In winter, the low sun added warmth to the heat emanating from the parquet floors. A centralized fireplace and furnace added extra warmth to the open entrance, living room, den, and dining area. Two expansive wings stretched to a studio, writing room, bath and kitchen one way and three bedrooms and two baths in the other. Long hallways had storage closets with drawers and an attic fan to draw in cool air at night. A chipmunk scurried past the dappled euonymus patch along the windowsill.
After Brie’s birth, Mom stayed with us for the baby’s first week. I noticed she had changed during that visit. She measured how much to help, was up at night, didn’t climb the stairs more than once a day. That she said nothing was my first clue.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Margot McMahon, daughter of Franklin McMahon, is an internationally-acclaimed artist and sculptor with work exhibited at the Smithsonian and around the world in public and private collections.
Her work appears in the permanent collections of Yale University, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John D. MacArthur State Park, The Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, The National Portrait Gallery, the Chicago History Museum, The Chicago Botanic Garden and Soka Gakkai International. Over a period of five years, McMahon explored and interpreted her Irish Catholic heritage in the creation of art for St. Patrick’s Church in Lake Forest, Illinois.
Margot earned an MFA from Yale University and taught sculpture and drawing at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, DePaul University and Yale University. She lives in Chicago with her husband and visiting three grown children.
A YA novella from the world of IF TREES COULD TALK
Stories from Margot’s coming of age in 1960s Chicago, where she discovered her passion for art, justice and the mystery of trees.
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