The title of Alice Walker's short story, "Everyday Use," is pulled from the text and pertains to functional handiwork as opposed to static artifacts. In her story, Alice Walker writes about the "creative legacy of ordinary black women" which is a valuable part of real African American heritage.
The central conflict of this story revolves around the mother's refusal to give her daughter Dee (now calling herself Wangero) two quilts that the women of the family pieced together from scraps of family members' clothing. These quilts, which three generations of women of the family have fashioned from scraps of old clothes, are thus composed of memories stitched together lovingly. There is a faded blue piece of a Civil War uniform worn by Great Grandpa Ezra, pieces of Grandpa Jarrell's old paisley shirts, and other pieces of old dresses worn by Grandma Dee. Whereas Mama and Maggie perceive these quilts as objects that have both function and sentimental beauty, Wangero perceives them only as static objects meant for a framed display of African American artifacts.
Mama believes that the family's heritage should be allowed "everyday use" and be part of daily life, not viewed as an artifact. Her daughter Maggie agrees but Dee does not. Having rejected her mother's offer of the quilts before she left for college, calling them "old-fashioned" and "out of style," Wangero (the new persona of Dee) now perceives them as priceless objects that should be framed and put on display as part of African American heritage.
Feeling "something hit [her] in the top of [her] head," the mother reacts to this hypocrisy and does something she has not done before. She hugs Maggie and pulls her into the room where Wangero stands with the quilts in her arms. Then, the mother grabs the quilts away from "Miss Wangero" and drops them into Maggie's lap. "Take two or three of the others," she says to Dee. Angered, Dee goes outside to where her boyfriend waits by their car.
"You just don't understand," she said, as Maggie and I [the mother] came out to the car.
"What don't I understand?" I wanted to know.
"Your heritage," she said.
After Dee/Wangero and her friend Hakim-a-barber depart, the mother and Maggie sit outside "just enjoying" the moment. Contrary to what Wangero believes, Mama and Maggie do, indeed, understand heritage because they know that the creative legacy of their family should not be framed or put on a shelf. Instead, such items should be handled with love and sentiment and be put to "everyday use."