Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Cozy People

I love the fall outfit above.  It's looks very cozy.  This is the time of year that I begin to look forward to warm and soft garments to wrap myself in.  But nothing is a cozy as a cozy person. 

A cozy person is the friend who, when you mention that you adore eggrolls, tells you that you must find a source for wholesale eggrolls so that you can freeze them and have them all the time.  And this is said without a whit of compunction for either cholesterol or freezer space.  Cozy people want you to have pleasure and comfort and think of ways that you can have it all the time with abandon.  And I've discovered what drives cozy people is pure love.  They simply love us and want us to have as much of what we love as possible whether it's ice cream, maximum lollygagging in Lazy-Boys, or eggrolls.

I had an aunt who was a cozy person.  As soon as we sat down on her comfortable and ridiculously-oversized circular couch in her teeny tiny apartment, she would ask benignly, "Does anybody want some M & M's???"  Of course the large crystal bowl of M & M's was right under our noses on the coffee table already.  She shirked all responsibility to our mother and proffered copious amounts of M & M's - as much as our fists could stuff in our mouths - along with endless Dixie cups of "tonic" (soda pop to non-Bostonians) - tonic also being banned at our house.  My Auntie Mame was a legendary cozy person.

But a cozy person doesn't just offer forbidden foods - they also create an atmosphere of cheer and contentment.  They put people first;  always and forever.  Cozy people drop everything when someone is in need.  It doesn't matter if dinner is boiling over on the stove or a meeting is about to start and they're not dressed yet - they pause, look you straight in the eye, draw a circle of coziness about you and start helping.  They make you feel good.  And safe...

I knew a cozy person who went to the 24 hour pharmacy to get my sick baby's medicine when I couldn't leave the house.  It was midnight.  And snowing.  This cozy person did it without a bit of resentment and wouldn't let me thank her.  She is also the cozy person who sent her cozy husband out into the night to check my furnace when it wouldn't start one frigid day after the repairman didn't show up.  Cozy people come in pairs sometimes.

I had a friend who had cozy parents and when I picked her up to go out dancing, I found all I wanted to do was stay indoors with her mother and father and snuggle into their overly-cushioned sofa and watch Love Boat with them and thumb through all their back issues of Ladies Home Journal and Family Circle.  And I wanted to do this with a mug of cocoa in their fancy but decoratively-challenged built-in cup holders too.

But back to food... A favorite cozy friend of mine makes an amazing grilled cheese sandwich.  On the night I lost my job she came over with her electric griddle, bread and cheese and made a feast with her sandwich skills.  Then this cozy person took my wet laundry and hung it to dry.  I never visited her house without leaving stuffed to the gills with grilled cheese, comfort and solace. That's what makes cozy people so special.  For them, it's all about caring.  And love...

Life without cozy people in it would be very sad indeed.  Do you have any cozy people in your life?

~

Special Note:  This post is dedicated to Ed, my egg-roll pimp and King of Cozy.


Friday, September 28, 2018

Harvest


I love the autumn for many reasons - my birthday, the fresh cool air, the warm sunshine of an Indian Summer (which only comes after the first frost and not before), apples, pumpkins, woolens, and many other things.  I also enjoy that fall heralds in the run up to the holidays which still excites me even at this advanced age.  And if we are harvesting and reaping what we have sown in summer, the fall can be a very happy season. 

Unfortunately, our New England summer left me wilted and drained and as Jane Austen once said about hot weather, "It keeps me in a continual state of  inelegance".  The humidity, although not the highest ever, was chronic and every day was a bad hair day.  I'm ashamed to admit that I let myself go - my food plan, exercise, and a few other things.   Thus, my harvest is meager this fall.

Any time that I've made a big change in my life, I've done it on my own.  My transformations were executed and completed without the assistance of groups, therapy, or self-help books.  I simply went inside, decided what I wanted and made an active blueprint.  My method worked when I needed to get in shape, find a new job, or renew my appearance and style.  Once I made a decision that a change was in order, nothing could stop me.  And if I could have bottled my motivation, I would be very rich. 

So I've bought a pair of black Capezios and subscribed to a few online ballet classes.  I'm walking a lot more in the fresh air.  I've stocked my fridge with some lovely and healthy fall foods such as apples and citrus fruits, healthy whole cheeses and yogurt.  I've circled the wagons and purged some things that have been weighing me down around here for far too long.  For instance, why was I keeping an old wedding present that I never used?  Soon I will store my backyard summer things and plant some bulbs for next spring.  I have painted my front door a new deep velvety blue and hung a basket of dried flowers from a crisp brown satin ribbon.  I turned my closet around and let go of things that I no longer love.  I kept only those pieces that make my heart sing -  shoes and all.

And I'm still in planning mode.  I'm holding everything up to the light, searching for the watermark that says "this is for me".  I will only visit places, see people, read the books, wear the clothing that uplifts and inspires and that even includes not visiting the online places I've been blindly going to for years. True freedom is just the ability to say no which is a gene I was never given.  Now it's time to learn.  So this season, if it doesn't feed my soul and produce a bountiful harvest, I will gently bow out.

What kinds of things are important to you this autumn?

Here's my list:

Apples and pies
Home-cooked nourishing weeknight meals
October sunshine and walks
Dear friends who want to laugh
A special picnic near the sea at least once
Making coffee at work before everyone arrives each day
A new long-sleeve nightgown to keep me warm
Purchasing a de-piller for my sweaters
Giving to the charities I support
Opening my home to my niece and nephew whenever they are in town
Finding the perfect pair of brown leather boots
Read inspiring books that either entertain, center me, or inspire me
Finally take inventory of all my dishes and figure out which ones need to be replaced 
Volunteering at the library when I can
Making lists for Christmas
Finding the perfect chic tortoiseshell headband to hold my hair back (scored at JCrew yesterday)
Finish knitting my winter sweater and casting on a baby knit
Re-watch Anne of Green Gables, You've Got Mail, and Mona Lisa Smile while I knit
Visit my farmer's market for tomato tarts and blueberry iced tea one last time before winter


~

(I've always loved the evocative woodcut above which is from Clare Leighton's sweet gardening book,  Four Hedges).
  

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Perfume Imprints


When I was expecting my daughter and for a time after she was born, I wore Coco by Chanel.  I had a beautiful lacquer-black refillable eau de parfum that looked so glamorous on my dresser.  I tried a sample recently and my daughter exclaimed, "You smell like the 80's!"  I'm not sure if that was a reaction to a genomic imprint left on her when she was not yet fully whole or whether she really meant the scent DID smell like the 1980's because of its cinnamon-y, big hair and Opium-esque notes.  No matter...I had to go to the mall to explore.

I scored another sample of Coco just to see if the perfume would be a happy remembrance to the pleasant and bittersweet long-ago days I spent as a new mother.  I'm still not sure.  But while at the mall, I had a chance to sample Chanel's three new highly-heralded indie fragrances:  Biarittz, Vernise, and Deauville.  Each scent is a sensory souvenir to Chanel's favorite vacation spots.

The bottles reminded me of flasks - the kind that would slip easily into a man's silky inner breast pocket.  Like all Chanel's perfume bottles, they are utilitarian-looking (she designed Chanel No. 5's to look like a laboratory bottle), with her signature black and white label - very chic.  But within a few minutes, I had all three as mixed up as if I had watched a magic act of Hide the Walnut.  

Accompanying the scents were sister bottles of shower gel and body lotion.  Here's where I thought it was interesting...the body lotions seemed very emollient, redolent with full-bodied fragrance, and far less expensive than the perfume.  Also in that great flask-like bottle, they held the scent tightly and seemed quite luxurious.   

Playing in the back of the merchandising stand for the scent trio, was a loop of music that I remembered from the lovely 2009 film, Coco Before Chanel.  It was moody and melodic and I felt I was in a private room of Chanel's atelier on the Rue Cambon in Paris.  

In the end, I was able to sniff out that I probably preferred Chanel Vernis, named for Venice - the city Chanel cited as providing her with jolts of creativity.  Its wispy floral at the end of the highest top note really reached out and looped itself around my throat like the warmth of a soft wool scarf.  It felt familiar to me and yet it didn't...like a happy premonition of good luck that you so want to be certain of but aren't quite sure.  I was told Vernis had a touch of vanilla with its feminine iris accord and when I finally left the mall, I realized it had woven a spell and in fact, had became so irresistible that for the rest of the afternoon, I kept burying my nose in the neckline of my blouse.

If I splurge on a bottle of Chanel Vernis, I have no idea what my tomboy daughter will have to say.  But I have a new granddaughter who may just be ripe for the imprinting.



Sunday, September 16, 2018

Kitchen Confidential


In the weeks after 9/11, I cooked a lot.  My daughter had just started high school and was teary and fragile.  I rushed home from work each night to check the crockpot, add ingredients, set the table, put out napkins and light candles.  In the middle of the week, I made a chocolate layer cake to mimic the one from our favorite restaurant.  I tried my hand at biscotti, cooked soups, soaked beans, made lunches, bought a bushel of apples, and picked sunflowers for our table.  I tried to make life at home as normal as possible.  Better than normal.  For her.  For me...

This summer, a brief video on Instagram about a wooden rolling pin had me inspired to bake.  I like cooking best and despite the chocolate layer cake, have never been keen about baking.  Too much flour.  Too much mess and a brain that doesn't know how to read a recipe well and now eyes that can't see recipes easily either.

But the video ad showed a quaint homey wooden pin rolling out beautiful pie crusts to exacting heights.  And the fact that it is called The Lovely Rolling Pin charmed me to no end.  I was smitten. 

The problem, as I saw it, was that my kitchen doesn't have a fancy granite-covered island - one with enough room for chic containers of almond and whole wheat flours,  mixing bowls of every size, and a big handsome KitchenAid mixer.  Also, high stools for the resident lick-the-bowl types who are always available and willing to chat while your read your recipe from an IPad leaning against an attractive decorative rod iron stand.  No...I only have short stretches of clear counter space on either side of my sink and old electric hand mixer like the one my mother used.

But this was no excuse if I was to actually buy The Lovely Rolling Pin, delightfully scrolled with "1/4 in." on the end (the pin rolls out dough to a precise 1/4 inch).  And it is indeed lovely - smooth in the hand, mysteriously impervious to sticky scraps of dough, and just naturally nice to hold and to use.  So I made a few pies and tarts which encouragingly improved as the summer wore on.  These were created without that great island and all the latest designer baking accouterments.  Just me and my pin, fresh ingredients and a open heart.

Lately, I've taken to doing a late night sweep of the downstairs before bed.  I check the locks and make sure the kitchen window is secured which I sometimes forget.  It's a comforting little ritual that I enjoy.  During my short peregrination, I've been turning on the little chandelier over my kitchen table too - the one my new son-in-law thoughtfully bought and installed for me as a Christmas gift.  I turn the dimmer down low until the light just barely glows.  As I trundle off to bed, I know no one will see it until I awake in the morning and go back downstairs for coffee.  Still, it is reassuring to know that a little light twinkles in the dark kitchen below.

I know what drove me to cook, bake and create those weeks after 9/11.  But I'm not sure it was entirely The Lovely Rolling Pin that drove me to the kitchen this summer.  I think the reason may be the same one that makes me keep the light burning in the kitchen.

Today I made a lemon tart and brought it to a dear friend recovering from serious surgery.  I hope it was as comforting to her as it was for me to make for her.  I did use my Lovely Rolling Pin...

And now, before bed, it's again time to set the kitchen light to glow.  It assures me that all is well.

~

P.S.  Thank you for your comments on my last post.  I read and I am grateful for every one!


(Image Credit:  thornbackandpeel.co.uk)

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Face Reflected



"Who sees the human face correctly?  The mirror...or the artist"? ~ Picasso

~

And I would add, "or the one who loves you"?  Mona has a secret in her smile.  So do I.  That is, if you could see my smile.  Most of you don't know what I look like...and all these years, I have rather liked it that way.

You see, I believe I photograph terribly.  To me, I am best experienced in person.  That way, you can see the glint of my blond head in the sun and my skin in candlelight, inhale my subtle perfume, and let me smile my interested and welcoming smile at you.  In nearly every picture of myself, now and even "back then", I only see my flaws:   skin takes on a pasty hue, a slightly lopsided goofy smile and my eyes - oh my eyes, which I have been told are the best part of me - are fast disappearing behind un-sculptured-by-a-knife lids.  Or perhaps I really am not pretty.  Or maybe I'm just terribly, terribly vain...  It could also be the near-perfect beauty that is captured these days on social media.  I mean, how do they do it??? And some are my age.

A few years back, a young mother who was slightly larger than she wanted to be, made a statement about selfies and how she never wanted to be in any.  Her post went viral and started a discussion because she also attested that she discovered that by avoiding the camera, she was actually denying her little daughter the chance to see her in years to come and most importantly, after she is gone.  It struck home but still, you wouldn't find me jumping in front of anybody's selfie stick.  I trundled along just fine, un-reproduced, holding my hands over my face whenever anyone came near me with a camera lens or doing a full-on body block with any opportunistic photographer.

And then I really went to home plate...my daughter wanted some pictures of me holding her newborn - my first grandchild, in my arms.  There was no way to get out of it and suddenly, I didn't want to. What's more, I felt my daughter should be free to take as many shots of me as she desired without my fussing about whether I had lipstick on, was wearing a decent outfit, or my hair was combed.  But it was hard...I did it though - for my child and for my grandchild who will one day, no doubt, want to see pictures of her grandmother first holding her.  She may also want to see me in some of my younger photographs and if that's so, my hope is that she will notice the place from whence she came - in all those goofy lopsided grins and those now-fading but loving eyes.  It is getting easier...

And yet, I haven't shared any photos with you.  And you may want to know, that soon I must!  The reason is that a book I contributed to is about to published and I am being ordered to submit a recent professional photo for the publisher, the blog, and for marketing material.  The photographer has been called in.  Can I ask for PhotoShop please?

So as the rabbit in the children's book The Velveteen Rabbit, is loved into existence, perhaps our true beauty comes alive in the eyes of  those who cherish us the most.  And maybe that's the lens that really counts.  Love gives us courage in so many ways...

It would have been perfect to end this post with that lovely new photo of brave me but alas, you will have to wait.  I don't have my lipstick on just yet.  But soon, readers, soon...

Sunday, August 5, 2018

My Second Mother

 

I lost my second mother two weeks ago.  And no matter how old Rosemary was (91), somehow it seemed too soon.

We had made plans to visit my first best friend Paula, and her mother Rosemary, on Cape Cod on the day we attended her services instead.  My daughter and new little granddaughter were to accompany me and it was something I was so looking forward to.  Our trips to Cape Cod to visit Paula and Rosemary are always the highlight of summer.  But this year, it was just not to be...

I call Rosemary my second mother for two reasons:  first, I spent a lot of time at Paula's house and second, Rosemary treated me like her own daughter.  I loved her and she deserved my love.  When I was troubled she would sit on the front steps with me and listen intently.  She never thought my problems were childish or foolish.  When I had a traumatic semester at college and wanted to come home, I went to Rosemary's and slept on a cot in Paula's bedroom.  Rosemary was always there with tea and sympathy.  Humor and kindness.

I've known Rosemary since kindergarten when she was our room mother at school.  I remember the day she took Paula and I to the zoo and how she held both our hands close.  When I was older and had to run the short distance home from Paula's house, Rosemary would wait on her stoop until I flashed the porch light which was the signal that I was safely home inside.  When my grandmother died, I rushed to Rosemary's arms and then cried into her lap.  We waited for Paula to come home from a date and then we all had tea and talked into the night. With Rosemary's listening and wise positivity and perspective, we sorted through junior high angst and well beyond. 

Paula's parents took me with them to their summer home on the Cape every year of high school and not only did I get to follow their less regimented family rules, I was also the lucky beneficiary of their love.  The last time I saw Rosemary, she told me that for years the proprietor of the fish market in the village asked her how her daughters were.  That is plural - daughters.  I always felt I belonged to Rosemary in some way and that she was mine too.  And I thanked her every year as best I could with a Mother's Day card and a note.  She never stopped caring about how I was and where I was in life.  

I was there the night Paula's father died and later in the week, I walked into the funeral home with them...just the three of us.  Half my memories of childhood are what happened in their household.  I knew her grandmother and shared books with her.  I remember every doll, dog and boyfriend Paula had and she remembers mine.  As did Rosemary...

A true lover of life and people, Rosemary always seemed younger than her age.  She laughed a lot.  Loving, kind, interested and always outer-directed, she made people feel that they mattered.  And they did matter.  She made it to every party, celebration, and gathering and often called out to neighbors walking by the house just to say hello and how are you.  What made it really nice is that Rosemary and my own mother were good neighbors and friends too.  And that was one of many reasons growing up in our neighborhood was so wonderful.  I always had two mothers who cared.

Although it may be true that Rosemary belonged to an age where solace and secrets could be given and shared on a front stoop and neighbors could become lifelong friends... or girls next door could turn into daughters...Still, I hope to let Rosemary live inside my heart and see what good may come.  Afterall, she was an excellent role model.

I want to thank my friend Paula for sharing her mother with me all these years.  And I very much regret that Rosemary did not have the chance to hold my new little granddaughter in her welcoming arms.  Rosemary would have loved her too.


 ~
"I shall die very young....maybe seventy, maybe eighty...maybe ninety.  But I shall be very young.” 

~Diana Vreeland


***

Please read my prior posts about Rosemary and view a more recent photograph of her:

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Books for August



The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer...like the highest seat of a ferris wheel where it pauses just before it turns.  ~Tuck Everlasting

And here we are at the very crest of the season, poised for our free-fall to autumn.  August is perfect for slow living with lots of reading.  Sometimes it's even too hot to venture outside and therefore, I take advantage of couch potato-ing with books to set me up for the fall and keep me dreaming of summer days still to come.  Here are some such reads:


I'll never forget an afternoon at the bookshop back in 2002.  I had just paid for a magazine when I woman whizzed by me with an engaged and satisfied smile on her lips.  Unable to hide her joy, she said, "Look what I just bought my daughter!"  She unslipped from her paper bag, a lovely tome called A Time to Blossom.  As I had made acquaintances with Tovah Martin's endearing book about mothers, daughters and gardens, I suddenly found myself sharing the excitement of a lovely book with a stranger.  "I have a daughter who will love this and it will be a wonderful birthday present for her!," she said.  I couldn't have been more pleased for her.

A Time to Blossom covers all four seasons with garden style, crafts and remembrances of times past to share with the young girls in one's life.  When I first encountered the book, my daughter was not of an age to begin gardening with me but she always loved flowers and make-believe so we poured over it together although the book remained with me when she left home.  It's one I tour through each August for the section of dahlias, the shameless and colorful blooms of August that remind us that summer is still with us.  At least for now...


Proust's Duchess by Caroline Weber, is a bit scholarly but I am working my way through it with pleasure.  More on Proust in an upcoming post, but the book had me at "she turned a simple morning walk ...into a poem of elegance, the finest adornment, the rarest flower under the sun".  I can't put it down.  Not for one moment.

This triple biography of the women who most inspired Proust is written against an historical background but I am most interested in the intriguing female collective that led to Proust's notion of involuntary memory - those brightly lit "aha" moments that jettison us back to our pasts unexpectedly.


A new book that is mesmerizing me is The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables:  The Enchanting Island that Inspired L.M. Montgomery.  Filled with captivating photographs and illustrations of the real places immortalized in Montgomery's novels, especially Anne of Green Gables, the book has me mentally preparing my retirement sojourn to Prince Edward Island to visit my grandfather's homestead along with Green Gables.  My book will guide me as I discover with new eyes, the Lake of Shining Waters and Lover's Lane.  And who doesn't think of Anne with an "e" when the season's pages turn to heartbreaking sunsets and changing colors that signal our time in the sun is coming to an end?


Finally, I didn't want to like Ageless Beauty the French Way by ClĂ©mence von Mueffling.  I have plenty of French beauty books and feel I am saturated in my knowledge of what makes the Frenchwomen so self-assured and beautiful.  But the book was sent to me and so I delved in.

A few things - first, the advice of von Mueffling's grandmother Regine Debrise, an 86 year old, addicted-to-red-lipstick former model who was often photographed by Irving Penn in the 1940's and 50's.  I also appreciated that the book labelled and included my age box (maturitĂ©) in its advice so I didn't feel that I was reading a beauty advice book just for millenials.  My favorite thing about the book is von Mueffling's advice to shift my attitude about skincare from a unwelcome late-night task to an act of self-love.  By spending the time to look after our skin using age-specific formulations and with the guidance of three generations (von Mueffling's beauty editor mother chimes in), we can turn our nightly routine into a pampering and welcome interlude before bed.  I'm game...and what better way to say farewell to summer than to improve our skin and put our best face forward for the next season?

More soon...



Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Eileen West


Can you bear another nightgown story?  Please say yes.

Since my local department store no longer carries beautiful Eileen West nightgowns, I was delighted when the Vermont Country Store sent me their latest catalog.  It was filled with the flowing and voluminous gowns of Eileen West.  I selected two special ones and promptly placed an order.

My first experience with an Eileen West nightgown was when the marvelous period film, Young Victoria was released a few years ago.  Both my daughter and I fell in love with the plain white cotton nightgown that Victoria wore on her wedding night to her betrothed Prince Albert.  Chaste and then not chaste, it was simple and romantic.  For Christmas that year, my daughter gave me a look-alike - my first Eileen West.

Since then, I have added two other models to my collection and now two more.  All are billowing cotton and half are knits - and Eileen West puts just as much detail into her knits as she does with her batiste cotton and woven gowns.  All the feminine touches are there - the petite shell buttons, the smocking, lace, and the fanciful dancing prints that are so subtle and pretty.  It's hard to choose just one.

I did a little research the other day for a potential feature article on the gowns and discovered (and how did I not know this?), that Eileen West is not just a corporate entity but also an actual woman.  However much I was excited about this, I was also saddened to learn that she died and only recently.  I'll stop to state here that she died unexpectedly and to everyone that knew her, loved her, and worked with her, it was a hard blow.  There is a lesson in that which can be taken up another day...

Born Aileen Reiss in Marin County California, Eileen was a dreamy child who drew flowers, painted, journaled, and loved fashion and ballet.  When she grew up, she became disenchanted with the polyester sleepwear of the 1950's and 60's and began to design nightgowns in pure cotton evocative of all her childhood loves.  There are ballet-length gowns, florals, and those with dressmaker details.  The style of the gowns has changed little since the company was born in 1978 and they are still very recognizable with sweeping hems and bodices of ribbons and trim.  One can even identify the colorful knit gowns as being from the hand of Eileen West.

The 1960's fashion firm, Aileen, which advertised extensively in Seventeen Magazine, took aim at the name of the company and thus, Aileen West became Eileen West.  West is short for Westerbeke, Eileen's husband's family name.  Now Eileen West has come to signify the affordable luxury of fine-crafted sleepwear and home goods.

Every account I've read about Eileen, including her obituary, casts her as a lovely and quiet woman.  She was generous with her family, friends and employees, gifting the latter every Christmas with nightgowns.  I could not respect this woman, her company, and her product more.  Not to mention that my gowns make me feel like a period piece heroine, billowing across the moors, standing on an ancient stone balcony to receive a lover, or perhaps I am simply a wistful young maiden writing a long letter by candlelight.


PS:  Thank you to reader Judy who sent me the wonderful image at the top.  Not sure if it's an Eileen West nightgown, but her thoughtful pose and the style suggest an Eileen West.  They are made for dreaming...

Friday, July 13, 2018

Daddio



My father worked hard and was a very good provider for us hoodlums.  He wasn't home a lot and sometimes had two jobs in addition to his full-time one.  When he was around he made repairs on the house, mowed the grass, and fixed things.  I believed he could fix anything.  I thought this because I used to leave all my precious trinkets on the top of his tall maple bureau during the day and then in the morning, before he left for his long work day and while I was still sleeping, they would magically appear on my own bureau with working clasps and reattached bits and bobs.

Only once could he not fix something and that was when I brought him a doll with a severed arm.  Most of  my "dolly's" had rubber appendages that could just be squeezed back into place.  But this doll was different - she had some sort of pulley attachment inside the torso that had to hook up with the inside of the arm somehow.  And Dad couldn't fix her...

He came to me very gently that night as I was riding my tricycle in the driveway.  Actually that tricycle is what caused the amputation in the first place.  I had carelessly backed over my special dolly and the arm broke and the small metal part fell out with a hollow clank.  And since I didn't know it was a crucial component, other sneakered-feet somehow kicked it onto our wide front lawn never to be seen again.  Dad wouldn't have been able to use that part anyway because, although he could fix most anything, he was not a welder and even I knew that.

Still, I hoped against hope and really believed my father could fix my dolly's broken arm with his special kind of wizardry.  And so, he did indeed come to me gently that soft summer night and knelt beside my bike and with the kindest voice he ever used, told me my doll could not be repaired.  I don't remember if I cried - I might have, but if I did it was not because my doll was forever broken.  It was because my father had never spoken to me with such tender deference before.

I'm sure you realize that the dad in the picture above is not my father.  He is actor Don Porter.  Recently I've been using Gidget reruns as a lullaby.  I love watching an episode before I go to sleep.  This is the Gidget series with Sally Fields that ran for one year in 1965-66.  Of course, I love the fashions, the homey reassuring set designs, and the innocent madcap adventures that seem so far removed from the Kardashian world we inhabit today.  Sally Fields is darling as Francie "Gidget" Lawrence but it's her dad, Russ Lawrence that's stealing my heart during my late-night viewing sojourns.

Don Porter must have been a lot like Mr. Lawrence because his role as Gidget's dad seems to come naturally to him.  He's gentlemanly and all reports on the internet claim he truly was the Real Deal.  He's wise and gives great advice with a remarkably cultivated delivery that is so, oh I don't know, Dad-like.  He does act out sometimes like when he went on a date for the first time and became embarrassed when Gidget held him accountable for missing his "curfew".  He goes off the rails from time to time but he comes right back as the genial and loving dad that he is.

He truly is a grown up too and one of the only ones on the show.  He's the oak tree from which all the other characters emanate.  There's Gidget of course, and Lerue her best friend and the "Ethel" to her "Lucy".  They cavort on screen like two young puppies, getting into all kinds of dilemmas and escapish hi-jinks.  And then there is Anne and John, Gidget's fretful older sister and her hapless husband who is studying to be a child psychologist.  The irony of that is not lost on loveable, strong and kindly Russ who at times seems to be the only adult in the room.  But Mr. Lawrence also has a cool-cat vibe about him.  He sometimes calls Gidget "Baby" when he lectures her, he saunters when he walks across the hall to answer the door, he drives a convertible and lives in sunny cool-cat California.  I enjoy watching his vibe mesh with 1960's America.  It's nostalgic and hip at the same time.

I've enjoyed many "Dads" in film and television, most notably the nearly perfect Atticus Finch of To Kill A Mockingbird.  But now there's just something about that dear Don Porter.  It's funny how I never noticed him when I watched the show as a 5th grader.  And I think it's that voice - he carries that sweet tender timbre that my own father used the day he told me he couldn't fix my dolly.  I only wish my father had been granted the time for more moments like that.


Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Soft Summer Nights



When summer finally comes, it's easy to forget the past.  You know...the ice and wind and the nights when one is cold right down to the bones and can't get warm no matter how hot and steamy the bath water is.  Once July and its heat index arrives, winter is far, far away and long-forgotten.

Summer nights have their own silken song - the breezes are gentle and sultry, barely sweeping over bared skin.  Here, we are serenaded by plaintive fog horns shepherding boats to their nests and for all the bright sun-soaked daylight there is, the earth still grows black and calm in the evenings.

It is the perfect time of year for flowing nightgowns and bare feet, cucumber-infused water and floral body lotions.  Such pleasures we have on dark wispy nights to slip into cooling gowns for lounging and sleeping, especially if they had been hung on the line and then folded neatly and crisply.

Years ago, when a girl was on her way to being a woman, Mother might treat her to the penultimate summer gown, a Barbizon.  Barbizon, a company now long-gone, made cotton batiste gowns with a remarkable 100% cotton that was practically unwrinkable.  The styles were more sophisticated than youthful babydolls even when they came in creamy sherbet colors.  Often high-collared with little ties, they were worldly but without being overtly coquettish.  They can still be found on eBay and Etsy these days with matching robes with tags too.  But many may find the styles too demur for today.

The Chemise has made a wild come-back.  Once worn only as a slip under a dress, chemises are shorter and usually with lace.  Skimpy and feminine, they are definitely cooling and flattering to tanned legs and arms.  A coordinating Kimono-styled robe would be very pretty for Sunday morning blueberry pancakes under the patio umbrella.

I prefer Eileen West gowns in lawn or knit prints.  Unfortunately, my local Nordstrom no longer carries them and I think I know why - they are far to chaste for today's younger women.  But is there anything so magically sweet and summery than a charming and billowy nightgown in refreshing cotton on a tropical night?  Fortunately, Eileen West is carried online and on the Vermont Country Store's website.  There must still be a healthy market for them since they seem to crank out variations year after year after year.  They are so elegant and classically feminine.

So many women wear t-shirts to bed these days and usually the clean-your-car-with kind.  My grandmother would be horrified to be sure.  And I ask you, where in the scope of your busy lives is there ever a chance to wear laces, spaghetti straps, and flounces than in your nightwear choice?  In my mind, a nightgown is a delightful pleasure on a summer night, whether you prefer a vintage negligee from the '60's - the very era of flounce-making, an alluring chemise of body-hugging stretch lace, or a more time-honored and effortless gown of sweeping cotton?  Wearing my nightgown makes me feel like a to-the-manor born character in Poldark or one of Jane Austen's Bennett sisters.

~

Soft summer nights..
Spent thinking of you.
When will I see you again?

~England Dan/John Ford Coley


Thursday, June 7, 2018

Kate Spade


When I took my first job after my divorce it was in the city.  I traveled by train every morning to what seemed a faraway and intimidating Emerald City.  When I disembarked I felt so out of place  - the clothes on my back were poached from my sister's closet and patched together with out-of-style shoes and a scratched 1980's disco bag.  After being a stay-at-home single mother for 6 years, I had no idea what was even fashionable at the time.

As I waited for my first paycheck to arrive, I earmarked it for some updated pieces.  My office was on the top floor of the swankiest mall in Massachusetts so I knew I wouldn't be finding any new things there.  But the easiest route to the street was traversing the first floor of Woman's Paradise, for the women-who-lunch crowd.  I crept by the handbag collection trying not to look, but was stopped in my tracks by a group of shelved Crayola-colored bags, as bright and cheery as a child's yellow rain slicker.  What were these sunny tote bags and purses?  I loved each and every one.  The were roomy with comfortable depths the would carry all train-riding paraphernalia such as a sandwich, umbrella, ballet flats and a hardcover book in addition to the regular wallet and lipstick.  I was smitten.

As pretty and practical as Kate Spade's bags were, I knew if I bought one, I would have to forgo any  new work clothes and wear my small misfit wardrobe another month. What to do?  Remembering my grandmother's wise advice to choose quality over quantity and buying the very best I could afford, I was soon the new owner of a tamale-red boxy wool handbag that was oh so chic.  Never mind that it wasn't waterproof which took it down a tick on the practicality scale but  I didn't care - it was irresistible and fun.

I wore my new bag with all the dark neutrals I dug out of the bottom of my closet and soon, better and more paychecks finally allowed me to upgrade my clothes.  But my Kate Spade (and all handbags by Kate Spade are called "My Kate Spade) carried on year after year until the fabric tore away at the bottom corners and all those hardcover books created a permanent dent.  Still, I found more in Kate's collections to love right up to and including the fine black satchel I purchased the week I was hired for my last job.

I can't say I am completely loyal to Kate Spade bags - as a lifelong handbag freak, I have many, running the gamut from no names to vintage.  But it was with utter shock and sadness when I heard  that Kate Spade had taken her own life.  It's hard not to feel as though I knew her since her name has been sitting front and center on my handbags and totes for almost 20 years.  I have been loyal and believed in her whimsical style and have adopted elements of it in my own world.  I've read and cherish her three delightful style books, Manners, Style, and Occasions which I have loaned to a bereft young co-worker this very morning.  Happily, they fit right inside her Kate Spade.  I just know she will enjoy Kate's breathless charm and kaleidoscope world.

I've been amazed at the outpouring of love on social media for Kate's work and influence.  She showed us how to play dress-up again which we hadn't done since we were six.  Because of Kate, we learned to love color in a black and white minimalist world, and to enjoy clothes and especially accessories.  Her whimsical brooches, key chains and notebooks infused joy into our work worlds.  One commenter on The New York Times marvelous article by Vanessa Friedman said that her Kate Spade handbag made her feel less alone at work.  I know.  Me too...

It's difficult to imagine that Kate Spade was struggling and it now appears as though her demons won.  If she was mentally ill, my heart goes out to her and her family and friends.  I only saw the outside - in her sorcery with handbags, clothes, and shoes, her way of entertaining, her fresh and pretty home goods.  For me, she was a mood elevator whether it was her video ads, her products, or the many articles and images of her on the internet.  And sadly, I was really hoping to watch her personal style as she morphed into a grey-haired woman of a certain age.

The image above is not of Kate Spade but culled from a recent ad for one of her shops.  And as all things "Kate Spade" there's a laughter-that-wrinkles-your-nose charm about it.  It's fresh and optimistic and strangely reassuring.

~

The Way You Look Tonight
Some day, when I'm awfully low,

When the world is cold,

I will feel a glow just thinking of you

And the way you look tonight.
You're lovely, with your smile so warm

And your cheeks so soft,

There is nothing for me but to love you,

And the way you look tonight.
With each word your tenderness grows,

Tearing my fears apart

And that laugh that wrinkles your nose,

Touches my foolish heart.
Yes you're lovely, never, ever change

Keep that breathless charm.

Won't you please arrange it?

'Cause I love you

Just the way you look tonight.
With each word your tenderness grows,

Tearing my fears apart

And that laugh that wrinkles your nose,

Touches my foolish heart.
Yes you're lovely, never, ever change

Keep that breathless charm.

Won't you please arrange it?

'Cause I love you

Just the way you look tonight.
Just the way you look tonight.
Darling
Just the way you look tonight. 


~ Fields and Kern

~

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/05/style/kate-spade-death.html

Friday, June 1, 2018

Seasons of Home


I've always liked musing about the Welsh word "Hiraeth", which means to yearn for a home one can never return to or to long for a home that never was.  It can also mean having a hollow sense of homesickness or a feeling of grief and loss for something unnamed.  The word seems to fit the bill for many things - wishing to see a sweet departed grandfather, reminiscing about a first love, dreaming of a little girl now grown.

There are seasons in life when we have an itch to explore and travel and see new things.  And other seasons when the pull to be home or to build a home or to make a better home overcomes us and we find ourselves staying close to where we live.  Sometimes it's for comfort especially when the world is too much with us or we have experienced a loss and we find that burrowing in soothes our souls.

There are a many reasons why I am a homebody right now, including a beautiful new granddaughter nearby but it also began when I started re-reading Louisa May Alcott this spring.  You know her as the authoress of Little Women but she also wrote many other fine novels.  I'll get my nose back into Little Women this summer but right now I am enjoying Eight Cousins, her tale of lonely orphan Rose and the new place she finds with her eight rough and tumble male cousins.

Home runs like a bright gold thread throughout all of Alcott's novels which she describes with such expressive language and love for the places we belong.  She uses evocative words to illuminate cozy elderly aunts, nooks and crannies in old houses, and the devotion and loyalty household members have for one another.  She makes me want to make tea, arrange flowers, hang out sheets, and call on neighbors. When Rose's parents both die and before her Uncle Alex takes over her care and brings her to his marvelous old house to live, her dark moods were due to a bad case of hiraeth, of not knowing where to go or what to do.

Sometimes self-care takes the form of home care.  Looking after your home, no matter how temporary or humble it is or how much money you have to spare, makes one feel in control of one's world.  And sharing meals with friends and "putting on the Ritz" with nice quilted placemats and grandmother's silver and crystal keeps fretting at bay.  Even something as simple as buying a garden hose that wraps up by itself, as I recently did, can make you feel pampered in some small way.

I highly recommend Louisa May Alcott this summer.  Get lost in her world of quirky but lovable house guests, bed caps as big as cabbages, polished floors, and the art of a good cry - following by warmed tea pots and porridge with real cream.  Louisa may actually spur you onto a little homekeeping and some projects that have lain fallow about your house.  I'm going to be repainting an old bench and relining my linen closet with fresh scented papers.

~~~

PS:  Above of course, is Louisa May Alcott's home, Orchard House in Concord Massachusetts.  One of the lovely things about this house is the scent - like freshly opened star lilies or crisp stalks of gladiolas.  I once tried to find a perfume that was reminiscent of Orchard House and came close with "Galore", an old Merle Norman fragrance that has been long discontinued.  But I wore it happily for years as a young woman.

PPS:  I have watched the new Little Women film from the BBC.  Still not as nice as the 1994 edition with Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon.  And call me a prude but I was shocked to see older sister Meg use a bourdaloue in one of the first scenes.

PPPS:  As well, my recent essay about my favorite March sister who happens to be Meg, was accepted for a new Little Women anthology which will be published in book form soon.  I will keep you posted on that.

PPPPS:  Finally, I am thinking of a refresh for my blog.  The Blogger format suddenly looks tired.  If you have any thoughts, I will gladly listen.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Flowers and Mothers


Lily of the Valley or Muguet de Bois, is the quintessential flower of spring.  Along with lilacs which burst into bloom the second week in May each year, spring bouquets are the most vivid and fragrant.  They bring back so many memories of childhood walks to school when the thought of summer vacations not too far off, filled us with glee.  There was much to look forward to in spring.  I cannot smell lilies or lilacs without jettisoning back to warm May mornings heading to school with white nylon ankle socks inching down beneath the heel of my shoes with each step.  Little did I notice with waving lilac fronds above the rows and rows of neat boxwoods that fenced the homes in my town.  And at the base of the small hill on my street was a untouched field of wild Lily of the Valley outfitted with deep green leaves and tiny pristine bells.  Even as children, we knew that parcel to be sacrosanct and didn't dare trample on it.  The neighborhood mothers loved the lilies.

And I've been busy loving someone new this May.  My new granddaughter arrived right on schedule.  My heart overflows...  When my daughter told me last fall that she was expecting a little girl, my response was immediate and visceral, "I get to do YOU all over again!"  And my new little grandchild does indeed look very much like my daughter with fleeting glimpses of my fine son-in-law too.  My heart overflows...

Flowers and mothers just seem to go together.  And flowers and grandmothers.  So many of the shops bring out flowering pots of pretty blooms, cut flowers and roses for Mother's Day.  Even the supermarkets find extra room for flowery gifts for Mother.  Perhaps it's because the holiday comes in spring when all the world's gardens are waking in unison, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.  But every mother is touched when a little person brings them a hand-picked bouquet.  Even my bouquet of poison ivy elicited a smile from Mom, albeit very weak.  Flowers and mothers...mothers and flowers...

I found a dear Mother's Day card for a daughter who is now a mother with a bundle of her own, fresh-from-heaven.  She may receive a bouquet - flowers and daughters go together too.

I wish you love and flowers this Mother's Day!  And if your mother is no longer with you, I wish her spring lilies and lilacs...




Monday, April 23, 2018

Lessons in Botany


Some dresses you never forget.  One of mine, a white pique I wore in the third grade is with me still.  I remember this dress partly because it was my spring dress the year our family cat had kittens.  Even now, I feel those soft creatures scurrying up my dress as I tried to hold them, eventually poking through the fabric with their needle-like claws.  Those pin-sized holes broke my mother's heart and I don't blame her.  The dress was indeed heartbreakingly beautiful in summer-white with green vines of bright blue tulips running across the hem and trailing diagonally across the bodice.  It was lovely.

"After women, flowers are the most beautiful things God has given the world", Christian Dior once wrote.  And he should know for he is the man who gave us a fragrance known as having the truest scent ever crafted of the sweet and fragile Lily of the Valley.  Diorissimo has a mysterious depth with a pure floral shock, much like the tender flower.  And to celebrate his magnificent perfume, he created The Muguet Dress which reportedly had fronds of the lilies sewn right into the hem, scenting the room where it was first shown to the public.

I've always loved flowers but I'm not very good at either growing them or arranging them.  When I need a fix, I visit our grocer who has a decent selection even if they are not very heady or exotic.  For really amazing blooms and when I am in the area, I love to visit a florist in Boston that seems to have the most unique way of expressing his love of flowers.  Large urns of cherry blossoms sidelight the entrance to his romantic shop which is but a taste of what goes on inside.  Beside the intoxicatingly perfumed air, there are showcases of vases and vessels holding roses, freesia, ranunculus, gardenias, and hyacinths, all displayed in the most charming ways.  He even once used a vintage typewriter to show-off ribbons of ivy with white camellias.  I often feel drunk with inspiration when I am finally able to tear myself away.

This season I am looking for a simple blouse with a small floral print.  I love our vintage model's above.  And for spring, it seems just right with its soft celadon and lilac hues.  A light spray of Muguet des Bois from the 1970's, another albeit tamer, Lily-of-the-Valley fragrance, would be perfect with it.

I plan on asking my mother what she remembers of her daughter's spring dress - the one she was so fond of.  Another lover of flowers, I am pretty sure she will recall how the kittens ruined it.  But I hope - I really hope, she remembers the climbing blue tulips.


Sunday, April 15, 2018

Ten Thousand Joys

So many times I've tried to write a blog post only to find I don't have any words for you, dear readers.  I want so much to tell you about the return of the sunshine which I would weave with memories of springtime from long ago (I did squeak this out in my last post).  I want to tell you about the fulfillment of my long-held dream of at last, having my grandmother's sterling silver flatware that was always, always meant to be mine. I would tell you about the pleasure of holding a lovely and hefty piece of silver cutlery in your hand and what a spoon smoothed to a patina does to a daily tea ritual.  I want to tell you about the personality test I took at work and how I learned that no one, not even a scientific math-driven exam, will tell me who I am and I would tell you that despite an expensive test, I am still the world's leading expert on me.  I want to tell you about my new passion for honey in coffee (yes, coffee) and about some new spring beauty products I really like.  I want to tell you about the benediction of the flowering cherry blossoms and why their motif will always herald spring for me and why.  And of course these stories led to other stories, other memories, other views...But alas, I am simply unable to put these thoughts into words right now.

My daughter is nine months pregnant.  I cannot even glance at her without tears welling and threatening to foolishly overflow.  On Easter Sunday, I gifted her the baby book I kept during her first years - the one with my handwritten notes lovingly recorded on every page.  First smile, first step, first word...first kiss on Mommy's cheek.  Filled with early pictures and mementos, including the grainy and ridiculously vague ultrasound photo that possessed me - my first glimpse of the little babe I would love all the days of my life.  Somehow, it felt right that she should have the book I so earnestly recorded in.  And I hope that when she reads between those gushy, flowery words, she will know that I have stood right where she is.  Yes, it will be hard...arduous, exhausting.

And when, at last it is over, my wish is that she knows what I have known - ten thousand joys.


Saturday, April 7, 2018

Mine is the Sunlight


Our funny hippie bus driver in high school played his radio on our long rides to school.  In the spring, he cranked up "morning" songs for us, such as Cat Steven's "Morning Has Broken", "Good Morning Starshine", from the musical Oliver, and my favorite, "Morning Girl" by the Neon Philharmonic.  There are more "morning" songs than you can imagine - Google them sometime.  For us, it was perfect music for those youthful spring mornings when the air had a fresh earth scent and the sun was just beginning to warm us in our Mom-approved new spring jackets.

How I am longing for sunlit mornings now!  The snow is still flitting about and the temperatures are downright chilly, yet everyone is talking about spring, especially wondering when it will get here.  I am craving the feeling of the sun washing over me, straight down to my bones, unfurling me from all winter's strictures and constraints.

And on the day I notice that winter has finally scurried away, I will feel a sudden jolt of freedom and that almost unbearable lightness of being, when at last, I walk outside for the first time with nothing more on than my lightweight spring coat.  And on the morning I can finally leave the house bare-armed...well then the warm sun will rest upon my shoulders like a soft pashmina dropped from the sky.  Are you sighing yet?

I have so many thoughts about how the sun will manifest itself in my life.  Having been to Hawaii, last year, I am planning on incorporating sunny ideals into everything I do, food, clothing, makeup, skincare - as soon as it gets here!   Naturally, I am thinking of lighter clothes in bright sun-worshiping colors such as coral, hot pink, and turquoise. And I want to change my lipstick to a gloss in a lush sunburst hue and find a cheek highlighter with subtle flecks of gold with the hope of reflecting the light back onto my winter-weary face.  I may try more lashes, paler nails, gold rings and bracelets.  And a goddess I shall be, when I find that perfect maxi flowing dress to wear in the backyard, when the sun is finally unleashed upon the patio.  There I shall sit with a book in my lap while sun-fueled breezes pick up the hem of my dress and tickle my ankles.

My meals will be sun-driven too, with citrus fruits and fragrant pineapple.  Ices, teas, and fresh water with lemon, will quench my thirst as I visit the local farmer's stalls for vegetables and tropical-colored flowers to dress my table.  I will eat al fresco with a wide-brimmed sunhat so I can bask safely in the majestic rays I am dreaming about.

I may play some of those old "morning" tunes that seemed so right as our bus rumbled over just- waking-up hills and valleys, celery-green with hovering mists above them.  Back in those optimistic teen days, the sun made everything shimmer with possibilities.  It no longer played hide-and-seek, and like I am doing right now, it made bold outright promises of golden summer days to come.

~

Morning has broken, like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken, like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the word
Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning...
~ Cat Stevens

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

What We Have in the House



"We'll use what we have in the house", my grandmother told me when I asked about wrapping a small birthday present for my mother.  A few hours later with her help, I had a pretty gift, wrapped in bright yellow felt with cherry rickrack in place of ribbon and a little posy of geraniums pinned onto it.

I've come across "We'll use what we have in the house" many times since.  I found it in a spiritual self-help book a number of years ago when a woman who recently lost her job was trying to create a new life out of ashes.  It was a phrase she told herself whenever she needed to provide a little elegant economy under her new circumstances.  I tried to live by it in my own frugal times and I know I employed it often when I was raising my daughter and she had regular needs for crafts and school projects.  "We'll use what we have in the house" came to signify creativity and fun as we would both put on our thinking caps to try to devise the very thing that was required at the time.

~

Have I ever told you that I hate my kitchen?  There.  I said it.  It's tremendously outdated with a tile floor that shatters to bits anything that falls on it.  I have a basketful of what will one day be a mosaic walkway to prove it (that's a retirement dream and I will definitely be using what I have in the house when I bring it to fruition).  But besides the tile floor, I really despise the cabinets.  I simply cannot get away from them and I know you've seen them.  They are cream with a thin line of pale oak on the bottom with a groove to be used as a handle for opening and closing.  I can't seem to get away from them either because they've been in every apartment I have ever rented.  I did ask for them once, when my husband and I were building our house in 1986.  Oh yes, they were in style then and ever since the dear Universe has kept me in cream cabinet clover whether I like it not.  They reek of the 80's and you may be wondering why I haven't replaced them.  Well, the cabinetry I truly want would cost a very pretty penny and it's been filed in my "Someday" folder which by now should be called, "If I Win the Lottery" folder.  My longed-for cabinets were far cheaper a few years ago.  Sigh...

I think my unhappiness with my kitchen reached a crescendo when I began to pour over Instagram kitchens. They are gorgeous - matching stainless steel appliances, granite islands with plenty of flat surface for rolling out pie crusts, and rich-looking hardwood floors with colorful Oriental rugs in magenta and blue.  Sigh, again...

But I rather like the kitchen in the photo above.  It's ancient with character.  And it kind of reminds me of my grandmother's kitchen where she made lots of pies without a single granite island to be found.  Although there is some lovely woodwork, there are no designer kitchen towels or window treatments, just as there were none in my grandmother's kitchen.  Here, there are some simple touches like the fruit bowl, the plain kitchen towel, and something delicious just taken from that great oven which was probably expensive but I imagine it old and persnickety.  My grandmother would be shocked today at what William Sonoma deems absolutely necessary for kitchens, such as rubber spatulas in the shape of bunnies for Easter.  I'm exaggerating... but my grandmother cooked with plain old aluminum pots and pans and rolled out her pie crusts on top of the kitchen table because she had no counter space at all except for a porcelain dish drain which was attached to her impractially tall kitchen sink.

So not too long ago, I made peace with my cabinets and flooring.  For now.  Instead, I started to notice how lovely my kitchen looks on late winter afternoons when a certain slant of heavenly light throws golden rays across the wood dining table.  That's a table with matching chairs that my mother gave me and the one from which I fed my daughter countless lovingly-made meals while she was growing up.  And once I put a respectable fruit bowl on it, I noticed the light sought that  too and the crystal wedding bowl holding the apples and pears answered back with trembling prisms of faint rainbows on the detested tile floor.

Soon I found a pair of old brass candlesticks in the bottom of the hutch and then I went rifling through an old box of doilies that were part of my grandmother's legacy.  Sewn together they made a charming little valance for the kitchen window.  And I didn't stop there - I pulled out an old forlorn Teddy bear my daughter left behind and plopped him in a basket on a ladderback chair, also inherited, that lives in a neglected corner.  How could I have known I like Teddy bears until now?  His warm presence makes me smile when I shuffle in to make my coffee at 6 am every morning.  And if the mournful little thing could speak, he might just tell me that he applauds my efforts to love my kitchen back to life, cabinets be damned.  Surely, he has noticed too - I've been using what I have in the house.


Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Last Will and Testament


My mother was a booklover and never without a volume on her aproned lap when she waited for the Sunday roast to finish cooking.  Books, magazines, newspapers, even pamphlets overflowed every flat surface in our living room.  Even my rambunctious brothers paused now and then to read Dickens and other literature.  And Mom made sure we visited the fine old library in our town often, where she made friends with all the librarians, including one who was a lovely young mother with an understanding smile.

I had a shyness around Mrs. Grice not only because she was friendly with my mother but also because her son was in my class.  But she often made approving comments about the books I selected to take home and once she winked at me when she noticed that Little Women was again on top of my take-home stack.

In Little Women the youngest sister Amy is banished to Aunt March's until sister Beth recovers from Scarlet Fever.  Of course, sadly, we all know Beth never fully recovers and just a few short years later, dies in the most poignant piece of sisterly love in literature ever written.  But Amy, unlike her other siblings Jo and Meg, never had the Fever and has to be quarantined at her unpleasant great aunt's for "the duration".  Naturally no young vivacious girl wants to have an extended visit with a crochetty dispirited relative but Amy bore her trial very well, partly because she made certain preparations ahead of time.

Upon reading Little Women as a child, I was immensely interested in the Last Will and Testament that Amy wrote.  Like me, Amy's holdings were very small and yet, she made thoughtful provisions for all her things including her turquoise ring.  Since both my sister and I were gifted turquoise rings that year from an uncle out west, we got the bright idea to draw up our own will and testament.

The dearth of our belongings and the fact that my sister and I shared so many things, we decided just one will and testament would be sufficient for our assets, including our turquoise rings.  The list was not lengthy but it included, besides the rings, two small hand-painted floral jewelry boxes with twirling ballerinas beneath mirrored lids, a gold-toned brush and comb set with etched flowers, some multi-colored dimestore headbands with perilously sharp teeth, a pastel wind-up teddy bear that played Lara's Theme, and a purple book of poetry that I still own.

We set to the task of writing our will using Amy's as a frame of reference.  It was all so earnest and serious.  I don't remember leaving anything to my brothers but both my grandmothers were willed the headbands and we generously bequeathed the rings to Mom.  Our closest friend made out the best with the book of poems, the gold dresser set, two jewelry boxes (she had a lot of costume jewelry that we coveted), and the teddy bear, a favorite of mine.  I had nary a thought for my poor mother and what she would have felt to inherit TWO turquoise rings belonging to beloved daughters who just happened to meet an untimely and unexpected double demise.

My sister and I told no one about our Last Will and Testament and like most children, we quickly became engrossed in other activities and forgot about the document...at least until we were suddenly dispatched to the library.  Unknown to us, our will had been returned tucked inside one of our many borrowed books for all the world to see.  Having our names spelled out front and center on the will, middle names included, meant Mrs. Grice had no problem realizing who the authors were.

As much as I dreaded fetching our will from a public place, from our classmate's mother, Mrs. Grice handled it with a sense of urgency and seriousness much like Laurie did the night his carriage drove Amy to Aunt March's for her internment.  When Amy asks him to execute her wishes if need be, Laurie's tender reassurance and sense of gravity comes through in his response - he will gladly be her executor and disperse her bestowals should she die of Scarlet Fever.  Thus was the serene and lovely Mrs. Grice when I approached the library's check-out desk.  Kindly, she pulled a long sealed envelope from a discreet place under the counter.  With penmanship as neat and pretty as my mother's, she had written, "The Misses Macdonald".  Inside, neatly folded, was our Last Will and Testament.  I'm not exactly sure what, if anything, was said when she handed the envelope over to us.  But I gratefully recall a gentle smile that had not the least bit of mocking amusement in it.