a dry whisper to all the memories of the Aunts and some of the Uncles of my
childhood, for their clothes and shoes and selves seemed crisp, somehow---the
fabrics and nubby linens, the book-edge cuffs and sharp pleats of the men’s pants. Serge and gabardine and woolens are serious
cloth, not like the frivols of today’s miss-matched cottons and all those
man-made, unmemorable plasticky garments sported by the young. It seemed to me that the adults of those times, with their hair, clothes, powdery skin---all seemed to be made of dry fabric, as if they spent their days pinned on a line in the wind.
Even lively and laughing, they seemed preserved, somehow, with the little dust of powder on
the ladies’ faces, the pencil-swoop of eyebrow, and the tissue-blotted lipstick
a matte effect, in contrast to today’s glows and shines and all those modern glittery,
gleamy cheeks and wetnesses of lip smeared and dabbed on at random moments, morning to
night, while driving, in conversation, balancing purse and phone and applicator
deftly, not missing a beat as that small wet wand swoops across a tightened
lip, between children’s schedules and plans to meet Brandy for lunch.
ladies sat at Vanity Tables, carrying their taste for tulle-and-net-covered
dressers way past their teens and into their married bedrooms, and the poufy
effect was enhanced by all the powder puffs and atomizer bottles and dresser
sets of comb, brush and mirror, all laid out as part of the room’s décor---all
with their own perpetual haze of sifted-down face-and-body powder lending a
soft focus to the entire scene.A matching
ashtray was quite a part of the arrangement, as well, holding a few
lipstick-tipped butts as casually as the little china box held bobby pins, and the
smoke-drifts added their own oddly inoffensive-then note to the perfume's bergamot
They sat down and tended to things, those ladies in their boo-dwars, with everything to hand right on the countertop, and every gesture and application a serious business.
The foundation swooped and smoothed just so, the powder, the tiny round rouge puff maneuvered delicately over contour of cheek, and the practiced touches of the lipstick, with the final lip-clench over a bit of Kleenex to avoid smears on glass or cigarette.
All the younger Aunts but one---my dear Aint
May-ry-on-the-other-side, she of the softsmooth skin and fine blonde hair, contagious laugh and forward-tilt in
her pretty white pumps, a dry rustle to her own crisply-ironed cotton blouses
and skirts---all those other Aunts smoked, as did my Mother and Daddy. And since I
saw these relatives so seldom, and then always with all of us in our Sunday
Clothes--“dressed-up” to me naturally meant a nice spray from the Chanel or
White Shoulders bottle, the smooth hang of their luxurious fabrics in
unfamiliar greens and browns and taupes, or some soft-toned mustards and
yellows, and the ethereal suggestion of just the faintest wisp of Chesterfield
or Kool. It was simply a fact of
life, that scent-addition encircling almost every adult in the family---either
the honest sweat-and-khakis of a hard work-day, or Sunday clothes with their
own dry-goods-store aroma mingling into the Old Spice/Coty/Shalimar/My Sin and
loved to watch my visiting Aunts get dressed for the day, especially Aunt
Cilla.She had the most wonderful
wardrobe of them all, from Goldsmith’s and Lowenstein’s in Memphis, all cut to fit her tiny frame.She’d hang her things in the closet as soon
as they arrived, in hanging bags-to-match-her-Samsonite.Those smooth tobacco-brown cases held wonders
never imagined by Aladdin in that cave---pale stockings-with-seams, all in a
pink satin bag to keep them safe from runs, and stacks of pastel undies and
gowns and dusters and the tiniest bedroom shoes of velvet and and beadwork and lace,
cuddled into the Overnight Case with tiny satin sachet poufs tucked in.Her real shoe-case was a square puzzle-box thing
that folded out in several directions to display a half-dozen pairs of
beautifully polished leather shoes---mostly peep-toes or sling-backs with heels
which raised her height to at least 5’2”.
the dresses and pants and little jackets with peplums, or that one darling
“military-style” one which was a deep blue, cut off sharply at the waist, with
gold buttons and the smallest hint of little epaulettes.I remember she wore that one occasionally
just around her shoulders, striding down our little main street in her
perfectly fitted slacks and fabulous shining shoes.
was FROM there, but no longer OF there.Being “from OFF” separated her and Uncle Jed from the rest of us, into a
cool, sanctified place, of wide streets and hedged lawns, of brocaded spindly
chairs and sofa (as opposed to our chunky, wide-armed prickly-covered COUCH and
chair-to-match. I remember that Daddy complained from Day 1 that you couldn't balance a glass or plate on the slopy arms of those things.
Even having been ordered
from Sears in Memphis
and delivered on the TRAIN did not imbue ours with such cachet as the stately,
delicate furniture in the still, sea-green living room in her House on Parkway).
It was, and still is, the absolute in décor
and gracious living.
if I could replicate it, I’d go there and simply DWELL, swinging along on my own two merry little clothespins.
where we are today---the great line of rainstorms which has covered us
intermittently for DAYS, with deluges and torrents and bursts---well, we can attest
to many, many gallons of that, because we have been wading through and walking
on it for days on end.
happens perhaps once every several years, and WOW this WAS the year. AND THE RAINS CAME TUMBLIN' DOWN!
with the yet-to-be-put away lugs and containers of STUFF taken out of the
storeroom to arrange all the leftover kitchen stuff I’ve culled out, and all
the lugs and containers of STUFF that Chris packed, took to the coast for a
week, and brought back, all lifted high and dry from the sodden carpet, or slid
onto the slate in the kitchen, we’re still in absolute chaos.
kitchen is gorgeous, but like a beautiful child, dressed in an unimaginable
assortment of shoddy clothes and unseemly gewgaws, with wet feet and a muddy
face to boot---well, it’s not yet for showing in polite company.
Towels all over the
floor, for stepping from this wet carpet onto the slick slate will catch you
unaware and send you flying if you don’t
step directly onto a towel to dry your shoes.And stepping around all those cluttery lumps, in fear of falling and
tripping, is not conducive to much cooking either.Miss Frankie is still shining, with her
pretty red earbobs and big gleaming smile, and all the counters and PINK are
simply lovely; they’re just taking backseat (rumbleseat, back of the bus, wait
for the wagon) to all the other necessaries we’re coping with.
Right now, there are
five fans, two air-cleaner machines and uncountable unsheathed Air Freshener clots
of gaudy waxen fragrance scattered about this
room, with a roar and a whoosh to addle anyone’s brain, let alone my
not-yet-recovered befuddlement from living in the Land of Misrule
the humidity in here has been so bad, it SNOWED in my new freezer!!!
what the heck!!Yesterday was National
French Fry Day!
I made the Fries, by Maw's crunchy-crispins recipe, and four dipping sauces:tarragon mayo, BBQ, grainy-mustard-mayo, and bleu cheese. We ate up at Caro's house, where she'd cooked us a wonderful dinner of pork
chops, smothered squash and onions, kidney bean salad, and Unky Kim’s
splendiferous scalloped tomatoes, right down to the little buttered toast
points on top.
and good company and laughing to complete the evening, and those pickles are
looking mighty good right now.