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 Sherri-with-an-i 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
and rose. There was such an aura of forceful feminity to those dressing areas---an almost overwhelming sweetness to the smoke and the scents, like opening a long-ago perfume bottle with but a dried golden film in the bottom.
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.
was just writing to you when I saw you e-mail. I absolutely
LOVE getting mail from you. Even though we haven’t seen each other in
years and years, I feel like you are the sweetest, most adorable kindred spirit
and I want to steal you from your Sis and have you as my very own sister.
I do so wish you lived close by. PLEASE, if you ever get near Birmingham, come and sit a
spell and, as Your Daddy always said to me, let’s go out on the porch and tell lies
for the kitchen project almost done. Know you are going to love it.
you ever at a loss for words? I absolutely love your writing.
Thought about you this afternoon when I ordered a couple of Gladys Turnbull’s
books and planned on sending a note as soon as I sat down. Was thinking
how much I would love to be able to write like you. I’m totally at a
loss for words lately and can’t seem to think of a thing to write about.
When I first retired, I started writing little “ morning papers” and
the words just seem to flow. But lately, NOTHING. I started
re-reading the journal from last year and wondered where all those words
came from. It’s like prayers for me. Sometimes I say a prayer and
know for sure that it didn’t come from me but from Him who is always nearer
than my very breath.
do stay in touch. I love you so.
And from me to Maggie, just now, pouring out random thoughts like a burst dam:
Oh, Sweetpea! What a
wonderful message from you! You just say the dearest things, and have the
sweetest, purest spirit of any adult I've ever known. There's a
wonderful innocence to your brilliant mind, a childlike faith and wonder at the
simplest things---I remember your words about bread, about lavender, a Summer
breeze, kneeling to receive The Cup, the little creek as it flows---plums and a
fresh-ironed cloth whisked onto a table for supper, the gathering of your Loves
around that table, growing young together.
Indeed, you DO have words---absolutely
reams and scores of them, speaking of only the best of things, the sweetest
parts, the simplest, deepest gentle murmurs of the way things should be, as you
see them. You have a way of portraying life as we'd all like to
live it, in a simple, slow grace of BEING that we forget could be, or that
we've never given a thought in our busy, moving, on-call, duty-filled,
get-it-done lives. You MAKE us think about those things---those
better ways, those spirit-filled moments, those days of Grace lived in shade
and sun, walking gently where we're impelled to run, to get things over with,
to get on with it, instead of enjoying the simple charm of the NOW.
love to hear from you---would that it were every day, every hour. I
could read and read your words, drinking in those slaking words, filling up
entire with the feeling of beautiful and pure.
we loved that "simple" book several years ago---Beth Breathnach, was
it? We all seized upon it as a mantra of sorts, a missal for the church
of the everyday stuff---likening a dull morning to a garden ripe with delights,
or a chore to a gift to our nearies and selves. It was a wonderful,
fulfilling read, propped in the arbor in the Summer shade. We thought we
could be JUST LIKE THAT, accepting the goods and the simples and the smalls.
Just NOTICING them was a great blessing; having them pointed out was a
lovely gift, and would that it had lasted forever, for we drift, we allow, we
succumb to the leaving off of things, the dusts of the days, the pilings of
THINGS and STUFF and debris of shoppings and hoardings and receivings, stored
up in their outlived, useless selves, merely on the possibility of their later
Oh. My. I have to get OUT of that track. We
were Yard Salers, Goodwillers, Thrift Store browsers, picking up a plate here,
a set of dishes there, two cloths and an abandoned craft-basket filled with
ninety-nine kinds of ribbon and wire, channeling Martha Stewart because we saw
exactly THAT PLATTER in the magazine and who knows what entertaining marvels
would ensue if I had one of my own??
all geared to nesting, I've found---home stuff and kitchen stuff and house
things---and except for two china cabinets, our La-Z-Boys, and the computer and TV, every single thing we own came from Goodwill. Piles and
drawers of tablecloths and coverlets and curtains for windows I'll never own,
with so few things costing more than a dollar or two---can't pass up that
twenty-foot Battenburg banquet set, even though our biggest table is eight
I'm divesting. Giving away with abandon, pressing goodies upon
unsuspecting guests, survey-takers, delivery people who go their way with arms
heaped and stunned expressions.
verging away to the silly now, but life has been such ridiculous DEPTHS lately,
of such a surfeit of things to walk over and trip over, that my mind is
dropping to the level of those maze-rats---you can change course around blind
ends and blank walls just SO MANY TIMES before you forget where and who and WHY
you are. I've lost my words into the ether so much lately, but now that the actual building is completed, I don't weep so much for the losing of the words as I have of late in my usual self.
night two lovely men came to install the last cabinet---we had passed on having the store do the demolition, and a friend of Caro's
offered to take down all the cabinets just for taking them off our
hands. Great joy and delight, and the day they demolished, we
did them a lovely brunch. Last night, with all done but that
one big heavy shelf, they came back to attach it to the wall; we'd invited
wife-and-mother, and the little grandson came as well. It was
a lively, raucous table of almost- strangers, eating and talking like old
friends on the same tracks and interests and thoughts. Great fun,
and Caro did a fabulous good old southern supper for us. But I
found myself blurting out the RIGHT words, the witty and the smart puns and
anecdotes and answers, and it was a joyous revelation and
relief. These past few days of an immaculate counter (though
much doing on my part left to be done) and days of quiet and slow
accomplishment of tasks, with only Jack Reacher as my spoken companion---I'm regaining
some of my brain cells, I think.
YES. I Have lost my words, And that's just what I've
called it. I can pretty well type anything, as the stream comes
from my brain, but sometimes I have to stop and think "Now what is that
A-word that I'm looking for?" or "Do I really mean
Accumulation or Assimilation?" Or I've even gone so far as to
offer a guest a cup of cigarette without missing a beat, though not a soul in
the room smokes.
now for a bite of those GOOD snap beans from last night, over a bit of crisp
cold head-lettuce with little cucumber slices and some homemade bleu cheese
dressing. Chris is in AL
(I swear if I'd come along, I'd have called and asked to take refuge with YOU
while he went down to visit. He's been cooking for 27 this week,
and I'd have been right there in the kitchen day and night with him, as is
usual when we visit. Everybody "comes to see us" and
stays for every meal. Just couldn't bear the idea of such a crowded,
busy, hectic place, in this clutter-mind I've lived with since March, anyway,
even though three of our dearest GRANDS were there for the
weekend). He'll be coming back through GA to visit three of the
other chillum and the GRANDS, and be home tomorrow.
love you, faraway Sister-Girl. Sisters of the Spirit---yours
"rubs off" in the most lovely sense on me, and I just hope to send
you some of the reassurance of your worth and kindness and so-enviable way of
living life that I try to pattern and live. I lived Serene for a
long, long time, and the past few years have been beyond NOT.
You're keeping me centered on that sweet focusing-point of Grace and The