Every trip to St. Louis includes a day of Retail Therapy and Pretzels at Auntie Anne's with Kat at the Galleria. This last trip was no different, but we did find lots of changes and feelings of disappointment with most of what the stores had on offer.
This window at the children's clothing store didn't disappoint me...the shot above is from Christmas 2014-I had to take a shot of this year's window too-2 years later.
I love children's clothes and this place does it up right...no disappointment here. But, I confess...I love those little sparkly, bowed, fur collared numbers best! Happy Saturday!
We have always been a family of snail mail and cards! This week, I discovered this fun antique postcard in my mailbox on Columbus Street from my brother Jim. We are also a creative, meaningful, and mushy bunch.
I loved the card itself, but when I looked a little closer Jim had given each of the family members on the card initials that matched all of us in the family. Now if there would have been a spot for Nannie, it would have been complete.
For Jim's message just look above at the heading of this post...
...and add Love, Jim.
We are also a lucky bunch!
The moment I walked into the Chatette, I was struck by how much of Mom is everywhere here. I have: her cross-stitches and needle points hanging in and around the kitchen; her dolls and the dolls she'd given me ever since I was a little girl; her Hummels; her handkerchief quilt; and of course, Monsieur Winkelmann screamed at me to bring out my Moon River (and many others) sheet music that I had tucked away in the folder in my bag with the other very important stuff. I chuckled because in many ways, having Mom's stuff is having Mom.
Mom's departure has been a strange one for me. I loved that hospice gave us the chance to go on her final journey with her as far as we could. I still smile when I remember her telling us that her suitcase was packed and everyone was there. The last time I was alone with Mom she whispered in my ear: "I wish I could have done more for you." On other days, we might have talked about this together at length. On this day, I simply said:
"Oh Mom, you made me the woman I am today."
Ours, was not an easy relationship. I miss my Mom. There are of course those times when I want to call her and tell her something just to hear her voice. Now, I just tell her. I've been playing Moon River and Somewhere Over the Rainbow here for her, along with a few Nat King Cole tunes, most mornings. I look at the moon and the Perseids and she is beside me saying: "Oh, look at the moon. Is that a shooting star?"
I've wondered if there was something wrong with me? My grief has been very different than my siblings. Shouldn't I be sadder? Shouldn't I miss her more? What I've always known (and others will tell you) is that we are very much alike. There were times I had to say to her: "Mom, I'm not you." I carry her with me always in ways that make me feel she isn't really gone. Mom really is everywhere that I am.
Even though she's never been to the Chatette in the flesh, she's been here every step of the almost 15 years of our "we" here and continues to be.
We were raised to always believe that we were just one big happy family. That in many ways, we were all alike. We weren't and we aren't. I've come to realize that each of the four of us had very different relationships with Mom, Dad, Mom and Dad as a couple, and each other. There is freedom, knowledge, and peace in that aha!
"Rarely do members of one family grow up under the same roof."-p.84
We are family. We love each other. We are not the same. We are not always going to get along. But, we've learned to celebrate our differences, and still love each other in the process.
And, that really is okay. Right, Mom?
WIth Father's Day being this Sunday, I went to work making one of my window cards for Dad for his Father's Day homage. This is the first Father's Day we're celebrating without Mom. I'm still observing how all of our relationships have changed since Mom passed in February.
I looked through some photos and narrowed it down to the three that you see above. Then, I searched for old meaningful photos to put behind those windows and doors.
Any bets on which card and which photos I chose?
I wanted one of me, one of Dad, and one of the two of us together. I love my passport photo from when I was a baby. I had one of Dad standing in front of his childhood home on Arabella Street. And then of course, my all time favorite of the two of us on the redwood bench in the back yard on Kappel Drive. You can see, it's no secret that I am and have always been a "Daddy's Girl."
As far as the card was concerned, craving that dancing diamonds view from one of my windows on the Lot won out over the other two.
I cut and hole punched each of the three window spots. Got the photos positioned and glued under their window, and then added on the special colorful ribbon to each hole. Et, voila-pull a ribbon...
...find a memory!
The last time I played Moon River for Mom had been at her wake at Valhalla. Most of my Moon River renditions of recent years, had been played for Mom and Dad on Monsieur Winkelmann over the telephone from Cadrieu.
Once my childhood piano (now christened "Violette") arrived on Columbus Street, I managed to play one more rendition of Moon River for Mom and Dad over the phone with her before the Christmas holidays.
The one time I played Moon River on Columbus Street since, I expected to be sad. I expected to shed a few tears. What I didn't expect was remembering every time I'd ever played Moon River for Mom in all these years. The choke came when my memories returned to Monsieur Winkelmann and the Chatette.
Next time I call to play Moon River across the 5000 miles and an ocean between us, Mom won't be with us on the other end of that telephone line.
But you know, I bet she'll be sitting right there on those stone porch steps watching: the buddleia blooming; the Lot River roll by; and, be able to hear Dad and I chatting away after I play Moon River from my very own Moon River. She'll turn around and say: "Oh, that's so beautiful sug." And I'll know: it is now "our" very own Moon River.
When lots is swirling in my world, it's important for me to do something that I feel I might have some iota of control over. One of those things is getting my house in order. I look around. I pitch. I sort. I straighten. I rearrange and, sometimes add. Looking around from my big red chair, I spied Nannie's blue suitcase. I have her blue suitcase and Papa's brown leather one. Both have been wonderful storage over these years when there is not a closet to be had in my space on Columbus Street.
Nannie's suitcase holds some special treasures. There was a series of fancy dolls that Mom had purchased with cloth bodies and china legs, hands and faces. Each was a famous woman or character, but I have no idea who is who now. Mom sewed the outfits for each one with great love and detail. Three of them live at the Chatette. The rest have been living in Nannie's suitcase here on Columbus Street...that was until this past weekend.
I decided it was time that they all came up for air. I too, struggle with too much stuff, but these ladies are so special that they needed to be seen. Each found a perfect spot that matched the decor in my much reduced space. I marveled at the detail: reversible jackets; necklaces; special jewels; ties; bows; pantaloons; and, lots of lace. They each have a different expression, but one thing they all have in common at the moment is that they are all smiling now.
They are happy to be out. They are another reminder of Mom and her loves and talents. Some of their outfits are made out of material from my own dresses that I had made for myself long ago.
As if playing Moon River isn't enough of a Mom Reminder for me...I now have one of her dolls sitting on the piano too. I tease that it takes at least three years to really feel home in any place. We are there on Columbus Street.
During 1996, I'd planned a three week trip to Europe. Dad kept saying: "Take your Mom to Paris." So, the first week of my three week sojourn began with Mom in Paris. Ah, the stories and photos from just that first week are incredible. I got to share my Paris with Mom. I've rediscovered my journal from that trip and was wise enough to bring the photo album home from 411 that I'd made for Mom after our trip. There is so much I could share. I chose this one that I'd taken of Mom in Montmartre. I love that she is saying hello! I've already said "Bonjour" back a number of times this morning. She is everywhere and will always be close.
My brother Tom took this shot of me up in our attic at 411. I'd cut my waist-length hair short early in 1976, after a man I loved was killed in a motorcycle accident. It must have been taken not long after that. That summer, I was to depart to New Orleans to begin my studies at the Tulane School of Social Work.
Each trip home we find a "different" 411. At Thanksgiving things were being organized for the Estate Sale. At Christmas, we found "spaces" amidst a lot of things that still remained. I could still sleep on the green velvet sofa, enjoy Sunday night "In the Heat of the Night" marathons, and cook in the kitchen.
With the auction in January, 411 was emptied. Remembering how I felt upon the Christmas arrival, I avoided going at first. I tried to prepare myself. But, I was interestingly surprised. Strangely, it was as if the house of 43 years ago was welcoming me back. Instead of missing, I soaked up its stark, clean, unadorned natural beauty that screamed: "here I am!"
I wandered from room to room and floor to floor. Memories flowed freely and unobstructed by barriers of any kind. I saw and felt things that I'd never noticed before.
Aside from the porches, attic, yard and gardens; the living room was my favorite room. I loved the fireplace and especially all of the book shelves. It wasn't unusual for me to ponder what I would do with this room "if it were mine." There were moments during that fateful fall of 2014, when I actually thought maybe I should find a way to make it so. It was possible, but I already know what it's like to juggle more than one piece of property on a limited budget. This beautiful baby needs someone with a healthy checkbook to love it, live in it, and breathe new life and make new memories. We did. It's someone else's turn now.
Join me on a little wander from the living room to:
The Butler Pantry and Dining Room
Back to the Foyer and Up the Stairs to the Second Floor
Up to the Attic, and...
...on the way back down, I discovered a charcoal drawing of me that I had done by an artist in Jackson Square one year as a Christmas present for Mom and Dad. I knew I was in trouble when the artist said: "You do know that this is the artist's 'interpretation' of your likeness?" I confess: I hated it. But, I gave it to Mom and Dad anyway. There it was again-staring me in the face. I had to smile. Even in all that emptiness and space; I'm still there.
Before I headed to New Orleans to go to the Tulane School of Social Work in the summer of '76, we frequently visited our Nannie when she lived with Uncle Bill on Mardel after Papa died. It wasn't quite the same without Papa. We missed him. We lost Nannie in 1980. More than once since Christmas, Mom has said that she wanted to go to "Auntie". I'm sure that they are ready and waiting for their "Neen".
On the road again today. Covington tonight. Hidden Lake with Dad and Mom tomorrow. I'll be taking a break here. See you when I return.