Monday, October 4, 2010

Tuesday's Child

A child of the depression, she was too young to remember the good days before the crash. While her sisters longed for the closets full of party dresses of better days, to her the depression meant moving to live full time in the beach house and having her beloved daddy home after school every day. She loved to walk downtown with him, even when it took hours for him to stop and speak to everyone in town. She walked and fished and swam in a village of 1,200 in the winters and where she knew everyone, too. She went to the only elementary school and the only high school.

Her sisters went to work right out of high school, and re-designed their clothes so that she never went without. They all saved money so that she could go to college, when all of them had longed to. Even so, she grew up a saver - measuring every purchase in terms of value for dollar. It became a lifelong habit.

She was a bobby soxer, who danced away summer nights at the beach club to the strains of the biggest of the big bands - Dorsey, Miller and the rest. She fell in love with Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett.

At 21 she married that good looking Marine from the next block and embarked on the twin adventures of marriage and motherhood. She left her beloved beach to follow her Marine to Boston and then to Ocracoke, North Carolina. Living with three other couples on the second floor of a "native" home, she cooked in the chicken coop and taught young wives from California to make "southern" fried chicken - but not from those in the coop!

She was 23 when her first child was born - a daughter she could cherish, fight with, and train to be an independent woman like her mother. A son followed, whom she taught to iron his own shirts.

In her forties she left the marriage and started a monogramming company. In a few years she was the business manager of a large medical practice - a niche that suited her perfectly and where she stayed for 25 years. In her spare time, she took drawing lessons and was soon painting in oil, watercolors and pastels. Her portraits of children became sought after around town and a favorite endeavor. She sold quite a few.

Following in the tradition of women in her family, she loved to dig her hands in the dirt and produce lovely flowers. Eventually her interest turned to orchids and she built a greenhouse to house the hundreds of specimens she grew. Even when she downsized, she found room for a few hardy cymbidiums and cattleyas to live on her balcony.

In retirement she returned to her beach and married one of the "beach boys" - no, not them. Together they shared their golden years until dementia robbed them of his memory. In her last decade she joined a writing group and flourished. Short stories and essays led to writing a family memoir and an historical novel based on a true family story. She wrote hundreds of manuscripts - not all finished.

Thursday she will join her sisters one last time - on equal footing in her own clothes, not hand-me-downs. She leaves a legacy of independence, creativity and genuine enjoyment of life for her daughter and granddaughters. She will be missed.

Monday's Child is fair of face,
Tuesday's child is full of grace.

Jean, George, Pat, Helen, Margaret, Agnes, Anne, and Nell