She baked, canned, tatted, knitted, crocheted and sewed. When she was in her 80’s went into a cottage business with another woman; they created and sold wonderful hand loomed rugs made from upcycled blue jeans, curtains and any other strong fabric they could find. The beautiful sturdy rugs which had a signature flying goose pattern were sold to antique and craft shops in the area. If she were alive, she’d have a shop on Etsy. As I grew up, I learned to love each new antique shop and listen for the story, the excitement of a good auction or steam engine show. Some of that just rubs off on a girl. Like when you play in the dirt; it gets ground in and it won’t wash off; but in a good way.
In between baking bread and making lunch for the men working the fields, she would share about the Victorian sense of humor or how they would pass the time before radio and television. She would show me her Valentines ephemera collection and tell me stories of when she was a little girl. How it was a privilege to have been the first woman in her family to graduate from High School; which was a luxury because you had to be sent to live in town during the winter months as the roads were often not passable. The importance of being involved politically, when she was born women didn’t have the right to vote and she was proud to be active in the League of Women Voters and help “man” the polls on voting day. She spoke in American old English, with words like tisn’t and tain’t and I relished her country sensibility, poems and stories.
Although we honored our heritage in the kitchen, with a display of antique kitchen utensils artfully hung on a wall covered with old tobacco barn siding; we didn’t can. Our dining room was French provincial and the living room had a white sectional sofa and Italian gold gilt Tole painted bombe chest and coffee table with touches of Hollywood Regency throughout. It was designed and intended for grown-ups, entertaining, dinner and cocktail parties. I was taught about Wedgwood, Royal Dalton, Waterford crystal, Emily Post’s rules for etiquette, and Julia Child’s French cooking. The kids TV was in the rec-room, usually in the basement, decorated with an eclectic mix of styles which included a green mid-century modern sofa, some primitive antiques with clean lines and built-in shelves which housed our collections, rocks, artifacts and our library.