Mary Poppins, my two wonderful grandmas, and a woman named Opal shaped my tastes forever when I was about 6 years old. When I think about those women, it astounds me the clarity of my memories. I can recall the exact moments when I decided that I loved old Victorian Jewelry, wanted to become an artist, and dreamed of living in one of those homes dripping with gingerbread trim.
In 1964, my mom took me and my younger brother to see Mary Poppins at the theater in Denison, Iowa, home of Donna Reed. When I saw Burt painting the sidewalk chalk paintings, and those children jumping through, I knew that I was destined to become an artist. I was all about wanting that kind of magic in my life. I even remember the first time I watched Disney on TV in color. I was hooked. We loved the movie so much we begged her to see it again, and she relented. My mother never relented, so that tells me she must have liked it a little too.
The necklace came from a woman named Opal who stayed at our fishing resort when we lived in Minnesota,. She and her husband rented one of the trailer spots all summer. I must have been about 7 or 8 when she gave me the filigree necklace with the blue stones and I thought it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I remember standing outside her trailer (mom had us trained, we did not go uninvited into people’s trailers or cabins). She was going through a box of jewelry and just gave it to me. That I have kept it and have worn it for over 40 years, Opal would probably be amazed. She did not know in that moment she helped define my taste in antique jewelry. It makes me ponder how many times we influence a young child for the rest of their lives in some small act like that.
The fancy work embroidery came from one grandma, and the beautiful glass oil lamp came from the other. We spent a lot of time with our grandparents, especially under the age of ten. One grandma lived in a neighborhood with old two and three story houses which fired my imagination. In grandma’s house, I learned the joy of running up and down beautiful wooden stairs. The other one was a quilter, seamstress, wallpaperer, (all which she did for hire) and had great “stuff” which she saved for some yet unknown project. I remember going into her storeroom with the reverence of entering an Egyptian tomb. It was filled to the ceiling with fabric scrapes, boxes of buttons and many things a 7 year old could just guess at. I am not unlike her.
I did become an artist, I still love Victorian anything, I didn’t get to live in a painted lady gingerbread home, but I have the beautiful staircase and many things around me to remind me of these four women who shaped my taste for lovely things.
Here’s a challenge: Pick out 4 or 5 objects from your house that represent your authentic style and write about where your style came from.