Saturday, November 7, 2015



This is how it was. The shots of the exterior of our home are actually of the house in which I grew up.   


Wednesday, September 2, 2015


The pictures from France did it.  Before viewing them, really seeing them, for the first time, I’d thought I understood.  I’d thought I understood my parents and their relationship.  Their story.  Their truth.  But, I didn’t.  Not by a long shot.  Not until my brother, Donny, had the family slides made into a CD and I viewed them, wallowed in them, for hours, on my laptop, in bed, did I realize that there was something I’d missed.  The photos stunned me. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

PBS Documentary

This summer, a kindly seeming (his first impression was only reinforced by our actual meeting) television producer named Mark called and invited me to participate in a PBS documentary about my father.  He said they'd interviewed my older brothers and needed a female voice. I couldn't help but wonder if the female voice required whining and wailing - which, believe me, I'm ready to produce on demand - but it turned out they expected me to act like an normal, articulate adult. I declined, aware that such a role would be too much of a stretch, but during our conversation, I related a couple of stories on the topic which  he encouraged me to tell on tape and the desire to share what I believe to be a fascinating story got the best of me.  I said yes.  Then, the next day, I waffled, and said no. Whining, wailing, indecision.  My specialties.  It wasn't fear of speaking on camera.  It was fear that I wouldn't know when to stop speaking.  Fear that a routine interview would turn into the long-needed therapy session and I'd spill my guts and get way off topic rambling on and on about attics, pot pies, my brother taking my door off the hinges so I wouldn't slam it, Cheatham Annex, my sleeping baby sister, Billy, my father's tackle box, tissues under my mother's pillow, Bill McFarland, pets, sneaking out of my bedroom window at night, the Little League field.  There's a volcano lurking beneath my calm exterior.

Mark may've regretted the invitation, but before he could cut and run, I concluded that I'd regret it if I didn't put in my two cents and that I could refrain from making it a dollar.  So, I said yes and, as it turned out, all four M Society members participated.  Michael, Mary and I, in person, and Mom through her diary entries and letter excerpts.


Come and see...

Saturday, August 29, 2015

More than a high school reunion: the Two Shawns and more

The happy scheduling coincidence that put the PBS interview on the same weekend as the First Colonial High School reunion made it possible for me to see family, family friends, and childhood friends all in one evening.  Two such friends, Sean and Shone, whom I've collectively dubbed, in the chaotic portion of my brain in which I store childhood memories, The Two Shawns, will be the resounding impression of the evening.



This is my sister, Mary, far left, and brother, Michael, far right, flanking Sean Mulligan and me.  Sean may have been taken aback by the enthusiasm with which the Dentons greeted him.  He was probably blissfully unaware of the elevated place of esteem that he and his family hold in the minds and hearts of we sentimental slobs.  (My dad used to make charmingly affectionate use of the word "slob."  It was a compliment. As in, "You poor slobs." when he saw us eating from seemingly endless bowls of freshly steamed shrimp at his round kitchen table.) My siblings and I cherish the place family friends held in our lives as we grew up in our unusual circumstances.  When the family friends grew up in the same unusual circumstances - in passel of kids (Sean was one of six brothers) and we had seven kids in our family) growing up with a father across the world in a POW camp - well, we latch on to that pretty tightly.  And, so it was when we saw Sean at the reunion.


I very much want to compare notes with Sean, but am not sure he is ready for the Let's Explore Our Childhood Experience and Talk About Our Feelings session that it would involve.

(Hi, Johnny Robbins, peeking out from behind Sean and me!  He's no doubt looking for his wife, Judie, who was everyone's long lost best friend that night.)



Capt. Mulligan, left, and my dad at a press conference after their Feb. 1973 release
That's my Dad's Mona Lisa photo - his intense gaze pierces me.


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Europe 2015 - First Stop - Paris



Bon voyage

My son, David's, adult life has begun in earnest.  He lives and works in El Paso now and, next year, will be even farther away, in San Francisco.  We felt that we needed to grab this opportunity to take a trip together before his life gets busier and more full.  We went to Europe for two weeks and I'll remember the special time with him forever and forever.  







We looked up from the window of our room to see the sky and look down and see this.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Florence


The night we arrived in Florence, I got out of the taxi and took a picture of Hotel Loggiato Dei Serviti before I realized it was our hotel.  It sat on a shadowy square dominated by man on horseback statue - the scene felt like one from the past. 


Chink-way Tare-Ray


Having read the name of the five fishing villages on the Italian Riviera before hearing it pronounced, I can't say the name properly.  I'm sparing you that fate by giving you the pronunciation first.  I'm not even sure that's correct.  It is spelled Cinque Terre and destined to be mispronounced Sink Tare for the rest of my life.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My first home




David and I stayed in Cap Ferrat, just down the hill from Villefranche and Beaulieu-sur-Mer, where my family had lived when I was born.  An email to my older brothers resulted in a stream of memories that allowed me to see it all through their eyes.  Jimmy, who's visited the area, I think, nearly every year of his adult life, even sent me a handy hand drawn map.  It's got a pirate-like look to it, missing only the big X to mark the treasure.



David and I walked up to Beaulieu via an incomparably lovely path along the Mediterranean Sea, so we could see...


Saturday, August 15, 2015

Trainy in Training




Barbara and I agree on everything.



Before my trip, I went to dinner with one of my very closest friends, Barbara.  She lit up at the mention of Barcelona.  She said, "I love Barcelona!" and so I knew I would, too, because Barbara and I agree about everything.

For me to feel comfortable enough to have dispensed with my cardigan and walked the crowded streets of Barcelona sleeveless says something about the relaxed and accepting atmosphere.  I'm aware that my wearing of a cotton shield says something about me as well.  






Friday, August 14, 2015

A Cautionary Tale


I'm publishing this halfway written post, because I want neither to complete nor trash it...  Jeanne Julie Éléanore de Lespinasse deserves to be heard more loudly than this post will project.  If you're so inclined, the full story and her letters can be read HERE.  

It's been said that Mademoiselle Julie de Lespinasse's letters to the Comte de Guibert illustrate Sainte-Beuve's observation that "Rousseau was like a meteor which fired the heads and hearts of women, and kindled their imagination."  But, Rousseau and the dawning of sentimentalism, are only partial explanation for the amount of passion, some would call it obsession, that pour from her letters. That kind of emotion isn't the result of outside influence.  No trend toward romantic expression and love of nature could unleash such a flood of love and adoration.  Mademoiselle de Lespinasse had "a lot of feelings," as my daughter would say.  

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Golden Years


 

Jessi passed away yesterday.  
We will always remember her sweetness, loyalty, and companionship.   
In honor of Jessi and Micah...


Jeanne Bécu: The Making of a Maitrêsse en Titre



Between the bookends of birth and death, the Comtesse du Barry's story was a rags to riches tale. Her days began humbly, ended tragically, and were recorded vividly in Du Barry, the biography, by Stanley Loomis whose books are descriptive, full of detail, and like this one, about Louis XV's final mistress, available on Amazon.  Maybe you will read it and love it and I'll have a new best friend.

In 1743, a young woman named Anne Bécu gave birth to a daughter in the village of Vaucouleurs in the Provence of Champagne. The identity of baby Jeanne's father is unknown, but is believed to be a monk named Gomard who was known (rather creepily, under the circumstances) as Brother Angel. His name appears and disappears throughout the story of her life including as a witness to her hurriedly prepared wedding contract.

Of Jeanne's unmarried mother, Anne, Loomis writes, "  Life is brief and life is earnest and there is every indication that the baby's mother supplemented the meagre income which she earned as a seamstress, by an occasional sale on the side of certain riches with which nature had conspicuously provided her."  Oh, that Loomis could turn a phrase.

When Jeanne was five years old, she and her mother moved to Paris.  When she was seven, like many girls of the time, she was placed in a convent.  The charges of the Convent of Saint-Aure were raised simply and austerely and taught the skills that would serve young ladies of their station - needlework, reading, writing, and housekeeping.  "The sisters kept a sharp eye turned for such symptoms of incipient worldliness as affected airs or taste for frippery." writes Loomis.  Jeanne lived at the convent until she was sixteen.

After her education was complete, she reemerged into Paris society.  At this point, she didn't travel in an elite society, but rather one of shopkeepers and merchants, bakers and servants......  Her unusual beauty and sweet nature didn't go unnoticed and she was involved in a couple of liaisons that ended poorly; one with the hairdresser of the woman for whom Jeanne's aunt served as maid and another with the sons of a woman to whom Jeanne was a (paid) companion. In both instances, territorial mothers stepped in and made a fuss about the sons' too enthusiastic involvement with the teenaged lovely that the mothers apparently saw as a threat, or found wanting in some way, ending the relationships with "muffled explosions," as Loomis put it.

Loomis offered this observation on the drawbacks of physical beauty:

"Because it promises so much and generally returns so little, personal beauty is the most tragic of the gods' gifts.  Unless it has been decently transmuted into a portrait or piece of statuary, the world affects to despise it, whereas far from actually despising it, one half of the world is likely to be inflamed by lust at the sight of it and the other half by envy.  Unlike virtue - and the virtuous have seen to this - it is rarely its own reward....  For how many farm girls has the Hollywood contract never come?  For how many Jeanne Bécus no Louis XV?"

I like that line, "Unlike virtue - and the virtuous have seen to this..."  Loomis had a dry sense of humor.  "Most tragic" of the gods' gifts?  Well, I don't know about that, but the point of view has a ring of truth.

Jeanne's exceptional beauty profited her little during these years as she moved from job to menial job. She worked for a time in a millinery shop, Maison Labille, living above the store with the other salesgirls.  She had her girlfriends, her boyfriends, and her adventures, but little worth mentioning until she crossed paths with Comte Jean-Baptiste du Barry.  Technically, his elder brother carried the title, but was far away in their provincial hometown.  Jean-Baptiste du Barry had left Gascony for Paris and it probably seemed a waste not to use the title to his advantage while building his reputation and fortune among the high born and wannabes of the capital city.

Again, without shameless plagiarism, I can't say it as well as Loomis did.  So, here, I'll toss a couple of quotation marks around his description of Comte Jean du Barry to enhance my post with the words of Stanley Loomis.

"... an extraordinary man and so perfectly the Eighteenth Century rake and adventurer that he seems almost a caricature of his type.   Brazenly unscrupulous, a cardsharp, a wencher, a fop, this dapper, witty man about town seems to have redeemed some of his many faults by his insouciant tolerance of the same faults in others.  He was a liar;  never a hypocrite,  In the glittering world which he frequented, where the raciest element of the Court met the most dissipated of Paris he was affectionately known as the Roué and such hardened old libertines and the Ducs de Nivernais and Richelieu, the most notorious men of the century, were awestruck by the excesses of the Comte du Barry."


Madame du Barry: At the Side of the King



Madame du Barry was practically a pariah when she first arrived the at Court of Louis XV.  There was difficulty in even finding someone willing to present her.  Louis XV forged forward in getting his way, though.  He was King after all.  By this time, he was an aging debauche, but with enough religious core to realize the error of his ways (The du Barry was by no means his first foray into self-indulgence.) but there were plenty of sycophants at his feet encouraging him to indulge.  His last maitresse-en-titre was probably the most well-suited to ease him through his final years.  She had no political aspirations, wasn't an intriguer, and felt genuine affection toward the King.

Her arrival set the wasps abuzzing at the Château de Versailles.  The various entities were scheming to fashion this latest turn of events to their advantages. For instance, the Austrian Ambassador, Comte Mercy-Argenteau, in a letter to Marie Antoinette's mother, reported of the Louis XV's new mistress was "lodged in the court called des fontaines near the apartment which Madame de Pompadour used to occupy;  she has a number of liveried servants and on Sunday one sees her at the King's Mass in one of the chapels which is reserved for her.  I have ascertained that this woman expects to be presented at Court and that a cabal of some persons of very high rank favors this project....  The serious turn this affair has taken finally prompted me to speak of it to the Spanish Ambassador Señor Fuentes....

Mercy then goes on to describe the scheme that the two Ambassadors hatch in hopes that the King will be pressured to "enter into a fresh marriage" in order to "liberate himself from all these disorders which are a source of intrigue disturbing to the Ministers and injurious to the proper conduct of affairs."  The "fresh marriage" he has in mind?  He'd like the King to marry Marie Antoinette's sister, Marie Elizabeth.  He says he is "trying to turn this affair to good use" and "As soon as it could be done without exciting suspicion, I insinuated my views into every quarter."  So good at his job.


Comtesse du Barry: Life Goes On

Because I failed to look before I leapt, I accidentally deleted a post that took an embarrassing amount of time to write.  It had to do with Madame du Barry's life at Versailles and its culmination at Louis XV's death, her exile to a convent and transition to private life.  Writing the post a second time would be a frivolous waste of time and I'm at an age where I don't have time to waste.  

Now there's a hole in the Madame du Barry story.  Waaah.  



The high points are that she left Versailles, stayed in a convent for a year, lived someplace else temporarily, her fortune was returned to her and she was allowed to return to Louveciennes where she led a relatively quite life, entertained friends old and new.  Stanley Loomis describes the period in detail - all very interesting.

Having said that, it's clear that the bulk of the lost post was unnecessary.  You get the point.  She transitioned.  

Oh, one point that would be of interest to anyone familiar with the du Barry...  According to Loomis, who referenced reliable documentation that I'm not in the mood to look up right now, it was Louis XV, not XVI, that delegated the Comtesse to the convent.  Maybe he thought it might appease God, maybe he thought he was saving her from a worse fate at XVI's hand.  I don't know.  But the fact remains.  (Loomis claims that) Louis XV was responsible for sending her to the convent.  It wasn't a terrible experience, though, and she and the nuns shared a mutual respect and affection.



Château de Louveciennes
gifted to Madame du Barry by Louis XV
previously owned by the Princesse de Lamballe's husband who'd died there of the syphilis he'd contracted while hanging out with the Duc d'Orleans and his crowd

Comtesse du Barry: The Comtesse and the Commander of the National Guard





Madame du Barry's last portrait
Forty-nine years old
painted in England by Richard Cosway


It could have been of this, my favorite du Barry likeness,  that Stanley Loomis was thinking when he expressed the opinion that the Madame du Barry of mature years was fascinating and, in many ways even more beautiful than the version that lived at Versailles.  He said that one cannot help but feel that Louis XV was a bit cheated.  

As her final love, the duc de Brissac was able to benefit from the woman that Jeanne Bécu became. They'd become acquainted during her time at Versailles when he, as the Duc de Cossé, was a member of her (and Louis XV's) inner circle.  They remained friends as she transitioned from King's Favorite to her quiet life at Louveciennes.  Their romantic relationship probably began in 1782. Brissac was tall, blond and blue-eyed - a gentleman, a gentle man, a member of the Ancien Regime with idealistic views of a new order, and the Governor of Paris.  He loved art, opera, theatre and books.  Though the duc was married, in a typical 18th century way, he and Madame du Barry were a couple.  He appropriated a portion of his Hôtel de Brissac in Paris to the Comtesse, she became friendly with his daughter, and theirs was a peaceful, happy existence.

As the economic noose tightened and as more and more people embraced the new philosophies of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, tensions rose in Paris.  On July 14, 1789, the Bastille was overrun and
all seven of its prisoners released (yes, seven) and the Revolution was off and running.

Right after the fall of the Bastille, Brissac returned to his estates in Angers to take the pulse of the peasants and villagers in his domain.  He was immediately arrested as "being under suspicion," but the matter was resolved quickly and he was released.  He wrote to the Comtesse, telling her that but for a few malcontents with whom he simply needed to be patient while the higher ideals of Liberty manifested themselves, the situation was tranquil.  He optimistically ended his letter, "Yesterday my birthday was celebrated here with much noise and martial display.  I felt that my fellow citizens [the villagers] put their heart into this demonstration.  The feudal system has been destroyed, but this should not deprive us of respect and love..."  Well, we'll see...


Comtesse du Barry: In London for the Last Time


Madame du Barry
Jean Jacques Carrieri, 1773


The Comtesse du Barry to the Duc de Brissac's daughter, the Duchesse de Mortemart, shortly after his murder:

No one has felt more than I the great loss which you have just suffered.  I hope you will understand the reason for my delay in mingling my own tears with yours.  The fear of adding to your grief prevents me from speaking of it.  Mine is complete.  A life which ought to have been so splendid and glorious!  My God, what an end!  The last wish of your father was that I should love you as a sister. This wish is very close to my own heart.  Never doubt the love which will attach me to you for the rest of my life.

And, the Duchesse's reply, dated September 30, 1792, three weeks after her father's murder:

"Your letter reached me this morning.  You have lessened my anguish and brought tears to my eyes. I have been meaning to write you and speak of my grief;  my heart is torn and broken.  I have been suffering ever since that day when my father was taken from Paris.  I still suffer more than I am able to say, but I felt it wiser to wait until I could have a grip on some of my feelings.  I must open my heart to you.  Only you can understand my grief.  I am eager to fulfill the last wish of him whom I shall mourn forever.  I will indeed love you as a sister.  The smallest of my father's wishes is a sacred command to me.  Excuse this scrawl.  My head is aching so that I can scarcely see..."

Two weeks after this exchange of letters the two women both traveled to England.  The du Barry, ostensibly,  returned to England to continue in her quest to recover her jewels.  Her movements and associations were tracked and reported back to the Committee of Public Safety.  Circumstantial evidence (I watch too much true crime tv) makes a case for the eventual crimes for which she was later tried - of being a courier, spy, and of anti-Revolutionary activities.  She gifted and loaned large amounts of money to men of the Church and to displaced Royalists.  Though her lawyers denied it, the Comtesse du Barry was accused of helping fund anti-Revolutionary uprisings.

In England, she was welcomed into the most distinguished society, French and English.  The Marquis de Bouillé wrote of her in his memoirs.:

"During the time in London when I used to dine with the mistress of the Prince of Wales, I used to see much of a lady who herself had one been honored with royal favors.  She had come to London to follow a lawsuit of the theft of her diamonds which had been occupying her for several years, and to flee the bloody scene where her lover the Duc de Brissac has some months earlier been murdered almost in front of her eyes, a scene to which she had the temerity and misfortune to return shortly after and where she herself suffered  a fate no less cruel than his...  Madame du Barry was then about forty-seven years old [she was actually fifty].  Although the freshness and first bloom of her charms had long since vanished, enough remained for one easily to imagine how lovely they must once have been.  She had blue eyes with an expression of the greatest sweetness, her hair was chestnut colored, Her elegant and noble figure, despite a tendency to embonpoint, had about it much suppleness and grace.  Her clothing, especially that which she wore in the morning, could not conceal her still-voluptuous form.  There was nothing at all common about her still less was there anything vulgar. We were all of deeply concerned of the situation of the King and Queen, and I was much surprised and touched to find that this lady whom they had treated so harshly upon their succession to the throne could now think of little but their sufferings.  The tears she shed for them were as sincere as they were constant."

Let me stop for a second and defend Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who, according to Stanley Loomis, treated Louis XV's mistress better than might've been expected given the circumstances.  It may not have been widely known, at the time, but Loomis says that the lettres de cachet that sent her to the Pont-aux-Dames convent were ordered by Louis XV the day before he succumbed to smallpox, not XVI when he began his reign.

Next:  To the scaffold

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Comtesse du Barry: Another victim



The Comtesse set sail for France, for reasons that remain a mystery, on March 1, 1793.  Surely, she, of all people, knew the potential for danger.  She arrived home to find her château under seal and herself considered an outlaw.  She appealed to authorities and the seals were removed, but a man named George Grieve had it in for her and laid in wait for the opportunity to strike again.

Back at Louveciennes, the Comtesse du Barry entertained friends, former aristocrats, in the grand manner of the Ancien Regime, where they addressed each other by their forbidden titles and spoke openly about the situation in France.  Careless behavior in such a political climate.  Behavior, maybe, of a woman so naive and lacking in unkindness as to imagine that members of her household would turn against her.

Spies among her servants betrayed her and Grieve appeared before the Convention to denounce her, "Despite her notoriously unpatriotic associations, she has managed by her wealth and her caresses to evade the spirit of the Declaration of the Rights of Man.... By her luxury she has insulted the sufferings of the unhappy people whose husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons are shedding blood for the cause of Equality..." followed by a laundry list of her offenses.  Still, for the time being, authorities rebuffed his efforts to have her arrested.

You'll have to read Stanley Loomis' detailed account of the time period, if you're interested.  He tells of the Princesse who was executed because she'd written a letter of support to the Comtesse after her arrest;  the Comtesse's last love (as she'd written a friend after the Duc de Brissac's murder, "One does not die of grief."); the male friend who was denounced for coming to her aid, then committed suicide;  the various villagers and servants to whom she'd been kind and generous who sold her out when the time came;  the list of treasures that Zamore had helped bury on the grounds of her château, then reported to Grieve.  With the cooperation of villagers and servants, Grieve eventually succeeded in amassing accusations sufficient for her arrest.

Grieve was there, Johnny on the spot, when she was taken into custody at her home.  Authorities burst in, smashing doors and wreaking havoc.  From prison, she wrote a letter to authorities accusing Grieve of assaulting her that day...  "My pen refuses to describe the horrors and outrages which he perpetrated..."  She didn't specify exactly when, but the speculation is that he did it during a scuffle in her bedchamber where she rushed to try to burn correspondence and documents that would incriminate herself and others, or when they were alone in a carriage en route to the Sainte-Pélagie prison in Paris.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

They Compete. I Win.





My children are competing to be the child who gets me the best present.  Micah had favorite sections of my blog made into a book for Christmas.  Amazing and perfect.




A package from David today:  a guillotine tee shirt.  This isn't solid pink.  It's tiny red words making it look solid.  Text from A Tale of Two Cities.  Love, love, love it.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Follow Me



Stars seem to cascade from the rose arbor at Marie Antoinette's Hameau.

Photo credit:  Micah Bug


My close, personal (purchased) friendship with Versailles...  and this book...






might make you love Paris as much as I do.



There are certain things that I have to do every time I go to Paris.  


Non-negotiables:

Conciergerie
Musée Carnavalet
Cordeliers Convent
Les Puces flea market
Notre Dame Cathedral
Le Hameau and Petit Trianon
St. Germain des Prés neighborhood
Versailles Visite Privilège
Cour du Commerce area
route of the tumbrels
day trip somewhere
Le Coupe Chou
Le Louvre


There are some I've seen, but not satisfactorily.: catacombs, Sainte Chapelle, Saint Denis Cathedral, La Chapelle Expiatoire, Sacre Coeur, the medieval wall remains, Palais Royale...  Paris is full of nooks and crannies to explore.  I want to go to Musée Grevin and see the actual bathtub in which Marat took a knife to the heart thanks to Mademoiselle Charlotte Corday.  I'd like to hunt down the locations of scarcely known, obscure historical spots.  Haussman's work altered the city so much that the Paris of the 18th century is no more. Damn the too late invention of the camera.   A bit of research, though, and glimpses can be seen.


It's my mother's birthday


This was taken the weekend of my father's birthday at our favorite restaurant, Baudien's, at Fowl River.  Seafood.  In his book, Defiant, Alvin Townley referred to my siblings and me as my mother's "small, loyal army" or something similar.  Apt description.  We revere her.  And, we all miss her very much.

Trying

These are the rough drafts of a few of the letters that I wrote to my father while he was a POW and a picture of me writing one, acutely aware of the responsibility to say something, anything, to make him feel better.  Some of the letters have notes in my mother's handwriting stating which pictures she mailed with them.  I couldn't find the picture of me in the gypsy costume.  Darn it. Gypsy is a good look for me.



Dear Daddy,

I don't know if you know, but before school started I got a kitten which is now a cat.  About two weeks ago, she had 5 kittens!  I still like to fish a lot.  Not to be bragging, but I am one of the smartest kid (sic / Editor's note:  ironic, huh?) in my class.  School will be out in 3 more days.  I will be sad when it is over my teacher is going away.  Susie the goose had 7 babies.  Mommy said I should have a farm because I love animals so much.  Almost all the ducks had babies this spring.  I am going to join Girls Scouts next year.  I only have 2 boyfriends which I don't know if they are my boyfriends.  I really have a lot of tomboyish in me.  Mother says I would be a good boy.




With neighbor, Sarah Jean Taylor, holding baby duck that we'd swept up in a net.  We were too loosely supervised.  I'd never have let my children violate those poor little ducklings' rights.

"I only have two boyfriends which I don't know if they're boyfriends."  Sounds like I overthought everything even when I was ten.  A girl's life is full of confusion.  Good thing I had tomboyishness to fall back on.

*******************************************************

Three Years in the Making

I'm proud of Micah for knowing what she wanted and making it happen.  Three years ago, she bought Liberty's foal.  A purely sentimental decision to buy the foal out of the mare she used to ride, love, and own.  It was a decision that went against all logic.  Micah bought Lanie knowing she'd be in NYC accumulating a quarter million dollars in student loan debt while paying monthly board and expenses for a filly in Texas.  Micah didn't look left nor right despite the fact that she's normally as indecisive as I.   There wasn't any agonizing though she's as careful with money as I am careless.  She knew it had to be.  She knew because, as she says in the video, she "just has so many feelings."

Lanie turned three this week and, on Tuesday, Micah began the process of training her under saddle. We didn't know what to expect, having heard stories that ran the gamut from the horse sitting down, breaking out in a sweat and trembling, bucking, running away. Every time I watched her or handled her, I'd hear Mick Jagger singing "I'll never be your beast of burden" in my head.  (Especially after she kicked me when I was working with her, but let's let bygones be bygones.) We've all seen the Westerns of the horse being "broken" in the round pen by the cowboy that usually ends up in the dirt. 
When the time came, she was totally unphased to have Micah climb on her back.  



video











Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Southern Girl's Smile and Hair Color May be Fake, but her Silver and Pearls Must be Real




~ one penny on eBay - plus $3.99 shipping ~
small price to pay for a valuable research tool








Back when I got married, for southern girls (and maybe northern girls, too, but I don't recall knowing any) registering for silver and china was a vital step in the wedding prep. In my case, picking out china and silver is nearly all I recall about the months before the wedding.  Strasbourg was my mother's pattern and, in my opinion, incomparably lovely.  My groom agreed, so that's what we chose.




There's a tongue in cheek section of the Southern Belle Primer that describes young ladies according to their silver pattern.  According to the author, a Miss, or perhaps Mrs., Schwartz (but, certainly not Ms.), this is Me, based on my choice of a silver pattern.:  "Strasbourg girls are traditionalists and just a bit formal. As good Southern girls, they are entranced with anything that’s festive and use their good silver almost all the time. Southern men love girls who pick Strasbourg because when Strasbourg girls bring out the good silver, they also bring out the good food. They don’t mix well with boys whose mothers have Buttercup. They will both always fight for control."

And, to think, up to now, I've relied upon my personality type to tell me who I am.  How have I managed?  I beg to differ on Miss Schwartz' analysis.  Not festive.  Not a cook.  I don't fight for control.  (Like to have the last word?  Maybe.)  Ever since I read the description in my mother's copy of the book, twenty years ago, I've identified more with the Chantilly profile which says, "Don't let all that sweetness fool you.  Chantilly girls were often fast in high school."  Haha.

I'm not a "Southern women" in the context in which it's presented in the book, (don't get me started on sororities) but "my people" come from Mobile, a city that prides itself on its Southernness.  Not only are my pearls real, but they belonged to my grandmother and, better still, their lustre is enhanced by a poem from the lovelorn beau who gave them to her, as related in this previous post.  

The Progress of Love by Fragonard

I'm rereading a book about Madame du Barry and, as usual, feel compelled to get it all straight in my head by writing it out in a blog post.  The problem is that everything is so complicated and interwoven that writing about it is a mammoth task to which I'm not equal.  Scholars could write entire books about the most obscure details.  Madame du Barry's story is fascinating and even tidbits are worth exploring.  For instance, it was mentioned in Du Barry by Stanley Loomis that she commissioned Fragonard to paint a series of panels intended for display at her Pavillon de Louveciennes.  I was curious about the paintings and checked around on the internet.  Here's what I came up with and thought worth mentioning...


The descriptions beneath each of these paintings are from this website:
http://www.usask.ca/art/a31701/site/britski/progress.html 


The Pursuit

In The Pursuit, a young man offers a lady a rose, which is a symbol of love and courtship. A fountain is present in the background and is a sign for the female sex ; the flowing water symbolizes seminal fluid, and together they suggest sexual consummation that is predicted for the couple's future. A statue of two cherubs chasing an animal is also in the background. The cherubs symbolize the man and the trapped animal is the young woman he hopes to attract.





The Meeting

The Meeting is a scene of a planned tryst set in a garden terrace. The piece of paper in the woman's hand indicates that it is probably a letter sent to her to arrange the meeting. The white and red colors of the couple's garments imply purity and passion. The man scales the wall like a knight who has stormed a castle, only to find the woman waiting hesitantly. The expression on her face and in her movements indicates that their tryst is about to be interrupted by an intruder. The statue of Venus in the background reinforces this hesitancy, as she disarms Cupid.





The Crowning

The Lover Crowned depicts a scene in which an artist immortalizes the action of a woman placing a floral wreath upon her lover's head. The gesture of crowning one's lover implies sexual consummation and commitment. The statue of the sleeping Cupid suggests that his job is done because the couple has consummated their relationship and are so confident in their love that an artist has been asked to capture it for all to see.




The Love Letters

Lastly, in The Love Letters, a couple reminisces about their courtship by rereading their love letters. Letters allowed people to profess their love and preserve an affair as they wished to remember it. The statue of Amitie (goddess of Friendship), along with the dog at the couple's feet, signifies friendship, love, and fidelity as the conclusion of the story.