Memories, Lace and Larkspurs

After thirty-two years of writing, I took a two year sabbatical. Well, I’m back.

For your interest, I’m broadening the scope of this site; some content from earlier years and some from the present will be added.  Also, some updates about our school mates will appear.

The following short-short is a memoir that won me an award in the 75th WritersDigest Writing Competition.  Enjoy!


Mrs. Mamie Mills was a gnome of an elderly lady and ran her household with Victorian values and firmness.  Year round, she dressed in subdued prints with white collars and cuffs of batiste and lace, guarded over by starched white aprons edged in Battenburg lace with sashes tied into wide bows.

She possessed splendid flower gardens and old trunks laden with intricately wrought needlework, which as a child, both combined to fire my imagination into visions of elven gardens where princesses gowned in extravagantly worked silks gracefully moved about touching one bloom, smelling another.  I constantly contrived to gain entrance to these wonders.

In the afternoon, if luck held, I would have found her in the midst of feeding her chickens, talking to them and they back to her in assorted clucks.  Mottled and fiery reds joined in stropping her ankles like beloved cats, and she, reaching down, stroked their combs and neck feathers, all the while telling them what fine ladies they were.

By the time Mrs. Mills finished, her blue eyes would have softened from their normal agate hardness.  This meant that with discreet prompting, I might gain access to her treasures.

Strolling through her garden of blooms, she taught me about plants, stressing that larkspurs and poppies were for early blooms while verbena and marigolds were strong enough to  withstand the heat of an Alabama summer.  Sometimes, she would share with me a cutting or a whole plant dug fresh from her garden.  Those were precious items to me.

On the most fortunate occasions, she invited me inside to view her needlework. To me, her house was filled with shadows from things past and sounds of things unknown and smelled of bouquets long dead and tossed away.  There were lots of pendulum clocks with ticks that were loud in the silence of this childless house.  I looked upon going into this place with trepidation,  but my fears were overridden by the desire to view the needlework and the enjoyment of her company.
The prize of  Mrs. Mills collection was stored in a huge humpbacked trunk which she called “the trousseau”, where the memories of her daughter were stored.  She had begun this collection within a month of the child’s birth, and had continued sewing on it for twenty years, even though the child had died at the age of four.
Not only her eyes, but her whole being would light up as she opened the trunk letting escape the smell of spring – peach and apple blossoms.  On top of the wrapping lay a desiccated bouquet of larkspurs, said to be the child’s favorite

Mrs. Mills presented the treasures one by one, explaining what they were, when she had  made them, and what kind of  stitches were used.  Then she, placing the item aside, would bring out the next one for me to admire, but never touch, for being so young I might stain one of the precious articles.  There were cut work table clothes, crotchet doilies and afghans, tatted pillowcases and hemstitched linens with inlaid lace, but the most delicate and exquisite of all was her daughter’s christening gown which she would spread out, touch gently and stare at in silence.

When the last item was viewed, she would carefully fold and wrap them placing each item back in its spot within the chest.  Replacing the lid, the smell of spring would leave and so did the light from her eyes.

Mrs. Mills would straighten her apron, smooth her white hair, check to see if the seams in her opaque stockings were straight – none of which needed the attention – and taking my hand would say, “My dear, you best be home before dark. Mustn’t worry your Mother.”

June 10, 2014 · Carolyn · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: country life, memories

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