December 12, 2014

Roses in December

Hat Tip to Darling Trudye aka Den Stylist Extraordinaire
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Grandmother 'Dodie' and GSL Christmas Day 1964 
God gave us memory so that we may have roses in December. ~J. M. Barrie

When I moved to Chicago back in 1988, my favorite day of the year was when I got to collect my dear Grandmother, 'Dodie', at O'Hare Airport for her annual Christmas visit with Auntie J. Dodie came up from Naples, Florida twice a year to stay with Auntie J for a couple of weeks and  I always pulled rank on my younger cousins so that I would be the first to bask in her delightful company all by myself...just the two of us.  If Dodie was still alive, that special day would have been today... two Fridays before Christmas.

Dodie with her only daughter, my Auntie J circa 1944
Back before 9/11 anybody could walk up and watch planes taxi to the gate. Even though I was in my 20s and 30s, I'd have the same Christmas excitement as when I was a little boy about to tell the jolly old man in red suit and white beard my Christmas gift wishes only a Santa's "Ho Ho Ho..." was now no match for the most delightful sound I've ever heard: Dodie's laugh.  I come from a family of great laughers. My mum has the loveliest laugh to ever grace the earth but is more of a visual spectacle with sound cascading down into a seizure of mirth. Dodie's laugh was also lovely but more delicious, bellowing, and could make buildings shake. As Dodie would deplane, I could always hear a rumble and then her distinctive peal above a chorus of giggles.  As she came up the ramp, she would be flanked by an entourage of well wishers with beaming smiles as Dodie screeched: "there's my darling grandson..." and then insisted we kiss on the lips as her new fan club practically broke into applause. I always thanked the throng who had adopted my Dodie to see that her connection in Atlanta went smoothly and that she arrived safe and sound.
Dodie, DRL, and GSL (front) at my grandparents 'Pete & Dodie' house in Wesport, CT circa 1972
During my early childhood, we lived only 2 doors away and I was there every day

The next best day of the Christmas season was always my dear Auntie J's famous Christmas Brunch, usually the Sunday before Christmas which she's been hosting for nearly 40 years.  She lives in the beautiful village of Barrington and I love taking the train out and feeling as though I'm being transported into a Norman Rockwell painting with the train station and town square all decked out in Yuletide Splendor. For years, Dodie was the star attraction at Auntie J's brunch with the whole town turning out to feel the warm embrace of her cackle and purr with delight at the sound of her two favorite words: 'adorable' and 'darling' that with a Dodie utterance reached their apotheosis.

A week from Sunday, I'll be back at Auntie J's Christmas Brunch and at some point one of her longtime friends will ask  me to regale them one more time about a Dodie/O'Hare collection from long ago...the time I forgot where my car was in the 8 story outdoor O'Hare carpark as I pushed a luggage dolly with Dodie in tow who began her day in 82 degrees and sunny and a few hours later was in minus 10 windchill in twinset and kitten heels. The anecdote is only slightly amusing until they remember when Dodie told it nearly 20 years ago...the house shook.


***Many thanks to Jill from the charming blog Everything Just So whose post today sent me on this joyful trip down memory lane.

51 comments:

  1. Great post GSL...
    it is so wonderful reminising those joyful days of our youth.
    I can just imagine your aunt's retelling of that snowy day in the 8 story garage!

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    1. Thank you dear Hostess and I did give that last para a needed edit to make it clear I was referring to collecting Dodie and not Auntie J...Auntie J is often the one that summons me to recount it and rejoices in the ridicule I receive!

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  2. The memory is as beautiful as the grace with which you tell it. Dodie sounds like a wonderful woman and I can tell that you miss her. She is at the arrival gate in your heart.
    I have a laugh like Hawkeye Pierce. Embarrassing. Don't tell any jokes when we have drinks at the Red Lion

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    1. My dear Bebe,
      Dodie was indeed so wonderful and such delightful company. She had such a charisma that made her a center of attention without relishing or needing it...she had the same manner and tone with a cleaning woman or a crowd full of swells. So beautifully put regarding arrival gate....
      I plan on making your Hawkeye Pierce go past the point of stomach cramps.

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  3. New follower here. Thanks for the lovely essay.

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    1. Welcome Hex!
      Reliving this post as I wrote it has brightened my spirits and thank you for those kind words!

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  4. Very sweet and beautifully written, G.
    A loving tribute to the cherished relationship that you and Dodie shared. Christmastime, especially, brings so many precious and treasured memories to the surface for so many of us.

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    1. Thank you my dear Emily. Your Christmas will be extra special this year with a wedding so soon following.!

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  5. Hat tip acknowledged,G! Thank you!
    Such a lovely, poignant post you have graced us with today! Yes, December seems to bring those memories evr close to the surface. Love that you remember the laughter and and can recall the sound It appears as if your dear Dodie passed the baton to you in the storytelling department! Wishing you the gift of laughter, darling G, throughout the holiday season and beyond!

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    1. Thank you again Darling T as when I saw that pin you sent me I thought you'd been peeking over my shoulder all morning! Dodie was such a treasure, and I'll never forget that late afternoon in the O'Hare Parking Deck in minus 10 windchill when I couldn't remember which floor I parked on....we laughed ourselves to tears which kept the cold at bay and did so again at Auntie J's brunch the following week...

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    2. There is really nothing like laughing yourself sick...best feeling... EVER! What would Dodie think of the app that locates your car for you? She would be telling her darling grandson to sign up ASAP, me thinks;-)

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    3. Trudye, I would easily give up a few fingers and toes to relive that day as that adoring throng of Dodie's fan club I thanked back in the terminal had scolded us for not wearing coats (Dodie's was packed deep in a suitcase and I left mine in the car) and we both dismissively waved off their concern with boasts on our rugged constitution. While looking in vain going from floor to floor on the parking deck as our breath froze...all those people we waved off, drove passed us with looks of horror and a search party was formed with each car going to a different floor and looking to see if there was a charcoal 4 door Honda Accord parked in section 'PP' as we waited in a 'base camp' Jeep Cherokee' while I talked wistfully of Saint Bernards with collar kegs...

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    4. Well, section 'PP' is apropos...as that oft comes to mind when laughing so hard! LOL..what a story!

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  6. Could have done with the outfit in your first photo for our winter wonderland themed Chrissy party last night! Beautiful! Weather also behaved.
    Love a good laugh although I have been told laugh too long & I sound like a hyena! Oh the indignity of it all!!!
    Dodie's loving your tribute, I'm sure. Best wishes for this Christmas. Den x

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    1. Hi Den,
      I find women who laugh like hyenas perfect company and best wishes for your Christmas season too!

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  7. Darling!! Who knew? Here am I channelling your dearly departed Dodie. What's that Dodie? Tell him to step away from the lady blogs and move on from the fog of nostalgia. Merry Xmas GSL!

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    1. Darling Anon,
      I find that lady blogs and fog can be a wonderful ally in providing cover so when it's burned off by the late morning sun, GSL has advanced far beyond enemy lines and is much closer to victory...but if you ever see me using "channeling", send reinforcements at once!
      Merry Christmas to you Anon and we do hope Santa birngs you a nice new name...fog burns off,,,but those that seek to always lurk in shadows are the truly needy..

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  8. these photos are lovely! Love me some Nostalgia x

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    1. Thank you FF! I do love seeing your old family pics too.

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  9. I loved my grans as well and I am particularly lucky with my extended family so I can relate in your warmth and tenderness that comes through.

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    1. Naomi,
      That's what makes the holidays tough when those that used to make them so special are gone so those memories help fill in what's missing.

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  10. What a great post. I love all the pictures and the terrific heartfelt writing! Thank you for mentioning me, I am so honored! I love Christmas memories like these, I try to think of similar ones from my own youth when I am feeling cynical that the holiday has gotten so commercial. I remind myself it does not have to be that way! Your writing always gives me a lift. I'm so glad you joined us in the blogosphere. XO, Jill

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    1. Thank you Jill; The Den thinks of your always interesting EJS as a sister salon and share your enthusiasms for museum exhibitions, the Performing Arts scene, and the Duchess of Cambridge.

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  11. Lovely memories. You have a charming family.

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    1. Thank you Jen; my patrilineal line has the more charming, glamorous, dynamic, and tragic personalities and where I feel a much stronger connection even though I am always immediately recognized as my mother's son in appearance.

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  12. Joyful. That's the word for every word you've uttered about this lovely, vibrant woman of your Raisin' and your clan. The charm simply flies through the miles.

    Every child who's graced with the great blessing of a Dodie or a Mammaw is doubly blessed: We have wonderful memories, and sublime stories to warm the season (though my Mammaw was a SUMMER woman, of gardens and hoes and a chicken-yard ---all of them named---and such a small spot in the world, traveling ever scarce a hundred miles from her birthplace, and a glorious spot in in was the time she daintzed with Lawrence Welk). A wonderful way of laughing, as well, though the sound was not as much the thing as the losing her breath in the mirth, throwing back her head, and shaking with the fun of it, occasionally to the effect of unseating her dentures, which we children found hilariously endearing, and hoped it would happen every time.

    Aren't we deliciously ancestored? Smiling here over yours AND mine, on this cold party day. Ladies to tea at five, in all the bright of teddy-bear sweaters and holly pins on coats, and little Christmas Tree ravioli in a colourful salad. I hope your day is splendid, as well.

    r

    Your birthday wouldn't be in March, would it?

    r

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    1. Rachel,
      Your mawmaw does sound quite the character and you've quite obviously inherited many of her charming aspects. I am in the middle of a very dull National Guard weekend and would much prefer to be joining you ladies for Tea at 5.
      I'm an October baby and all the gals I know that pay attention to astrology peg me as a Libra archetype.

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    2. So glad you could drop in at LAWN TEA on this cloudy day. Just wanted to make sure you saw the little "thank you" I left you on the Mickey-Mouse chair comment---Y'all don't get NEAR enough gratitude for your dedication.

      "And while we're here, kind sir, may I thank you for all the weekends, deployments, times away from home, PT, rigorous-training, heart-in-your-throat out-the-doors-into-thin-air, boot-polishing, long-marching, BDU-wearing, scared-to-death and joy of living that make your service to your country such a source of admiration and pride".


      says rachel, who can STILL iron a set of BDUs as well as the Post Laundry.

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    3. My dear Rachel,
      Your delightful Lawn Tea is required reading here at The Den and we would love to one day host you, Caro, Sweet Pea, et al at The Red Lion for an afternoon of your charming company. I can see you have first hand knowledge of the ways of the Army and thank you for those kind sentiments.

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  13. What a fantastic post, I loved reading it. My grandparents had all gone to heaven by the time I was born so I didn't have the pleasure of knowing them. I do know the weather where you live, though! I grew up in Minnesota. I admire your grandmother for venturing north from Florida that time of year! She obviously was a fun lady! Merry Christmas GSL! I'm a new follower as well.

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    1. We're so glad to have you Vava! Minnesota's winters are even more brutal than Chicago's so you well know the charms of a White Christmas that Bing put to Irving Berlin's music.
      Hearing how you never even met your grands makes me even more thankful for having mine as long as I did.
      Merry Christmas to you too Vava!

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  14. What a wonderful homage to your lovely grandmother Dodie, and how nice to know that the annual brunch your auntie hosts is still taking place. My husband's family do much the same with an annual Christmas gathering. Santa always makes an appearance (usually a neighbor friend), who dishes out the goods to the little ones. My husband has photographs of him as a little boy sitting on santa's lap, so it is so nice the tradition is still on-going and our own daughter gets to do the same (she may be a little too for this actually this year).

    I love that your mother had such a boisterous laugh. Laughter is so important I think, and that is how I hear my parents when I think of them. Always on the up-side of life with a chuckle or a peal.

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  15. Laughter is important dearest CD and reveals much of a person's character. Your husband's family's Christmas party with Santa cameo sounds like a wonderful tradition.. I do know you'll each have a fabulous coat for the occasion.

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  16. She sounds like a lot of fun, and that she brought all those around her in on it! Love it when you meet up with someone like that (generally not people known for being reserved!). Love the family photos too. She sounds a little like my grandmother, who would talk to pretty much everyone - I can remember following her around shopping and she'd chat to pretty much anyone nearby!

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    1. Heidi,
      Ironically Dodie wasn't extrovert and quite private but always approachable and when exchanging pleasantries or small talk her laugh and always kind demeanor encouraged people to chat her up and it was in this light banter that she could enliven rooms where her joie de vivre was all she really shared and made people always feel so intimate with her.
      I do like your grandmother's fashion that I recall regarding torn jeans; she sounds like my kind of lady!

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  17. What a beautiful post. (I love the photos!)

    Here via A Well Styled Life, by the way.

    Happy holidays!

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    1. Welcome DAW !
      I love these pics too! And I'm a big fan of JC over at A Well Styled Life and owe a huge debt for her assistance in launching The Den.

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  18. The light in the 1942 photo is wonderful!

    Merry Christmas to you and yours.

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    1. Thank you and Merry Christmas Curator!!! Now that you mention it that pic does have a professional look to it with that lighting your keen eye immediately picked up on. I have an email into Auntie J requesting more info, I think it was taken in Scarsdale, NY.

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  19. This post evoked many memories for me GSL. In my( British heritage) family "Darling" and "What The
    France?" (my families version of the 'F' word; as they are not terribly fond of the French) have been the most uttered terms of endearment, and astonishment.
    Your grandparents swimming pool, reminds me of the one my dad; dug, and built by hand (no kidding) in 1954.
    I oddly enough just returned from our house in Marco Island; just south of Naples Florida.

    Holiday Cheers,

    Donna

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    1. Thank you Donna,
      Now pardon me if I inquire just a little further as digging and building a pool by hand conjures a literal interpretation in GSL's mind as if this were a solitary endeavor involving a shovel and a few truckloads of elbow grease. The little GSL you see above would take my grandfather's ('Pete') post cocktail embellishments to heart and actually think he was co-holder of the world record in the 100 yard dash with Jesse Owens and my Uncle S's assertions that he actually did box his elder brother's ears (my father) although that one was harder to put a visual on.
      My best friend's parents had their winter hideaway and boat down in Marco Island and I actually prefer the Naples/Marco scene to the West Palm scene on the East Coast.

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  20. You have such glam family photos, like those ones you see in coffee table books, you have a stunning family!

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    1. I only recently commandeered the family trove of pics from Auntie J and mislaid many treasured pics of my own when all my belongings were in storage during my Army years. I love seeing your pics too Jody and am an especially big fan of your feisty looking granny!

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  21. Plus I love a winter wedding. We went to one in Oxford and my friend wore a similar white cape like that

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    1. that would be beautiful and as I revealed in a prev post just love winter white!

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  22. G, so beautiful you brought this reluctant commenter out of hibernation!

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    1. My dear Cynthia, have just been over at your place and you've hardly been hibernating rather with Alice been busy as beavers putting homey glamour into Christmas...if I ever come into a lot of money, I'd make you two an offer you couldn't refuse to work your magic on my digs!

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  23. Yes GSL, my father dug our pool by hand and poured the concrete with the help of a neighbour.
    My dad was an engineer, and he decided he wanted a pool; so he built one.
    He then helped his friend E.L McLean (whose property became the University Of Toronto, Scarborough Campus Dean’s residence) build his pool.

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    1. Your father sounds like a rare breed; I haven't built anything since a treehouse in 1974 with a boyhood chum.

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