Wednesday, March 19, 2008

George and Edna

My parents were square dancers, and from the early 40's when they met, until my father's death in the 90's, they stayed quite active, attending dances a couple of nights a week. When I was a kid, they belonged to a club called The Friendly Mixers. (A cartoon poster designed my older brother Steve for the club showing two very animated egg beaters doing a do-se-do, is seared in my admiring little sister's mind's eye. Steven is 9 years older than me, and when I was a girl, to sit and watch him draw was magic.) My parents, George and Edna, were wonderful dancers, very graceful, and they had a reputation for looking good together on the dance floor. George was tall and dark, and Edna, petite and blond. But the thing that really made them stand out was their outfits. My mother sewed all her own skirts, blouses and dresses, and then sewed my father's ties to match each of her ensembles. I loved watching my mother get ready for a square dance: I can still smell her flowery sweet talcum powder and feel the warmth of the bath on her skin, as I'd hug her and then plunk down in the middle of her bed to see which petticoat she'd choose, and which belt, the silver or the gold? and which color dance slippers. She'd tie a matching velvet ribbon around her yellow pony tail and put on just a touch of red lipstick...
Edna is now 86 and has Alzheimer's, and a couple of years ago my siblings and I helped her move to assisted living. We cleaned out our childhood home in Warwick, RI, and sold it. How hard that was. We all took items from the house - I have many of my mother's square dance dresses and all of my Dad's ties - I couldn't bear to see them go to a yard sale. Posted here are pics of a patchwork skirt that my Mom made in the 50's. Evidently this was The Friendly Mixers club "uniform" at the time, and all the women from the club made one of these skirts. Mom said it always felt too heavy to dance in, with all those seamed pieces. A few years ago she had started to take the skirt apart to use the fabric in other projects, and then put it away in a bag on a shelf down cellar. I found it and asked her if I could have it. I love the old fabrics and the colors: these colors are deeply embedded in my artistic sensibility.
People often ask me if my parents were artists. I used to say, "No, but...they danced, my mother sewed and knit, my father sang in a barbershop quartet, my mother decorated cookies, and made original Halloween costumes..."
I think from now on when asked that question, I'll just say, "Yes."

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