The Chaperone

My book club is meeting this month to discuss The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty. I read the book in one sitting, staying up until 4am when I really needed my sleep! It is the fictional story of a woman who chaperones a 15 year old Louise Brooks to New York in 1922, and how it alters the course of her life. I found the narrative compelling, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good story set within the context of real events. The book also made me interested in learning more about Louise Brooks, a complex and difficult silent film star who became a film writer in later life. I highly recommend giving this one a try!


Still missing you.

Florence on her porch in 1957.

With all of the hubbub of August - my brother's wedding, a quick trip to Chicago with my mom and older daughter, getting the kids ready for school - an anniversary came and went almost unnoticed. My grandmother, Florence Collar, died in 2005 in August, a month after learning that she had lung cancer. This morning I was sitting here in my living room with my tea, relishing the quiet of the house, with no work commitments, and I realized that it's been seven years since she left.

1930's portrait.
Grief is a funny thing. You would think that after losing someone special, each year would get easier. That has not been true for me. I cried buckets when she died, and for days afterwards. But a year later, then two, I would still get these intense pangs of sadness where I would just sob. I am sure that the mourning hasn't just been for missing her, but also saying goodbye to my childhood and all the good memories I could still kind of revel in when I went to visit. Her house, which stayed pretty much the same until I was 35, was a refuge that I always thought of as my second home. The smell of the place, the sounds it made, were so comforting and safe. I miss all of it along with her. So it caught me by surprise that it has been seven years.

Here are a few happy memories so this post isn't all about sadness:

- Making "magic potions" in the tub with remnants of shampoo, lotions, perfume and dish soap. (Smart lady - having me help her clean out her cupboards!)

- Taking afternoon walks down the street to collect acorns and see the "Jesus church" (a church that has a giant, bas-relief carving of Jesus in the front of the building. Can't remember the denomination, it is still called the "Jesus church").

- Getting into her amazing collection of costume jewelry and hats and becoming "Mrs. Gottrocks".

Christmas 1978 with me and my brother.
- Playing house on her front porch.

- Reading magazines in the waiting area while she had her hair appointment every Friday. (The pungent odor of Aqua Net takes me right back!)

- Visits to Bollinger's Toy Store to pick out paint-by-number sets.

- Having lunch with her garden club in the barn at Hedges Boyer Park.

- Asking her to tell me what things were like when she was a little girl.

All of those memories were about simple things, which was one of her gifts. Making something out of nothing, being creative, having patience, including me in her daily activities. Even though my grandparents were always generous and I know bought me lots of things, good memories aren't about things, but about relationships. My grandmother made great memories.

Playing school with my daughter in 2004.

I still miss you, Nanny! I will always cherish what you gave me and will try to be more mindful of making memories with my own family now.