portrait of my grandmother Flo taken by me early 80's - she was/is still the most important person in my life
It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive.
There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.
I was in my twenties when she died at 84, of congestive heart failure. She was ready to die I knew that. A long time dream of hers - to see me attend art college - had been realized I was half way through a nearly 6 year stint that would have me graduate with both a Bachelor of Fine Arts & a Bachelor of Design (I couldn't make up my mind so I went to school most summers & did both). She was so thrilled to see me there & that last Christmas I gave her a multiple link sterling bracelet I had designed & made for her in my first intro to jewellery course at school. She was an artist, she was so modern, ahead of her time (something I continually teased her about and that she loved being teased about - this thoroughly modern grandmother of mine, wearing square toed & tres hip shoes with chunky heels, soap stone necklaces of faces & never, ever was she caught in slacks or pants. And boy, oh boy - she loved me, she loved me, she inspired me ... and oh my, there are so many times when I wish with all my being that I could spend an afternoon again with her in her amazing house, surrounded by all her treasures.
Working on my recent jewellery design project had me thinking about Flo, she studied at Pratt in New York City when she was in her 20's. I remember her telling me about Howard Carter discovering King Tutankhamun's tomb while she was living in NYC (she was 21) and how the world was a buzz with this incredible archaeological find. She was offered a job designing jewellery for Tiffany's at the end of her school term but as family legend goes her father didn't feel it appropriate for her (a single young woman in the 1920's) to continue living New York alone. She was originally from St. Stephen New Brunswick (her maiden name Huestis) & ended up going to Mount Allison (then called The Ladies College) where she taught Applied Arts - a broad art/creative curriculum that included a variety of disciplines - ceramics, wood carving, leather work, china painting & jewellery making where she met her dashing, apparently very sought after bachelor, & handsome husband to be - Robert who was then a colonel in the 8th Hussars. Years later after raising her 4 boys (one of which was my father David) while her husband was away in Europe during both wars - she enjoyed oil painting, mostly landscapes & still life, volunteering, she had huge gardens (vegetable & flower), was an avid birdwatcher and spend hours & hours crafting many art projects with her grandchildren. Lucky us (my sister & cousins).
The necklace she wears in this portrait was a favorite of hers which she wore often. I'm sorry to say that if I did once know it's providence it's long since forgotten. It was carved I think from stone (maybe soap stone) & hung on a well worn leather cord. Last night as I sat up in my bed with my journal I was thinking about her favourite face necklace on the leather cord ... and wishing with all my might that I could speak to her again. I will always love you Flo - that big huge kind of love - she changed the course of my life and I am forever grateful.
at my sister's wedding reception I was a student at NSCAD then & Flo was nearing the end of her life
At that age I was an Elton John freak - she bought me the double album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road & let me play it full blast in her completely wired, stereo house, ya know the kind with speakers in every room. A favourite song from that album - but so hard to pick just one
Harmony and me were pretty good company
Looking for an island in our boat upon the sea
Harmony gee I really love you & I wanna love you forever
Dream of your never, never, never leaving harmony