Well – it has been one year ago today that my sweet mother, Margie Willene Reynolds (a.k.a. “Mimi”), passed away. In ways it feels like it was just a few months ago. But I am fortunate in that there are so many things around the farm that remind me of her that it helps ease the pains. She is infused – embedded with this place. Here on the farm whether it is seeing her poppies or Cox’s Comb flowers blooming everywhere…..seeing that old park bench in the front flower bed where she would take a “sitting spell” after working up a sweat weeding her flower beds….adding a new colored bottle to her infamous bottle tree (she had this bottle tree LONG before it was cool to have such a thing in your yard)…..watching her old fashioned climbing rose bloom…..when I see bluebirds at their birdhouses or the hummingbirds begging for more food at her feeder…..sitting out on her screened in back porch…..looking towards High Point which was Moma’s beloved view to which seemed to anchor her here……or when I give each tour through her “Mimi’s Guest House”. Opportunities abound to remember ………………………….and to smile.
As most of you know, I did a major make-over of her home earlier this year so that we could offer it for on-site lodging and wedding day usage. I often to refer to it as my “therapy” as I tried so hard to not only do this renovation on a dime’s budget (oh, Moma would be tickled to know that I kept it on a tight budget) but it also gave me a creative outlet. Mothers and daughters are a complicated duo. So much alike – so much different – how do you reckon those two? I did want to put my spin on things – my eclectic approach but I did not want to totally remove her either. For the guests who come to Mimi’s Guest House (named in her honor of course), little do they know that this was once an old lady’s home. Little do they know that there are touches of Mimi everywhere.
Her kitchen strainer becomes a pendant light cover….her revamped bookcases displaying many of her favorite books and china…..her brass chandelier repainted and given new life…..her hope chest from her childhood as a coffee table……her father’s dresser and her teapots set out as decor items……her old quilt on the back of a porch rocking chair…….her bed frame repainted to take on a whole new vibe….the auction flier from 1976 where they purchased the farm framed and posted…..some of her heirloom pictures and many of her own pieces of art hung on the walls….and the infamous “American Gothic” pose of Moma and Daddy with the tattered and torn old farmhouse in the background….and more.
One of the most heartfelt projects on this house though is what I refer to as “My Memory Wall.”
As you enter the foyer you have stairs going up and stairs going down. There was old torn wallpaper on both sides – chest high and down. As I pondered the possibilities of how to redo this, none of the traditional options clicked. I then remembered one of the neat memories of our first year at the farm (back in 1976…..I was 18). The old farmhouse had decrepit steps going from the main floor down to the root celler. To help add a touch of “old-fashioned insulation” to this area – they had glued old newspapers in-between the studs in this stairwell. The cool part was that it was from 1939. We had a blast looking at that (ooooh, I wish I had kept part of it now….). Funny seeing how much a piano went for – what “modern” meant back then in regards to a refrigerator or stove – what unusual classified ads were included. Anyway – being inspired with this memory, I set out to do the same, in essence. My mother was just shy of a pack rat of sorts. She kept tons of pictures, memorabilia, old magazines, old encyclopedias, old letters, boxes and boxes of them…….to which I needed (and did) sort through after her death. What to do with all of this? It all meant something to her but keeping it all was so not practical when there were many others items to ponder their fate as well. Ah, a memory wall.
To the casual “passerby” it looks like a funky “vintage farm” wallpaper. I did try to disguise my purpose a bit. I used old encyclopedias and cut out old farm pictures – cows, old tractors, cowboys, old farmers and such. But – I also infused much more. Look closely and you can see some photos of my mother – when a child with her dog, out on her lawn ready for prom, plowing the fields behind the mule….and more. Vintage newspaper clippings – love letters from my dad to her in their newlywed years – a classified advertisement for our Chattanooga home when it went up for sale before moving to the farm – pages from her infant baby book – pages from her childhood reader.
I added some zingers too….fun things! Like a drawing from my brother, Terry, who drew their new house sitting out in the field with embedded old tires as “landscaping edges”….with a broke car out front and such (bottom left). He had told my parents that they were turning into Green Acres (that 70’s TV show about a couple of New Yorkers moving to the country). So he drew it on the fly – gave it to Moma – got a good laugh out of it – but she kept it stashed away for all of those years…and now….it lives on the wall FOREVER!!! I added the newspaper clipping that she had kept of the “engagement announcement for me and David from 1980. I added one of our horse pedigree papers and even one of David’s grandfather’s pig pedigree papers (who knew pigs had pedigrees?). Most people know of “Where is Waldo?” but here at the farm…..it is a fun exercise of the wit to come sit on the stairs and do a “Where is Mimi?” investigation. The grandkids have fun pointing to a bare-butted kid and saying “Is this Mimi????” to which I say “nope – that is not her butt,” but they keep looking and do find pictures of her. It gives us an opportunity to talk about her – see her as a young vibrant woman – tell stories of the past – and smile.
I am indeed fortunate. A walk through my own home which reveals things of hers that I so cherish as well. Toll painted cutting boards she made back in the 60’s, a cupboard full of her china painted plates and vessels…..and much of her paintings both oil and watercolor – most of them were of her beloved farm.
So you can see….my mother was a talented woman with a multitude of interests. She is gone but not forgotten. Yes – today is a bit melancholy but how blessed I am to have a mother like her….and as time passes on – I realize it more and more. Her influence was broad, her loving attention to others is renown, and her legacy continues. Thanks for this indulgence in the more personal side of things…..giving me the opportunity to tout her helps me quite a bit today – it is almost like writing a letter to her to say “I love you.”