Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Porcelain Flowers and China Figurines
Auntie Muz was a huggy-kissy lady, and that didn’t always go over well in our rather undemonstrative, stiff-upper-lip kind of a household. She was also a very generous Godmother to my sister, Diane, and me. Her real name was Mary Helen, and she’d been a chum of my mother’s since high school, back in the 30’s and 40’s. She doted on us girls, taking her assigned role most seriously, remembering us with little treats on each and every holiday, major, minor, or dreamed-up. Auntie Muz would pop by with little packages all wrapped up in bright paper and ribbons, hearts for Valentine’s Day, shamrocks for Saint Patrick’s Day, Easter, Hallowe’en, Thanksgiving, and of course birthdays and Christmas. She even brought a “consolation” gift to me on my sister’s birthday, and vice versa.
I still have a Twelve Days of Christmas necklace and a silver heart-shaped box, a tiny handmade ceramic bowl and an even tinier enameled box. But my two favorite "Fairy Godmother" treasures sit safely behind glass in my china cupboard, a delicate and dainty china figurine labeled on the bottom “Sunday Best 2251”, a little girl bundled in her best winter clothes, complete with muff and hat, and a pair of bone china nosegays of spring flowers. Gifts from Auntie Muz were always chosen to appeal to my “grown up” side, never toys or games, always “young lady” gifts even when I was a little girl, which is probably why I still possess so many of them all these years later.
Auntie Muz was a collector. Her home was filled to bursting with dolls and teddy bears she bought and sold at doll shows, a veritable dolly-and-teddy museum. I think she wanted one of us to follow her in her collecting footsteps.
The Fairy Godmother was also a kisser, and my family, with Mom as the example, weren’t even huggers, so greetings and farewells at the door were often rather clumsy. Auntie Muz would exclaim her love and then reach out to wrap her arms around each of us in a sweeping embrace and plant a red-lipstick kiss firmly on each cheek. When we were little, Mom said we had to be polite and “take it”, but I watched her stiffen at the indignity of such an emotional display. For years, I followed her lead, stiffening and tolerating. But at some point in my adolescence, after observing most of my friends indulging in the fine art of the hug, I realized that hugging was sweet and could be comfortable, so I spent years teaching myself to be something of a hugger, using Mary Helen as my model.
My mom and sister continue to this day to shy away from demonstrations of affection, but as an adult, I have adopted the ways of Auntie Muz, greeting friends with a warm embrace, and sometimes even a peck on the cheek! Mary Helen, aka The Fairy Godmother, passed away a few years ago, but her legacy lives on at my house and in each one of my hugs!