Fathers and Daughters

19 11 2013

In memory of the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination, the women of Midlife Boulevard have dedicated November’s bloghop to our reflections on President John Kennedy. A bloghop is when a group of bloggers write on the same subject. The links to my friend’s blogs are at the end of this post.

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President Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline, and I are the same age.  So like me, she was a little girl when a bullet cancelled her father’s life. My main memory of this tragic event is of all the important adults in my life crying, which was unsettling to a small child. In watching the news on the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination it stated what we now know. The assignation was a mile marker in our young country’s life. It marked our loss of innocence. I remember my parents glued to the flickering black and white images on our television as the horrific news played out intimately in our living room. While commonplace now, the immediacy of this kind of news coverage was happening for the very first time in history.

Me in the early ‘60’s

Me in the early ‘60’s

Being only six, I did not relate to the before-Kennedy-was–shot-world the adults in my life would talk about for decades. I could, however, identify with Caroline, the President’s only daughter because she was my age. The images of her young life were similar to mine. They showed a smiling, loving, playful and doting father with his family. Photographs showed her playing in her Dad’s office, just like I played in my Dad’s shop as he worked. While it can be questioned if Kennedy was a good president or a good husband, no one questions that he was a good dad.

Caroline and I have shared the same cultural milestones throughout our lives; blowing out candles on a birthday cake, teenage prom pictures, friends together at the beach. Our college years had us both with long flowing hair, wearing jeans and the required graduation photo in cap and gown. Getting married as we became adults, having children and then pictures of our own young families.

As we entered midlife, we have both entered into unconventional relationships. While divorce rumors swirl around her, Caroline and her husband remain married, though it is reported that they live apart.  I entered a new relationship a few years after my divorce; we’ve chosen to live together and not get married.  Caroline and I are both apparently comfortable doing it our own way.

Me and my dad ‘65

Me and my dad ‘65

We have both reinvented our lives in our 50’s by learning to be true to ourselves. As her children have grown up and started their own lives, Caroline is leaving her old life behind and is now the new ambassador to Japan.  As I became an empty nester and newly divorced I moved forward with my life too. Certainly not as big as moving to another country with a powerful job, but I started a new business this past year and push myself to do things outside my comfort zone.  We are at an age where we are taking our life’s experience and energy and fearlessly embracing this next chapter.

I have not had the very public tragedies that have haunted Caroline’s life. Thankfully I had my father in my life well into my adulthood.  While Caroline’s and my life have been very different, our shared cultural milestones have always allowed me to relate to her and through her I see her father…the man who was once my President. My own dad had a personality that could fill a room and was known locally for the business he created—her dad inspired a generation and led a nation. To hear Caroline talk of her father, it’s readily apparent the real love and respect she has for him. And not as the legendary figure he has become, but as a real man…her dad. I believe both our father’s would be proud of the women we have become. The love they gave us has allowed them to live on through us.

I‘m a proud writer at Midlife Boulevard.

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Maw Maw’s Naked Lady Bowls

17 11 2013

I love Thanksgiving and it’s traditions. I bring out dishes and silver that have been handled by so many loving hands in my family. I love the connection to the past and to the future.

My grandparents with their two small children moved from a small town in east Texas to south Louisiana in the 30’s. It must have been such a culture shock to all they knew. They came from white gravy and chicken fried steak and everybody being Baptist to a land of roux and gumbo and diversity and not everyone being Baptist.

My mom tells me she remembers asking her mother who those women were that wore long black dresses and covered their hair in a long black drape. She was told they were holy women. My mom thought that meant that the long black clothes were covering the holes in their body.

The Naked Lady Bowl
 naked lady bowl

My grandfather moved to Baton Rouge to be the advertising manager of the Coca- Cola Bottling Co. (It’s just dawning on me as I write this, the family heritage of being marketers…love that.) His boss was a sophisticated and learned man and was Jewish. He gave my grandfather a beautiful bowl set as a thank you for a job well done. It was a beautiful set with a large bowl with six smaller serving bowls. It’s bone china with gold inlay. It has Goddesses at play painted in the bottom of each piece.

That’s the part where I know it got complicated for my grandmother. You see, some of these goddess are bare breasted. I know my grandmother would have known the value of this gift. I can only imagine her Baptist horror over the nakedness of those ladies. This southern woman could never be anything but gracious over this generous gift. Her solution was to bring it out only at Thanksgiving and to keep the bowls filled with what else…Ambrosia…the food of the Gods.

A Tradition Continues
I will continue with that tradition this Thanksgiving. My 85-year-old mom will come over and supervise me making the fruit salad and be the official taster. My daughter will help as we peel the apples, juice the fresh lemons, add the bananas, oranges, pineapple, coconut and sugar to taste. I love that this recipe goes back to my great grandmother and has been passed down to four generations of daughters. The recipe is not written anywhere; making it together—mother to daughter, mother to daughter is how it is learned. Over countless conversations, laughter, teenage attitude at having to peel apples, it has been passed from one generation to another.

Priceless

This small bowl is chipped and glued together making it even more precious to me.

This small bowl is chipped and glued together making it even more precious to me.

This bowl set may be of some value. I sometimes imagine I could go on the Antiques Roadshow and be one of those people who gasp over how much it’s monetary value is. But I will never sell it. It’s not mine to sell. It’s my future great grandchild’s who I hope will still be making ambrosia that she learned from her mother and is teaching her daughter how to make. And will be putting it in the Naked Lady bowl.

Mother to Daughter
I am Connie Lee, mother of Jade Lee-Mei, daughter of Jimmie Dee, daughter of Jimmie Corrine, daughter of Minnie Mae.





Making the Wine

10 11 2013

A Year in Burgundy is a beautiful and quiet documentary on the art of winemaking in the pastoral heart of France. The winemakers know the importance of each season. Late summer is time for harvesting. As the leaves of the autumn vines turn red and gold and fall to the earth, it is time to prune the vines. You can see the smoky haze on the horizon as the winemakers burn those pruned-off vines in the vineyards and let the ashes fertilize the roots for next year’s harvest. Winter is the time for the vines to rest as their roots dig deeper into the ground.

grapevine

Many of the winemakers in this fertile corner of the world farm vineyards that span generations, as do the actual vines. Some vines that hold the grapes of the world’s best wine live to be 100-years-old. The older the vine, the deeper the roots, the more the vines can weather periods of drought. Watching this film made me realize what real artisans these winemakers are and that nature is their palate.

I talk about the creative process in a workshop I give on creativity and innovation and why it is important to understand your own process. Most, if not all of us have a period of time we call procrastination. It’s when we’ll do anything, but the creative job that has a deadline looming. This procrastination is actually creative hibernation. Just like the grapevine in winter, you may not see the creative harvest yet because your creative roots are digging deep and your creative vine needs to rest. The reason it’s important to know your own process is that you must honor this quiet time and not only celebrate the creative harvest.

As a writer I’ve observed and learned my creative process is different from my design process and different from my presentation process. Each are different varietals of creative vines, similar but uniquely their own.

The last few weeks, I’ve been feeling the need for a creative hibernation. A quiet season to still my mind and rejuvenate. I’m recognizing my need for quiet and reflection. Maybe it’s the time of year, the chill in the air, the leaves are falling, the days are shorter, even my bamboo has slowed it’s relentless attempt to take over my yard.  The busy season of holidays is almost upon us. I’ve decided to not take on any new projects for the rest of the year. I need to slow down and nurture me.

After a quiet night alone with a fire glowing in the background, savoring a glass of wine while watching a documentary on how it was made, I awoke before dawn with ideas that had fermented in my dreams. I had words that were ready to be harvested. The parallels to the seasons of winemaking and the creative process were ready to spill out of my pen.

wineglassHonor the season you are in
Fertilize the soil
Plant the idea
Let it hibernate
Allow it to grow
Nurture the creative vine
Prepare for droughts
Grow and create
Grow and create
Grow and create
Prune your creation
And prune again
Know the time to harvest
Pick the best grapes
Make the wine
Throw it away if it is sour
Start over if necessary
Savor when done
Celebrate
Drink what you have created
Honor the season you are in

Salut