Coincidences

7 05 2015

I once read that a coincidence was the Divine tapping you on the shoulder to softly say, “I’m here with you.” Since my mother’s death last month my life has been filled with these mini-miracles. My guilty pleasure is the reality show, Long Island Medium, so I know that I’m not the only one who believes this.

My family in in the late 80's.

My family in the 80’s.

  • My Dad died nearly 20 years ago. My Mom had his ashes placed in a crypt in a tranquil cemetery not far from his old business. Mom liked that he was placed high enough to get a glimpse of his old purple building. Mom was clear that she wanted her body donated to the LSU Med School, but we never discussed what to do when her ashes would eventually be sent to me. So I called the cemetery to inquire about the details of having her interred. I got a call the following day that there was amazingly, a place right next to my Dad’s. I felt a quiet peace settle over me, my Mom was taken care of, and now both my parents were still taking care of their only child.
My Mom, Jimmie Dee, on the cover of a trade magazine feautring the family business.

My Mom, Jimmie Dee, on the cover of a trade magazine featuring the family business.

  • I’m part of a historical Baton Rouge Facebook group. My family had a popular business, McLeod’s, during my growing up years. My dad did his own commercials and is still remembered by many. It’s not uncommon for my Dad or the business to get a mention. A week after my Mom passed away, a photo of her, not my dad, popped up in my FB feed. It was in her sassy red wig phase on the cover of an obscure 1969 trade magazine. Whoever posted it did not know that my mom had just died. People I did not know filled my day commenting sweet remembrances of her and the family business.
Walking to school with my “groovy” booksack.

First day of 4th grade. Walking to school with my “groovy” book sack.

  • At Mom’s memorial service, our minister read from the blog stories I’d written about her. He repeated my favorite Mother Teresa quote, “Do little things with great love” and then opened up the podium for anyone who had a story to share. An older woman made her way to the front of the sanctuary. My sweetie learned over and whispered, “who that?” and I replied, “ I have no idea.” The first words out of her mouth were, “I was Connie’s fourth grade teacher.” She said my mom had showed her such kindness the year I was her student. She was a young teacher and it was her first year at the school. All the parents wanted their child in the older, favorite teacher’s class, and she drew my name. My mom befriended her and invited her and her husband into our home. I have no memory of their unique friendship. But the small kindnesses’ my mom showed her—nearly five decades ago—stayed with that teacher for her entire life. Another small kindness done with great love.
i used my mom in several ads and commercials over the years.

I used my mom in several ads and commercials over the years.

  • I recently got an unexpected freelance job. My life has been hectic this year taking care of mom and this was the only paying work, outside of my day job, that I’ve taken on. It came from a Facebook comment from a Florida friend who had a South Carolina friend who was in need of a graphic designer. This friend of a friend needed a quick turnaround and I had the time because weather had suddenly cancelled my weekend plans. Before I called the prospective client, I looked up the small South Carolina town because it was one I had never heard of. According to Wikipedia, the largest employer in the town was named…McLeodmy name. When I told my perspective client, she was also surprised by the name connection. She remarked that the chair of her Board worked for McLeod. When I told her I could get her job done that weekend because I wasn’t going to French Quarter Fest, she really understood…because she’s originally from New Orleans. I knew this was work I was destined to get and I did.
Celebrating a birthday together

Celebrating a birthday together

But the most significant cosmic happening has to do with timing. My adult daughter and I are both only children. There has been a strong maternal bond between the three generations. We recognized at Christmas Mom’s mental health had hit a sudden, rapid decline. We cherished that holiday with the unspoken understanding that it may be our last together. Two months later my daughter moved back home. That was the same day Mom went into hospice care. Between us, we visited her most every day until the end of her life. And she responded to us and knew us up until the end.

Now in hindsight I realize that my baby girl will only be home for a few short months. She plans to move to Chicago next month to follow her dreams. We were meant to be close together during this transitional time in all our lives.

As hard as the last several months have been, I have felt supported and lifted up by love. My Mom will always remain a drama queen and I treasure the gifts she is sending me. I feel the connection from the generations that have come before me and I feel the Divine love that will flow into the generations that come after me.

Mothers and daughters, our maternal lineage

It’s no coincidence that I’m posting this for Mother’s Day. I honor my maternal lineage: I am Connie Lee, daughter of Jimmie Dee, daughter of Jimmie Corrinne, daughter of Minnie Mae; mother of Jade Lee-Mei.

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Large and Purple

1 06 2013

letter

When I was very young my Dad worked the night shift, midnight to eight, and started his TV fix-it business in the garage he built during the day. I’d bring my Barbies and play on the floor as he worked. When asked what my dad’s hobby was, I would say, “sleep”.

Connie&Dad B&W65

My Dad, Lloyd McLeod, would became a local character because of that business he started. I spent a lot of time at the shop. My mom would pick me up from school and we’d “go to work.” He became a bit of a local celebrity from the commercials he created and starred in. They were those classic “bad” commercials that every town has. A big guy, he did one that said, “I stand behind everything I sell…because if I stood in front of it, you couldn’t see it.” But people identified with this large man who talked to them from their tv’s in their living rooms. Strangers really did come up to us when we were out for dinner and ask for his autograph.

My Dad, Lloyd McLeod, shooting a tv commercial

My Dad, Lloyd McLeod, shooting a tv commercial

Purple Truck

The building that housed his business was known as “the large purple building.” The color came into being because when he had only one delivery truck, he let an ex-con paint it. He was very affordable and needed a job. It came back painted a wild purple color. But people soon started asking Dad if he had a fleet. A marketing accident that turned into a successful brand was born.

We were a tight family unit. My Dad was a ham and we thought the attention funny.  I may have spent a lot of time “at work”, but my dad was at every school event, birthday party and if I had to get a shot at the doctor, he was there to hold my hand. He loved for our home to be filled with my friends. I remember him playing dead at slumber parties as little girls squealed and jumped on him and tried to wake him up. And then the screams when we woke him up. We’d all laugh and giggle until we were out of breath.

My Dad was large, literally and symbolically. He loved to eat and drink and smoke his cigarettes. He had a big laugh and when he snored, it rattled the windowpanes. He loved people and nothing made him happier than when someone dropped by our house unexpectedly. I never had that teenage need to sneak out. My house was the place my friends came to at all hours. Because of his long years on the night shift, he was a catnapper. Odds were if you came by at midnight, he’d be up. The only rule was not to wake my mom. If she showed up in the doorway in her robe, it meant party over.

I can now see that he was groundbreaking as a brand in his time. As a teenager, however, when your parents are supposed to be invisible, having a Dad on TV was mortifying. When I was in high school, I would have him drop me off at the corner rather than be driven to the front door in one of his purple delivery vans.

My Dad left me a great legacy. I went into advertising because of those early lessons in branding. But more importantly is that I know what unconditional love is because of both my parents. Like Dad I believe in living life large. Dad and I both loved the movie Mame and her quote, “Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are staving to death!” For me a perfect evening is a dinner party at my house; food, friends, freely flowing wine, the telling of our stories and lots of laughter.

I realize that I’ve unconsciously filled my house with purple. I was painting an accent wall in my home a very deep purple. I went to the paint store that was now housed in Dad’s old purple building. They kept trying to get the color right, but it took two hours of mixing and remixing to get the exact color I wanted. I felt his spirit was there beside me as I was getting purple paint in his old shop and he just wanted me to stay there in his old purple building for as long as possible.

Some people see butterflies when they feel a loved ones presence. I see purple. I am my Father’s daughter.

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Purple

22 09 2012

My Dad starring in and producing his own  tv commercial.

My Dad, Lloyd McLeod, was a local character and would have been 81 today. He owned a TV and appliance business and did his own commercials. They were those classic “bad” commercials that were very local. The picture is from 1968. This commercial is from 1980.

He was, however, groundbreaking in his own way. As a teenager, when your parents are supposed to be invisible, having a Dad on TV was mortifying. A friend reminded me that when I was in high school, I would have him drop me off at the corner rather than be driven to the front door in one of his purple delivery vans. I’m now very happy to remember him as an honorable man and a great dad.

His building was known as “the large purple building on Airline Highway” The color came into being because he had one delivery truck and let an ex-con paint it because he was very affordable. It came back painted a “wild” purple color. But people soon started asking Dad if he had a fleet. A marketing accident that turned into a successful brand was born.

Right around Father’s Day a friend asked me to lunch. She had worked with my Dad after he sold his business and had a few stories she wanted to tell me. It prompted me to post the above picture on Facebook for Father’s Day. I got a ton of sweet and lovely comments and memories from people, some I didn’t even know.

My friend was fresh in her career when she worked with my Dad years ago. She told me stories of how funny and helpful he was and that he gave her real solid advice on being in sales.

Then she noticed I was wearing purple—Dad’s color. I had unconsciously worn that color and I’m so grateful she noticed. I have no doubt that my Dad was sitting in on that conversation and loving every minute of the attention he was getting.

I realize that I’ve even filled my house with purple. I was painting an accent wall in my home a very deep purple. I went to the paint store that was now housed in his old purple building. They kept trying to get the color right, but it took 2 hours of mixing and remixing. I felt his spirit was there and there I was getting purple paint and he just wanted me to stay there in that building for as long as possible.

Some people see butterflies when they feel a loved ones presence. I see purple.