Color study in black and turquoise . . . . . .   Leave a comment

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My grandmother was a little Cajun girl fresh out of high school, studying in the big city at the New Orleans Conservatory of Music, when she met and befriended a young woman artist named Nell Pomeroy O’Brien.  Nell was the artist who painted the many small portraits I have of Tisolay that she was apparently fond of doing, and it was Nell’s husband, an engineering contractor, who had been the one to eventually declare to his bachelor banker friend, my grandfather, with his wife’s friend in mind, “Percy, I’m gonna marry you off.”

Tisoleil in Turquoise and Black

Tisolay in Turquoise and Black ……………………………. © Calhoun Rising – All rights reserved.

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One of those portraits is on a bookshelf in my study, the centerpiece of a small still-life that serves as a divider between sections of books, a black and turquoise grouping of some of my grandmother’s things from my childhood with her, each with memories attached:  her peeking her Matahari eyes out at child me from behind a Chinese fan . . .  giving me a piano lesson, sitting next to me on the teacher’s chair with the lyre back . . . the white wedgwood cream pitcher that accompanied our afternoon tea breaks . . . and later, when she was too fragile to do it herself, my putting fresh sasanqua branches in the ceramic Chinese box vase for her that I think was a gift from one of Granddaddy’s banking friends, though it was just as likely to be a Mardi Gras krewe favor from one of the balls they were always going to.  Probably both.

J. Euclide Champagne and his racing trotter, and Tisolay's turquoise vermeil

J. Euclide Champagne and his racing trotter, and Tisolay’s turquoise vermeil

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There was her father’s gold nib pen, . . .

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. . . the vermeil and turquoise jewelry pieces, a set from China that she never told Granddaddy had been given to her when she was in high school by an enamored Swedish ship captain, . . .

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Tisoleil's shawl

Tisolay’s shawl ………………….. © Calhoun Rising – All rights reserved.

 
. . . and  a daguerrotype of him at the reins of his horse, a racing trotter, taken from the porch of Tisolay’s grandfather’s house around 1900, on the sugar cane farm in Breaux Bridge that’s been in the family since 1763.  It was part of an original Spanish land grant given to his great-grandfather, an Acadian exile from Nova Scotia.   Bayou Teche is out of sight off to the left, but the little tree in the background is the towering giant pecan that is now as big around as a car, a branch of which was the source of two wooden chopsticks an old boyfriend carved for me to put my hair up with.

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There’s the shawl that Tisolay let me dance in, its long fringes twirling around my ankles

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. . . and the exquisite Belgian lace handkerchief that had belonged to Mama Sitges, her mother-in-law.  It was always in her hand on the rare occasions when she consented to leaving the enchanted little house she loved so, like Easter dinners at the Country Club, or a new exhibit at Granddaddy’s museum, or later, All Saint’s Day, when we would go visit Granddaddy at the cemetery and sit with a thermos of strong coffee and a tupperware of crawfish etouffee, a spoonfull of both pushed into the dirt in front of him, and tell him about our year.

Mama Sitges' handkerchief

Mama Sitges’ handkerchief …………………………………… © Calhoun Rising – All rights reserved.

Shenanigans away from home were less frequent in those later years, but made up for it in intensity when it did happen, such as the time we got to the cemetery too late, our hands full of flowers we’d just picked from our gardens.  Rather than acquiesce to the padlocked chains, we hopped the iron-spike fence to the astonishment of the tourists who’d been taking pictures through the bars of the sculpted tombs beneath the magnolia trees.  They burst into an ovation when we finally made it down the other side.  She swept down into a dramatic curtsy, then, for their benefit, grabbed my elbow and skipped a few steps down the row of magnolias, but they probably didn’t see her raise her little 86-yr-old fist up to Granddaddy in the sky and say, “…and there’s nothing you can do about it!”

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Thanks for joining me.       ______________     © Calhoun Rising – All rights reserved.

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