Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Joy in Red Shoes

Elsie Jane died last week. She was 100. She loved color and her mountain house and travel and fun clothes which she wore with panache, even when her knees kept her out of high heels. At art openings, she could be expected to wear something glorious.

Elsie Jane was in her mid-eighties when she was one of my watercolor students. She was often frustrated that she couldn't paint the way she used to; I thought there was a fresh look in her work. She commented on her inability to create a certain blue, that she only got pink. When I saw the blue she described, not pink, it was my first understanding of loss of color in sight like loss of pitch range in hearing.

Catherine turned 88 last week. She has been a neighbor for twenty years. She celebrated with a surprise birthday luncheon and then hurried back to her floral shop. She loves color and flowers and interesting jewelry and fun clothes which she wears in many layers and combinations. At art openings, she is sometimes the art.

Before she was ten, Catharine began her journey with the floral business while collecting money for grandmother. She learned something about almost everyone in every house as she stopped in after wedding or funeral arrangements had been delivered and she still remembers. Now, when I hear her describe those early neighbors, and now the third and fourth generation which still gets flowers from her, ' as "beautiful person," "sweetest thing,"or "so lovely," I understand that it is Catharine who is these things.

Elsie Jane and Catharine. Two women who have lived their very different lives with the same wonder and enthusiasm for creative projects and interesting people. Two women who have taught me about life and living with joy. They are part of the reason I still love to wear red shoes (or is it really green?)

A little addendum: One day in my senior watercolor class, I began to hear a conversation about funeral planning. One lady said, "I went today to plan everything for my funeral." A ninety-six year old said, "I have paid for mine." Elsie Jane said, "But if the price goes down, you won't get your money back."
(I'm sure if Catharine had been there, she would have taken orders for the casket spray.) They were all matter-of-fact about living; matter-of-fact about dying.


Martha Marshall said...

Lordy me, Annette! I hope you paint this picture!!

I just spent time with my 88- and 92-year-old aunts last week. They are the pretty much same way about life and death, though maybe with a touch of melancholy thrown in here and there. Still, they get dressed up with full makeup and go out to lunch at least a couple of times a week.

CMC said...

oh this post, Annette. AND, I just bought some red satin shoes about a week and a half ago........can't wait to wear them.