Thursday, August 4, 2011

Now & Then

We called my mom's mom Nonnie. Did that make sense? I loved Nonnie so much. She had short silver hair that she had "done" every week at the same salon. They wrapped it into tight curls that she fluffed out and sprayed with AquaNet. She always slept with her hair wrapped in a net and she had rose pink fingernails and wore White Shoulders perfume. I think they've stopped making White Shoulders, but several years ago, I followed an older woman around the grocery store because she wore that perfume and the smell of it made me feel as though Nonnie was right there with me. Of course, Nonnie preferred the Piggly Wiggly, but there are none in Austin.

When I was little, I was a tomboy and a wannabe acrobat. I would turn cartwheels and flips all throughout her home, and she would let me! My sisters and I would put on our white, lace-cuffed socks and "skate" across her marble-floored entrance. After we were finished exhausting ourselves, Nonnie would sit me on a chair in the kitchen and brush my hair back into a painfully tight ponytail before shellacking it into place. I HATED that hairspray and how tight my ponytail was, but Nonnie would say, "It hurts to be pretty." I would frown at that. Then she'd file my little nails to within an inch of their life and give me a manicure with clear nail polish. That part, I loved.  Nonnie's manicures and pedicures were infamous; you were getting one whether you wanted it or not. She believed in having perfect nails at ALL times, even if you were only seven years old and the most important task at hand was making rock and mud biscuits in the backyard. Nonnie had a set of glass canisters in her cupboard and they were always filled with different types of candy. That lady had a major sweet tooth.

After my sisters and I were coiffed and polished and snacking on our fruit cocktail with lots and lots of extra maraschino cherries, she would sit down, pull out her sewing basket, and start working on little projects. She was a functional sewer, mending or taking in seams. We would try to go through the sewing basket to find treasures, but she wouldn't let us look for long before telling us to stop because her sewing scissors were very sharp and there were other "sharp things" in the bottom of the basket. Recently, I inherited that sewing basket.

There's not a lighting issue in this photo. Those are the real life colors of her sewing basket!

As a teenager of the depression era, Nonnie wasted nothing. I think she saved every single button from every piece of clothing.

I loved realizing how many of the same products she had that I still buy, like Wright's hem tape and bias tape. Major difference in the prices, though!

This tiny pink pocket knife was a coveted treasure. I think it belonged to my great-great grandmother, though I'm not positive. My sisters and I always wanted to hold it and touch it. It's less than an inch long.

I discovered what the other "sharp things" were -- a set of my grandfather's shaving razors.  25 cents from Seibert's Pharmacy. Amazing.

My grandfather was a mailman, and Nonnie kept several of his postal badges in her sewing kit. He died when I was 5, but I remember the stories of how they met and fell in love and were married just before he left for World War II. 

I had to adjust the lighting and contrast to show the name carved into this sewing gauge. D. Colley. My mom, Deborah, must have used this as a girl.
 I may not sew by hand or have pink nails, but I am definitely Nonnie's granddaughter. And for what it's worth, I am teaching William to do cartwheels in the dining room and to skate on our wood floors.

P.S. I'm in the process of turning my grandmother's sewing supplies into a framed collage, and I'll post pics when I'm finished.


  1. Aw, I love this post! Nonnie broke my nail-biting habit by giving me manicures every week when I was in junior high.

  2. This almost made me cry. Reading about your Nonnie, was like reading something I wrote about my Nanny! They sound like two of a kind! Your collage turned out beautifully and oh-so-special! What a great piece to place on your wall! Hugs!