However, I stopped caring about most of these things - menopause is great for that; you never knew just how much estrogen was controlling your brain, telling you to do this or that ("be sexy", "attract men", "be feminine", etc) until it fades from your system and you think clearly for the first time in 40 or so years. At some point, comfort matters more than what other people think, and you start feeling it's time to get back to developing your own sense of style, one that reflects your core self. The self that was you as a 10 year old girl, before you started worrying about what others think.
To that end I discovered "Lagenlook", a style that has been popular with young and old women in Europe for a while now, an idea which loosely translates to "layered look". It is timeless in that it transcends fashion cycles, and focuses on comfort while letting you express your own personality. This is not, however, the layered look we all grew up with in the '70's, of turtleneck dickies under shirts, covered with sweater vests or matching sweater sets, scarves and jackets, etc. You can google the term and select images and you will find it consists of loose flowing layers of clothing that are natural fibers - think cotton, linen, wool. In northern climes there are many layers and lagenlook shoes, stockings, hats and outwear as well. But the concept is particularly suited to hot regions of the globe - you just change the fabrics from thick wool to shear linen and cotton and wear fewer layers.
My grandmother Ruby’s house exists no more; rather, it exists in my memory only. I think it was a Sears catalogue house that was modified and added onto over the years. My family has taken many photos of people, places, and things for well over a hundred years, but no one ever took a photo (that I know of) of Granny’s home. I spent some time searching for images and floorplans of 1920’s American homes online, and this is the closest I can find:
The exterior wooden walls were painted white, the roof was a dark blue scalloped tile. As granny’s little family grew, the house was added onto – the back bedroom was extended out to the side, making the house have an overall “L” shape. Like most Southern homes of the era, this home was a good 3-4 feet up off the ground, with the underneath areas fenced in and painted to match – this was where lazy dogs slept on hot summer days. A small porch and a doorway were added to the expansion, almost meeting the front porch in a wrap-around style. The back bedroom of the original plan, now considerably larger, became a family room.
Across the rear of the house, another bedroom, in the “sleeping porch” style of the pre air-conditioned south (with windows on three sides) and a small bath were added, along with a bumped out kitchen eating porch and a wraparound back porch that had an enclosure for the ice and milk man to make deliveries.
Inside, the house had wallpaper imported from France, cedar wood floors, two stone faced fireplaces, and two bathrooms – the first house in the county to do so. My mother was fond of saying that her Daddy “hand-picked every board in the house so that none of them had a single knot in the wood.” I remember vivid pale blue wallpaper with giant white cabbage roses in the bedrooms; the bathroom fixtures and tiles were turquoise, even the toilet and sink and had a snazzy art deco vibe. The tub was over 6 feet long and a grown man could lay down in it. Ceilings in that house were 12 ft high and had ceiling fans or punkahs in the middle of each room to keep us cool all summer long. The scale of the house was pleasant, open, and spacious.
Granny’s house sat on a large corner lot in Sulphur Springs, nestled in a ring of giant pecan trees that provided shade in the summers, pesky squirrels in the winter, and dropped pecans onto the roof the rest of the year. Behind the house was a fenced in yard, and behind that was another fenced in yard full of more pecan trees and a vegetable garden. Behind that yard was a pasture where horses and cows were kept. Several wooden storage buildings, built to match the house, kept carriages, then cars, and served as workrooms for various projects.
I remember, as a little child, visiting Granny’s house. I remember the stately Victorian homes, separated by iron fences, flowers, and tall trees that lined her street. We would invite the neighbor across the street, Miss Dolly, over for coffee. My grandmother never learned to drive, and when it was time to shop we walked a few blocks “to town”, along sidewalks cracked with enormous tree roots. Along the way, we passed old folk sitting on shady porches, airing themselves, and Granny would say, “Good morning. Have you met my grand-daughter?” as we walked past. Nowadays, all the beautiful old Victorian houses are gone, torn down, and the lots turned into a no man’s land of light industrial commerce. Looking at the street haunts me, as I wonder : What remains of any of us, after all the people and buildings are gone that we knew?