It’s why I treasure this photo.
There’s Muv, to the left, maybe off to the Fairmont Hotel for drinks before seeing Judy Garland or Frank Sinatra. Muv loved attending live concerts and shared her experience of seeing Garland from the front row…she said you could just feel the entire audience in tears, and not the least bit self-conscious. And that was the 50’s.
Wish I’d asked if Garland was sitting on the end of the stage, but Muv wasn’t a nostalgic soul, and rarely repeated a story. She lived in the moment and yet – she’d kept this photo for many decades among so few momentos – in her private little box. When she died I took it with me.
Was it taken in 1949? Or perhaps the dawn of a decade when people followed the rules. When Muv lived in St. Francis Wood in San Fran, and getting noticed on Market Street as a fashion illustrator. Muv didn’t tell me this, but a cousin did, I often had to retrieve her past from other people. She rarely felt the need to pump herself up; pictures did not appear at the dinner table as they often do with people who need to pump themselves up. Not Muv.
A couple of years later she’d marry my father, have a set of Irish twins, then three more, the last being me. Muv loved the noise and activity, most of the time, and when she didn’t, she carved out a space to relax, sometimes I’d find her in the dining room, on the floor next to the heater with her long legs extended, just thinking, or not; alone.
With old friends she was warm and engaging and could tell a story well. There was a fun hush to her voice when engaged, when she was telling a story. One of my artist friends said, “I just want to talk like her.” But in general, she was fairly reserved, shy as a child, and observed other people without them knowing it. People like that, and Muv in particular, had that canny ability of summing up a person’s character in a minute.
She wasn’t demonstrative but I always felt deeply loved. As an artist she could apply a rococo twist on anything, worn as a sign of courage, when needed beyond the canvas. But like most artists, the canvas was a great place to start, an ideal way to solve problems, especially when they lingered in real life.
My husband once called Muv ‘serene’, and I agree, especially later in life. When it was time to pay the bill, she was ready because she’d lived a life well spent. I don’t think anyone questioned her manners because they were pretty impeccable. More importantly, she didn’t meddle in other people’s affairs. Certain people, like those leery in life, took her into their confidence knowing their affairs would forever be kept secret. If you read my book you’ll know how good she was at keeping a secret.
She didn’t demand much from others, and I think because of this, combined with being tall and exerting such a quiet style, a little wave of respect seemed to follow her everywhere she went.
But the older I get there’s one trait I admire more than others; she did not insist or project her way onto others. She let people be and this remains uniquely kind in the mind. However, she had no problem with people who broke the rules, as long as they did it with style, at no one expense. I suppose her response to today’s ‘trolls’ would have been to take out the easel and paint. That’s what she did in her last decade on earth and she did it well.
I didn’t came along until she was 32 so I didn’t get to really know her until she was closer to 50. I’m grateful for the cycle of our lives, first as mother and daughter, then as best of friends. Thank God I was with her at the end. This makes me feel serene.
She’s been gone since 2008 and her birthday’s coming up this month. Today I am that camera. She still inspires and arrives like a muse in that photo, on a date with a doppelganger for Victor Mature.
Once upon a time she was so young, with such a smile, living right in the middle of everything and I wasn’t even a twinkle in her eye….