Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Magnolia Bouquet

The wedding of my maternal grandparents, William Leicester Morris and Lila Eugenia Arnold, took place in the merry month of May almost a century ago--May 12, 1907.

The gown and veil are marvelous, but take a look at the magnolia blossom bouquet. This is one of my favorite pictures of my grandmother, right up there with the Japanese play and the Bible-and-pompadour photographs. I believe that she made the gown and headdress with veil.

W. L. Morris (January 10, 1869-September 22, 1955) was born in Washington Country, Georgia; he had a store in Collins, and he built public buildings and residences. The house he constructed for my grandmother is a major site in the world of my imagination and has appeared in a number of my stories. Fig trees, grape arbors, a towering persimmon tree, wonderful porches, raised house pillars, Queen Anne towers and porches, a well on a porch, outbuildings, and many other elements of that magical realm still are places to "go" in my mind.

He and my grandmother had nine children, eight of whom survived to adulthood. They could not have been more surprised by the last baby--my mother, the "miracle child." W. L. and Lila were old-fashioned pillars of their community, devout people who added a good deal of beauty to the world. They lived creative lives, my grandfather with his house-building and carpentry, my grandmother with her needlework and household arts. Her pantry was a wondrous thing. Their lives were very "dense" and full with labor, creation, gardening, child-rearing, and strong religious belief that gave shape and meaning to all else.

While the postwar era and depression meant that they lost much financially, what strikes me is that their acts and days were creative and fertile. What they made had usefulness and gave aesthetic pleasure. How much we came down when so many ordinary people gave up making things in the realm of "useful" and domestic arts--and after that came a time when we stripped away the beautiful and were left with the purely intellectual. And now we have the great effort to bring "a return to beauty" in the arts...

Lila Eugenia Arnold has already popped up on the Palace. She was born in Triplett, Georgia, August 17, 1883, and died February 13, 1968. She lived a long life, and although she was away on a visit at the time of her death, she was still living in the lovely house my grandfather built for her. Too many elderly ladies are toted off and stuffed into "homes." My grandparent's house began as a single room, where young Mrs. Morris would rock her first baby with a pistol on her lap. Times were wild in the south Georgia countryside, not so very long after the war.

9 comments:

  1. What a magnificent-looking couple--he so stolid, handsome, and sure, she with her full, Gallic-looking lips and shiny eyes.
    What wonderful stories you tell, Marly.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm fearful that any day now the hovering "they" might come, tote me away, and stuff me in a "home". There's something about dwelling hours a day with teens that startles the sensibilities. I'm thinking one of two results: either they'll keep me young or send me to an early grave. I'm opting for the former, yet there are days . . . I’ll take reminders from your grandparents: live dense, not frantic; create; cherish beauty; keep hands in the soil; retain hope in the holy. Did they dance?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hall of the Palace Historians10:08 PM, September 12, 2006

    Surely ye jest... They were Southern Baptists in a teeny-weeny town. Not a chance.

    ReplyDelete
  4. A lovely glimpse of your family, Marly. But they should have danced--your grandmother looks like dancing ran through her blood.
    And those magnolias!

    ReplyDelete
  5. There are ways and ways of dancing...

    ReplyDelete
  6. Love old wedding photos like this. Reminds me that i must frame the one i have of my grandparents.

    One thing about the "inter-web" that has delighted and encouraged me is the discovery that the domestic arts are very much alive and well amongst young folk. amazing how many stitching and cooking/preserving bloggers there are out there. The intelligentsia may have it wrong, but the the world is full of quieter artists just carrying on.

    Love that image: "with a pistol on her lap." My grandmother rode hundreds of miles with father's cattle drive to be properly married by their religious leaders...i still marvel at all they did with their amazing lives.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Vicki,

    I posted this to a cousin's page on facebook, as she wanted a copy of the photograph--and am amazed that you managed to follow that thread!

    Yes, I am in great hopes that many quiet people working together are carrying on tradition and courtesy and the arts. I have no doubt that "the intelligentsia" may have it wrong about many things, and that the current of the best may be flowing in places it does not expect.

    Love the story about your grandmother! So interesting that such things are still remembered and told--despite modernity wiping away so much.

    ReplyDelete
  8. A very attractive couple and a lovely photograph, Marly.

    There is, thank goodness, a return to crafts and homesteading and an understanding that there is beauty in individually designed and created things.
    I applaud this.
    We know of more and more people who grow, ,use and can produce; make clothing; create their own unique environments - and use techniques that have been handed down through generations and that work.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this blog posting!

    ReplyDelete
  9. My mother at 83 is still doing a good deal of gardening and has become an accomplished weaver--she was involved in handwork and needle arts since childhood. So she is her mother's daughter.

    But though I have canned garden produce with her, I have not sewn much in many years, so I suppose that family tradition dies with me unless you count stitching with words. I don't think that I ever quite finished my childhood embroidery sampler...

    ReplyDelete

Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.