I'm really excited to tell you that I have been featured in the February 2013 issue of Art Doll Quarterly magazine. I created six dolls in honor of my great aunts, from "downhome" as we called it. I call them the Garden Club Gals. In the article I write about the dolls, how each lady has a different position in the club, and what their duties are. Every single doll has her own personality. It's just kind of fun and silly.
My grandma and grandad on my dad's side were southerners, coming from Kentucky and southern Illinois, Hillsboro area. I know southern Illinois doesn't sound very southern, but believe me, when I was on the farms and in the small town visiting the relatives, the accents were definitely there and the lifestyle was southern.
Oh, how I loved being there. I should have known right then and there that I belong in the south, probably on a farm or a very rural small town. While there, I learned to ride a horse. I also learned to drive a motorcycle. I went fishing in a trout pond, and I played in a corn silo. I still remember going to the barn to visit Uncle Paul while he was milking cows. He asked me if I liked milk, and nodding my head up and down I assured him I loved milk. As I got a little closer to take a better look he pointed the udders at me, squirting me with the warm milk. I squealed as loud as the nearby baby pigs as I ran away. Once I was at a safe distance, I stopped and looked back. He was perched on his little stool, bent over as he resumed his work. I could hear him softly chuckling as the streams of milk hit the bucket. What a character. On my 15th birthday, in a cute little beauty shop in town, I had my ears pierced. Yet another memory. I wish I could remember what the name of the shop was and exactly how it looked. I'm picturing a cute little pink shop, something like I would see on the Andy Griffith show or like the beauty shop in Steel Magnolias.
I had such wonderful visits, and absolutely loved all the aunts, my grandma's sisters. They had such a huge influence on me. I saw first-hand the quilting and sewing and canning and baking - all the activities so common to women from that generation. My grandma had six sisters and one brother. Actually while researching I discovered she had another brother, Reed, who I had never heard of. I am assuming he died young.
My grandma was Ina. Ina Pearl Littrell. She was born and raised in the beautiful southeastern Kentucky. I have named chickens and dolls after her and all of these women. I'm not sure if they would have been happy about that or not!! Her sisters were Mary, Audrey, Willa, Lillian, Myrtle Lee, and she had a brother named Paul, who married Leona. My brother, Joseph Paul, was named after my grandad, Joseph, and Uncle Paul. I remember Uncle Paul and his dry sense of humor. He always had a twinkle in his blue eyes and looked like he was ready to break into a smile, which always left me wondering just what he was up to.
I felt so at home in the small town and farms we stayed at, perhaps partly because I had family there. You see, somehow my grandparents ended up in southern Illinois, which is a stones throw from the area in Kentucky where she was born. My dad's parents moved to Wisconsin right before he and his sister were born. Times were hard and there was a huge automobile factory here offering steady employment and benefits. He and Aunt Betty were raised here. At 17 years of age, my dad joined the navy and was stationed in San Francisco, where he met my mom. They married and started their family there, and my older brother, Joey, was born. When he was about a year old they had an earthquake, which frightened my dad to death. He told my mom to pack everything up. Off they went to Wisconsin. His sister, Aunt Betty had 5 boys, but since she married a handsome naval officer and lived out of state, we never had any relatives here except for my grandparents. So I grew up with absolutely no relatives around, which I guess seemed normal since I didn't know any different. I guess I felt like I had roots downhome, and that was where I belonged.
I remember how Aunt Myrt and Uncle Dale had a bowling alley and antique store on the main street in the small town. Aunt Lillian's son, Harold Dean, was the mayor. (In the south you use two names). I felt so important being related to royalty!
My mom recalls the local newspaper printing a little article about the relatives from Wisconsin visiting one summer. Now that's what I call a small town. She also recalls the first time she met my grandmother's mom. She was a little tiny Ma Kettle like dynamo, and within one minute of being introduced, she excused herself, picked up a shotgun and shot at some crows she had just noticed in her garden. My mom was a bit taken aback, being a city girl.
I created these dolls in honor of the aunts. They are whimsical and silly. I hope the pictures do them justice. I gave them each bloomers and a full slip. No proper lady would be without a slip, right You should see the bloomers.
I added extra stuffing into the back of the bloomers to give the aunts a little extra cush for comfort. Actually none of them were really chubby, but it was cute. Come to think of it Aunt Myrt was a plump, sweet, lovable little thing.
One of my sons and his family are very seriously considering moving to southern Tennessee, really just south of where my grandma is from. We are considering trying to find a tiny little cottage or build a little log cabin near them to visit, and maybe spend some of the winter months. How funny that I might end up so near to where it all began. Full circle really. Maybe I am meant to live in the south after all. Anyone out there from Tennessee, or nearby? Thanks so much for stopping by to visit, I am always so happy to see you!