Thursday, January 30, 2014

Tillie's Fields

When my grandmother, Tillie, or Nanny as we affectionately called her, passed away, we had to go through her house to figure out what to do with her belongings. My mom found a box in the kitchen full up of aprons of various shapes and, from what I figure, various uses. One by one I pulled them out of the box, unfolded them, and imagined Nanny flitting around the kitchen or garden in any and all of these aprons, cutting biscuits and frying chicken and planting daffodil bulbs. I saw her, in my mind, wipe her hands on the skirts of these aprons, calling out the window to Granddaddy and the farm hands that lunch was ready and come and get it. I saw Momma in the dirt at Nanny's feet, playing with worms and seed packets while Nanny put flowers in the ground outside the front porch.

Without having to be in the kitchen every morning, or in the yard every afternoon, I knew how much love, care, and sunshine these aprons had seen. They had pounds of flour and acres of dirt deep within their fibers.

I loved my Nanny deeply, but she passed away probably not knowing that very well. We rarely made the trip to rural Georgia. It was 3 hours away from home and as kids in a generation of constant entertainment, what were we supposed to do with ourselves on 60 acres of unworked farmland? Rather than entertaining ourselves with family stories and exploration, we chose to bury our noses in portable games and books. When I found this box of her things, I promised myself, and Nanny, that I would move forward with my life remembering her, celebrating her, bragging on her and never letting her soft and beautiful face fade from my memory.

Momma has always aspired to keep a little bit of Nanny with her as well. Momma got the "green thumb" and can do anything with plants that she wants to. She's too modest to admit her flowers even look "good" most of the time, but friends and neighbors will call her just to love on her garden in the summertime. Any number of any bird you can find in the south can be spotted on one of her many feeders or drinking nectar from one of her many flowers. I often refer to her yard as a "sanctuary" with its serenity and collection of birds. Summers when I'm home I will sit out there for hours and enjoy the escape from my "big city life" with a Fannie Flagg novel and a cup of hot coffee. Just to remember my roots, you know.

A few years ago, Momma came up with the concept "Tillie's Fields", which unfortunately never went very far due to grandbabies and general business. Tillie's Fields was a budding idea in which Momma wanted to sell flowers, seeds, and foods that were inspired by Nanny. The foods would fall under the sub-category "Tillie's Kitchen", following the logical path from field to table of the farm life of her past. I played around with some conceptual ideas for brand identity and marketing back when my art skills were not very strong, and I hate to think I failed myself, but sometimes we all have to admit when we've been defeated. Now that the years have passed and brand identity is something I'm much more comfortable with, I hope that Momma and I can rekindle the spark of Tillie's Fields. I took it upon myself to kick-start the identity with the Etsy store (Momma, I hope that's okay!) and bring my little piece of heart into the project. I can't put up preserves or keep a hydrangea alive, but I can use a sewing machine and draw on things. So hopefully between the two of us, with a little support from the Beautiful Angel watching us from the warm summer of Heaven, we can keep Nanny's memory alive and strong, and pass along her courage, faith, and blessings to those of you who didn't know her when she was leaving footprints in the garden soil.

From the box of aprons we found, I started with my favorite one, the one that brought forth the most daydreams of her days. I followed her pattern exactly, mimicking even her stitching, with the deepest hopes that she will be seen and known farther than my studio.

So Nanny, while I'm here and using my talents with which God decided I could do good, I hope that you see the things Momma and I do, using the skills we learned from your wonderful hands, and are proud. I hope you see yourself as a creature worth immortalizing, because we sure do! We love you so much, miss you every day, and can't wait to get to Heaven! Thank you for always loving me, even when I was too stubborn to appreciate you during the short and punctuated time we had. Thank you for loving to do puzzles with me, for giving me that cat that one time that threw up macaroni and cheese all over my purple velour overalls, and for always having a open heart and an open kitchen. Can't wait to have a cup of coffee with you again and really listen to all of your stories this time. Give Granddaddy and Uncle Sonny a big kiss from me and Momma (and please don't tell them I cried just now! Let's keep that between us!). Love you and see you soon, darling!

Pink Kitchen Apron
Buy it on Etsy
Green Kitchen Apron
Buy it on Etsy

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