Bright Coppered Kettles, Warm Woolen Mittens

For this week's Flashback Friday, the prompt was "What are a few of your favorite things... Objects, mementos, memories, etc." At the beginning I thought of my journals. Specifically my very first, a denim notebook of poetry and stories I started in 1st grade. But I couldn't find the book for photographic evidence so I turned to the art I treasure and the family artifacts I feel blessed to have inherited.

My late great-grandmother, Frances Welsh Wright

My great grandmother was an artist. She was the third and final wife of John Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright) and the two of them lived and died in a home he built, a place I grew up Easter-Egg hunting with my cousins in the thick brick of the facade. My mother grew up next door to her grandparents, also in a John Lloyd Wright house where my Nana still lives to this day.

I grew up surrounded by priceless architectural artifacts (John invented Lincoln Logs, originally called Wright Blocks and as children we played with them oblivious to their value) and stories of the dinner guests my grandparents and great grandparents welcomed into their home. Hollywood directors and famous thinkers, actors including my Grandfather's step-cousin, Anne Baxter, writers and philosophers, children of dictators seeking asylum, poets and painters and designers... Oh my.

I listened wide-eyed to such stories, imagining even as a child, the collective embodiment of so many brilliant and fascinating people, jealous that I wasn't alive to participate in such affairs. The dinner conversations! The after-dinner cigarettes out on the patio on balmy summer nights! The history! I dream of such things! What a life!

Years ago, after my grandfather's passing, my Nana sat with me in the thick of family memorabilia, collecting books and handing them to me. My Nana, also an author of books had decided it was time to pass along extinguished torches, books that hadn't been touched or opened for years. "Books that should be enjoyed and appreciated," she said. She knew that I would treasure them. And I do.

The books she gave me were mainly the collected first-editions of my great grandmother (Frances) who was also an author of many books. Frances was a true artist, born from gypsies in Hungary, dressed to the nines through her adult-years in Pucci gowns and Chanel suits. A beautiful writer and metaphysical philosopher, her ideas were profound and fierce and revolutionary and I was lucky to inherit many of her writing journals and books of quotations jotted down over the years. Besides being a fine writer and fashionable nymph, Frances was a beautiful painter whose work often sold with the homes her husband built and designed.


My favorite of the three FW paintings I inherited.

Frances lived a fiery, uncensored life and in many ways has always been my hero even though she died the year before I was born-- a sort of spiritual soul-mate I always felt I knew.

She also ghost co-wrote the Frank Lloyd Wright biography, My Father Who is On Earth. A real-life muse and literary inspiration, she spent years working with her husband on this:

(Unfortunately it isn't in the FINEST of form.)

1st Authors edition, inscribed by John to my Great Grandmother, Frances:

(click to enlarge)
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I guess this was kind of a long-winded answer to this week's Friday prompt... But nevertheless, behold! A few of my most prized possessions, items rich with eccentricities and the kind of fascinating stories one must memorize so she can retell them and pass them on with her souvenirs.

Of course eventually the books will disintegrate. The paintings will fade. But the stories, if told well, are always the last to go.

GGC

Other Flashback Friday Posts (if you feel inspired by this week's prompt, send me your links and I'll add you to the list):

24 comments:

Molly | 4:59 AM

Wow...what a treasure.

My mother discovered several years ago that her husband is a grand-nephew of Harriet Quimby, a journalist, writer, and photographer, as well as the first American woman to receive a pilot's license.

After discovering this, my mother and I got serious about researching Harriet. We have a lot of her personal papers and books, although she didn't keep a journal, as such. Fascinating.

A | 5:58 AM

How fascinating! I love stories of family history. And I love hearing about loved ones and ancestors and the legacy left by them. In my family and in others'. Thanks for sharing.

kittenpie | 6:11 AM

Wow. How wonderful to have a family of rich treasures like that - both people and memories. My family didn't pass much down, so I have a few bits and pieces, but I love them, too.

Shannon | 6:25 AM

That book is an amazing treasure! (Although I would not have taken kindly to my husband inscribing a book with my weight, but hey, to each his own!) You have a very interesting family history to pass down!

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 7:28 AM

Ha! Good point, Shannon. Although if I weighed 105 pounds...

GIRL'S GONE CHILD | 7:31 AM

And Molly-- That Harriet Quimby story is something! Amazing. Journals are more important than we think... For future generations, I mean. I don't know that blogs count. Technology seems so... un-artifact-y, but maybe that's just because it's so new. I wonder...

winomom | 7:57 AM

Love this. How awesome to own this sort of history. My husband, who poo poos my blog reading obsession, is being sent this link RIGHT NOW, as he is a designer, artist and would-be architect (if we'd sent him to school), and adores Frank Lloyd Wright. We keep a documentary of him, done by PBS, to just watch for fun sometimes. Even our children have learned to appreciate his crazy-intense craft. Thanks for the story, it's got me thinking about the importance of personal family history...

EW | 9:46 AM

What a beautiful entry! It too, had me dreaming of the life they lived, with amazing characters and peices of history. No wonder you're such a great writer-reativity is obviously in your blood!!!

mombo | 10:13 AM

That painting is really exquisite. Those colors are so fashionable now--it really embodies the whole "retro-modern" feel while being authentically vintage.

Thank you for sharing.

Baby in Broad | 11:04 AM

Awesome. It's such a gift to know your family history, let alone own such beautiful artifacts from it! That painting is amazing!

scharfhunter | 11:40 AM

i am in tears, literally--tears!--over this author's note in your great-grandfather's/grandmother's book. i love them because of this page of words, and i love you for letting me in on the secret. i've never read your blog before, and just found it by checking back in with her bad mother after about a year (or more) of slacking distraction...and i'm so happy to have found you. thank you for this gift today, and congratulations on rockabye.

The Mommy | 12:45 PM

What an amazing family tree you have. Thanks for making me think of my own grandmother and how I wish I would have taken the time to know her stories.

whoorl | 12:58 PM

What an amazing family history. It will be so enriching to share all of these memories with Archer (and the bebe!) in the future.

winomom | 2:39 PM

You got me thinking, and I threw a little poo up on the screen.

http://winomom.wordpress.com/2008/03/28/im-participating/

Her Bad Mother | 6:06 PM

Love. LOVE. LOVE.

My MIL is an artist, and her great-aunt was a novelist, and I so look forward to passing on their stories - with or without the paintings and papers - to WB (and fetus).

avb | 11:56 PM

So intriguing, so visual. What lovely gifts: memories and history, you have inherited. I hope you write more about it.

I've inherited a name with quite a history attached to it. Van Buren not only referring to the 8th president, Martin, but more directly to his son, who married a cousin of James and Dolly Madison. And, somewhere finding their way into the extended Van Buren family tree, are Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt. So 127 years later, our history went from four presidents in one family tree, down to a politically conscious Huffington Post blogger. The gene pool must have seriously mutated along the way.

Daisy | 11:17 AM

What an exciting family history! My husband has been doing research on his. No famous folks in the family tree, but his grandmother lived across the street from (and had as occasional babysitter) novelist and author Edna Ferber. :)

kerrianne.org | 7:07 PM

That is such an amazingly sweet inscription he wrote.

caramama | 7:08 PM

That is so wonderful that you've gotten to inherit the books and paintings, but most of all the stories! Those are treasures.

Mom101 | 8:15 PM

Holy cow Bec. I'm reading this and blinking wildly - what an amazing legacy. And so beautifully told. They'd all be so proud of you now. And not at all surprised, I'm sure.

BabyShrink | 3:54 PM

There's a FLW house on Maui, supposedly designed for Marilyn Monroe. Amazing work, what a family!

Andrea | 6:49 PM

I can't even believe this is your post! I just finished reading "Loving Frank" about Frank Lloyd Wright's relationship with Mamah Brothwick and her tragic death and I have been digging for information about his interesting life ever since. I came to check out your blog and here this is!

angeljoy | 7:15 PM

What a legacy! I've always been interested in FLW. Thank you for sharing such a personal post. What a gift to have so many things passed down. Such richness. I'm going to look for that book in my library. Or at the least learn more about the Wright family.

amandahugnkiss | 10:58 AM

That is so great. I love old people love. And your blog too - cant wait to get the book...