The End Of An Era

December 8, 2012

My Aunt Mimi Died Last night.

She owned Forest Lodge..(the picture on this blog is taken from the 2nd floor of her boat house) …which was purchased by her father originally from a lumber company….for a hunting lodge…..

There were either 300 or 500 acres…and 2 ½ acres of shore property on  Lake Namekagon  in Northern Wisconsin.

She gave it several year ago to the National Trust whom I think gave it to the State of Wisconsin to be preserved for EVER for everyone to enjoy…..she was allowed to keep for her own use the 12 acres around her log built cabins……up until her death.

As a child it was totally Magical…I adored her mother Aunt Mary…as Aunt Mimi …for me seemed abit spoiled….Aunt Mary was one of the first film makers,script writers, director,and costume designer …she would have the local guys and girls come over and make costumes and sets and act in movies she filmed  …Little Red Riding Hood…was one…and of course Aunt Mimi with her golden locks would play Little Red Riding Hood….these Black n White films of course did not have sound but Aunt Mary would have a scene that would say what was the actress was talking about….you have to see old movies to understand..

Forest Lodge for Aunt Mary was primarily a summer and fall residence….she owned a house in St Paul which was quite wonderful…it had a marble ballroom in the basement…and a tunnel that connected to the garage and chauffeur’s quarters…it had a hidden door between rooms…it has one of the first elevators in a residence…..the walls were imported from a French Chateau…..

she owned a floor in Manhattan on E 77th Street…a winter house in Florida…and Aunt Mimi later built a house on Long Island Sound  as a weekend retreat …

I will never forget my first year at Carleton College…as Aunt Mary asked me up to see how I was doing…this was in 64….and she was in a wheel chair….I rang the door bell…one of the maids escorted me into one of the Living Rooms…a roaring fire was going…it was like December …she said your Aunt will be down shortly….I was nervous as Hell….she came down in the elevator out in the hall…was wheeled in…

One of the maids served us canapés…and asked Aunt Mary…… Mrs Griggs would you like a cocktail ……Aunt Mary said …Yes!!…so they brought her champagne…it was late in the day….Aunt Mary said “Well what about Robby???”….the maid said well he is not old enough….Aunt Mary said…HE IS OLD ENOUGH for me ..so please give him a glass of champagne….”  Which she did…and MAN did I LOVE Aunt Mary more…left her that eve with a wonderful buzz on….

There are just too many stories to relate….but as a child…

Aunt Mary always had a treasure hunt  for us kids in the summer through her pachysandra at Forest Lodge….and you would follow a string…..and find a gift at certain locations..like the “Fairey’s stump”…or near the sundial …… often things  from Tiffany’s

She had one of the only tennis courts (clay) in the area…and I will never forget sitting on the bamboo lawn chairs…they had no legs they were seated on the grass overlooking the tennis court….and you would hear the tinkle of bells or was it ice…as one of her help pushed this fabulous cart full of ice tea and other drinks and freshly baked pastries that her cook had just prepared….. down from the main house …which was not next door…..as my Father was slamming someone on the Tennis court….

She had two vegetable gardens and 3 green houses…..and two flower cutting gardens….the  wonderful heady scent of phlox…I will always associate with Forest Lodge’s living room.. a tall room…logs in the walls…skins of different animals on the walls…and stuffed loons and owls and eagles staring down at you…a brick fireplace with an authentic Revolutionary rifle hanging with it’s powder horn above it…..

We would have cocktails on the screened-in porch..that looked down on the lake….until one of the maids would come out and say “Mrs Griggs” dinner is served….we would go into the dining room…fabulous Meissen candelabras..well all the china was Meissen…and the silver made by Tiffany’s….and the table was a long polished wood table that could seat 20 people….it was where I learned what finger bowls are…(sigh)

I remember her wonderful Swiss cows…they had the softest of ears…Tony would brlng them down from the top pasture to their evening pasture…and into the dairy where they were milked…and Tony made the BEST milk and cream…in the mornings we would have to ladle the cream onto our cereal…as it was soo THICK you could not pour it……

Aunt Mary had her  own fire house and fire engine…that would draw water from the lake….pump house and ice house back before refrigeration ..all naturally built of round logs..

She built a doll house way out  in the woods for Aunt Mimi…that is still there…you can walk into…it has a pot belly stove…all of the china was made by Meissen but doll size as was the silver which she had Tiffany make…there was a wind up bird in a cage…..

and she had a normal size 3 story doll house…where she painted the paintings for in miniature…and the bathrooms…had real running water….that is still there in the Main House….

Aunt Mimi and Aunt Mary gave my parents as a wedding present….our summer home 12 acres  on Burgundy Point…the driveway was/is a mile long in from the main road….I summered there since I was born in 46

She had a two story  log boat house on the lake where she painted…I loved her paintings…..and she had fabulous old (well back then for me) sail boats….that I so loved to sail in with my father…..he had been sailing there as a child…he proposed to my mother outside the top floor of the boat house as the shooting stars were flaming across the firmament above…my Godfather Dick Gordon was unbeknownst to them on the deck below…and said there kissing sounded like a cow pulling his feet out of a muddy pasture… a bit too much sucking

She had a bowling green on the lake …near the boat house…where I learned how to lawn bowl…..

It was and still is a place of Magic for me….

and for Aunt Mimi and Aunt Mary I am eternally grateful…as they created the belief in magic and belief in the Impossible that  I carry with me to this day !!!!

7 Responses to “The End Of An Era”

  1. Sumner said

    Beautifully captured, Rob! Love U, Sumner

  2. Oh xxR!
    Oh ALL of Jane’s beloveds!

    I am so sorry.

    I met Mary at Forest Lodge. Your Mother, my dear Jane, invited me to come up North for a few days and meet her childhood friend. And, I could bring Simon, my English Springer Spaniel. As I was preparing to go up North to a cabin…Jane called and said: “Oh, dear Catherine, do bring dresses to wear because the meals up North with Mary are formal.” I paused: a perceptual shift! NOT picnic tables and s’mores! We arrived. I was stunned by the beauty of the natural beauty, and, then, entered an Alice in Wonderland, a theater of Old World charm and elegance and witnessed the laughter between two friends who had know each other since they were five.

    They welcomed me into their gallery of personal memories and we laughed until we cried- tears rolling down. I knew Mary’s reflexive reserve as protection due to the context she was born- enormous wealth, social stature, etc.

    Those few days I learned their adventures, their love and ribbing of one another…the Georgia O’Keefe painting, a seminal painting, that Marys’ Mother gave as a college graduation gift and Mary exchanged because she did not like the color …only, to meet Georgia O’Keefe at her home in NYC at a Metropolitan Museum fundraiser and Georgia recognized the “exchanged” painting, and with an arched eyebrow to Mary said: “Oh, THAT is one of my minor paintings…” It was a fairytale those few days. Staying with Jane and Margaret in the Cow Palace…visiting your parents home on Burgundy Pointe.

    I saw two young girls loving the friendship and the story of how their lives turned and intertwined with your Father and your Uncle Sumner embraced by Mary’s parents after the tragic car accident of their parents.

    I press these very special days as you press a rose as a memento of ephemeral beauty of authentic love.

    My blessings are with you all as you grieve and celebrate.

    So so so many critical life turning events occurred with each of you as individuals and as a family at Forest Lodge.

    Your Aunt Mimi was a precious unrepeatable jewel as was your Mother. Their energies are now dancing….and gales of laughter and mischief.

    Much love,
    Catherine

    8 December 2012

  3. Liz Matteson said

    The end of an era for sure! Beautifully expressed, Rob and Catherine! I feel immense gratitude for all that Aunt Mary and Aunt Mimi gifted our family and friends. We share the sweetness of memories (that include all of our senses) of Forest Lodge, Lake Namekagon, and Burgundy Point that are deeply etched in our beings!

  4. Rick said

    You captured it all, Rob. Wonder-fully expressed. Dear ones, all. For all time. Always.
    Much love to Mimi, and to us, and to you!

  5. susi said

    Wow, you really were there when Forest Lodge was in all its glory! I am sorry I never knew Aunt Mary – sounds like a wonderful lady – nor did I know the wonderful cows with the soft ears.. But FL was magical for me too, and I am glad that Caitlin and Sean were privileged to experience at least one of those fairy treasure hunts. Thank you, Robby, for capturing some of that great “era!”

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