Finger Bowls

August 9, 2013

They say “whatever goes around comes around”….meaning comes back….but I do not think Finger Bowls will ever come back……

I was introduced to them at my Grand Aunt’s (she was not a blood relative but took in my Father and my Uncle on my grandparents (Matteson) demise in a car accident…the one where the chauffeur driven car slammed into a Gas Truck that had to suddenly stop due to a downed electric line on the highway…and were burned to death in a fire ball (well grandfather lived a few days). during a rain storm in Florida where they wintered..

Father was a Sophomore at Carleton College and Uncle Sumner was a Junior at Saint Paul Academy….

so Uncle Sumner grew up with Aunt Mary and Aunt Mimi while my Dad was at college…

Mom though had been Aunt Mimi’s Best friend since very early childhood…and attended the unbelievable parties that Aunt Mary threw for her daughter…there are pictures of Mom at the circus that was put in the back yard of their house at 432 Summit Avenue..and I think that Aunt Mary filmed it…(she was Sooo into moving pictures…owned a lot of Kodak stock..and was one of the Major stockholders in Polaroid back when it started)

Aunt Mary gave Mom and Dad as a wedding present our summer house on Burgundy Point overlooking Lake Namekagon …12 acres at the end of a peninsula ……our dirt driveway was a mile in from the main rural road……and there was NO ONE around for miles….except the Bobynn – which Al Capone’s guys use to summer at …but I have already talked about that….

Forest Lodge was Aunt Mary’s father’s hunting lodge….(they also lived in Palm Beach Florida and St Paul in an unbelieveable “Mansion”…that was a bit too dark on the outside for me as it looked like the house in “Bates Motel”…..but once inside it was quietly Elegant …walls imported from some chateau in France….woodworked balustrades carved by the local convicts (yes Bobby I hope they were paid…but am sure they weren’t back then)…had a marble ballroom in the basement….with an underground passageway to the Chauffeur’s quarters…it was the first house that I had been in that had an elevator……

Aunt Mary married Theodore Griggs…but was a Livingston…an old monied family from England….she had more money than her husband….

at Forest Lodge hanging on one of the logged walls was a plot map of all the property that the king (?) had given the Livingstons when they settled in the New World…..it is basically most of NY state….

Aunt Mary was one of the most Magically Creative – and very Impressive women in my life…..as she had absolutely no airs…she was wealthy (she never knew anything else …as all children don’t until later in life) …as did her daughter Aunt Mimi…….

Aunt Mary GAVE SO so much to people..to the local people …to her help she provided a house with salary on their retirement…

.to our whole family growing up…and by giving I do not mean money…..

what she gave us was the belief in Magic…of the fairies that lived near the old tree stump….that was outside of Aunt Mimi’s bedroom….(and you have to envision Forest Lodge being TOTALY built of TOTAL logs…that went from the outside of the house to the inside….(Forest Lodge had been originally built as a logging camp)

as children she every summer had a treasure hunt for us through her pachysandra …you would follow a string and find…some wonderful object…from Tiffany…or a Meissen figurine…..

I should preface this by saying she gave the only Library to Cable Wisconsin…the nearest town..300 population…she was influential in getting the local girls scouts to act in her early films….

Forest Lodge was given to the State of Wisconsin on Aunt Mimi’s death (last winter)…to be preserved forever for the public…think she had 300 acres……

Forest Lodge (an American Downton Abbey)…. had the first tennis court (clay) that I was ever exposed to once my Kodak mind snapped open……all those years ago…

…two vegetable gardens and a flower garden…

a dairy where they created the BEST milk and cream I have Ever had….

the cream was so thick you had to ladle it out of the pitcher to put it on your cereal….

the cows they had Aunt Mary had imported from Switzerland…they were brown and had the softest of ears…all had names…Tony the head man…in charge of the property…would take them up to the Upper Pasture in the morning to graze…and then bring them down to the lower pasture near the chauffeur’s quarters to spend the night…and be milked..(or maybe they were milked in the AM)……

Tony lived in an unbelievably Wonderful logged house near the upper vegetable garden ..where there were also 2 Green Houses…. next to the tennis court…

there was a meticulously cut bowling green down at the Lake…that looked toward the 2 storied log boat house..with this wonderful wooden deck around that we would always sun ourselves on…after swimming ……(the picture on my blog is from the top of the boathouse)….in the boat house she had two slips for boats….with the old wooden doors you had to crank up……and an upper and lower rack of canoes…one was even made of birch bark….

it had such a wonderful wood/water scent…and the windows looking in were made of that early glass that had swirls in it….wonderfully imperfect

and on the top of the boathouse was a room…with TOTAL Windows all around …(the crank type)..with a deck around the whole outside…… it overlooked in all directions the lake…

here was where Aunt Mary painted and made collages (like so many well to do Victorians did once)…out of sea shells….

the top of the boat house we would have cocktails in as the sun set beyond the “Big Island”….(which my grandmother (my mum’s mum) doctor owned..) before Hildy rang the bell to come up for dinner…..annually it would be for my Wonderful dear sister Lizzie’s birthday…as she was born August 11th…..

the dining room at Forest Lodge …was all log walls…with plaster or whatever that white stuff is in between them is called……stuffed owls and eagles looking down at you as you ate (the living room had wildcat and bear skins)..

the dining table was a solid piece of wood…like 20 feet long…could seat easily 14..or maybe 16…..the courses were simple…a soup or salad course followed by the main course …and all the produce was from her gardens…meat was brought in from St Paul…fish from Lake Superior….linen placemats and napkins..and silver by Tiffany (she had Tiffany make the child size silver for Aunt Mimi’s doll house that was a TOTALLY magical house way out in the Forest)….

and THEN came the finger bowls…when I FIRST was introduced to them…I thought it was a soup…it was in a cut crystal bowl …..with a flower floating on top…
but at the table you NEVER did anything BEFORE Aunt Mary did…so we would wait….to eat…on this occasion…she simply put her fingers into the bowl as she was talking to my Father..then wiped them on her napkin……..

I realized it was NOT soup…………………….

and then would come some absolutely drop dead delicious pie – her cooks the Fraille (sp?) sisters had made …topped with the rich Ice Cream Tony had made that day in her dairy……

ahh….Finger Bowls……I will Never Forget You!!!!!

One Response to “Finger Bowls”

  1. xxR:

    Yes. I was there. I witnessed your Mother and your Aunt Mimi as the two girls they were when they met.Decades of the long and weighted winding road of life vanished when they were together.

    Four weeks after our fateful/forever meeting, your Mother invited me to come up North with her and I could bring Simon, my B+W English Springer Spaniel. She then called back and said: “Oh do bring dresses for each meal is formal…” So my vision of REI gear was shifted into an unknown world that I would enter: magical.

    Of course, there was a a guarded persona practiced by your Aunt Mimi when we were first introduced at the formal dinner the evening we arrived. I asked a question, a brave question that would pierce the propriety and moat of a sensitive person. A question of how they began to laugh together and discover their friendship. They began like a dormant volcano to set off waves of i9nternal moments of memories which in an hour was an overwhelming cascading flow of rollicking laughter.The next few days were not only visions of a fairytale land where beauty winks and takes your breath away, but an authentic connection of three women revealing the magic of revelation.

    I will never forget being annointed as friend in this world of generosity where wealth was not used as a haughty, social status of ranking, but an invitation to what dreams are made of.

    As your Mother and my beloved friend Jane would say: “Thrilling!”

    Love,
    Catherine

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