Sunday, November 18, 2012


Today is my friend Peggy's birthday and I wanted her to know what a gift she is to me.
Peggy was the first southern person I ever met.  She was from DAHL-lus, TEX-US and she was friendly and funny and fun.  Art was of great interest to her and she always wanted to go to a museum, especially the Whitney or the Guggenheim just within walking distance of Finch.  I remember my joy the first time I saw Calder's Circus and spiraled my way up the ramps of the Guggenheim.  These were new areas of exploration for me and opened my eyes to contemporary and modern art.

After graduating from Finch I took my first trip ever to Texas and what an introduction I got!  My first bluegrass festival in Kerrville on what I eerily remember as the KKK Ranch (honest) and under the blazing hot sun in the wide open was an 8-ft table set-up where they were selling the cassettes of the bands that were playing over the three-day festival. I stood in line waiting patiently for my turn and when I got to the front, one of the two guys asked me, "What can we get fur you lit-tle LAY-dee?"

"i'd like to buy your tablecloth."

The guy turned to his partner and then back to me, "S'cuse me?"

"I'd like to buy this cloth that's covering your table."  It was a worn and unbound patchwork of small squares arranged in a diamond pattern.

This guy pushed back in his folding chair, took his cowboy hat off, wiped his sweating brow with his red bandana and said, "You wanna buy WHAT?" 

"I'd like to buy what you're using as a tablecloth — what will it cost?"

They looked at each other, leaned close to whisper back-and-forth, and then leaned back in his chair with a big wide grin and said, "TEN dollars" and without a moment's hesitation I reached into my bag, gave him a ten-dollar-bill and started clearing the table so I could claim my cloth.  The people in line behind me were looking and whispering but I had my prize.  Back in New York City, my friend Dan built a wooden frame, stretched and stapled my find to this large rectangular frame and then suspended it over my bed so when ever I was lying down I could stare up at the beauty of the pattern and see one after another of those stitched squares.

On that same trip Peggy introduced me to fried okra and Emma Randolph.   

I'd gotten interested in quilts and when I was living in Ohio had bought two patchwork tops that I wanted made into quilts.  

" I know someone who can do that." she told me with a smile, "Miz Randolph, she used to sew for our family."  And we went to visit Emma Randolph in her home with a garage that had been refitted as a sewing studio with some kind of loom or stretcher in the middle and open wooden floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with fabrics and quilts in various stages.  It was amazing.

Ms Randolph told me what supplies I'd need to buy and send her with the tops.  The two I'd bought in Ohio (for $6. each) were Log Cabin and Bear Claw and the patchwork I'd bought at the bluegrass festival was known as Trip Around the World or Sunshine and Shadow.  I asked if there was one I could buy of hers.

"Well, most of these are being made for my customers but I do have one you might like." and slowly she moved to one of the shelves, leafed through the stack and pulled out a patchwork of yellow and white.  "It's Wedding Ring and it was the first quilt top I ever made when I was eleven but I never finished it off and made it into a quilt."  

It was a quilt she'd lovingly stitched together piece by piece to make this intricate design with scraps of fabric from her clothes and her mother's sewing basket.  

Months later when she finished the quilt and sent it to me there on one corner she'd embroidered her name — there it was ... 

BORN 1893

I always wondered if she missed a letter in her name or if I had it wrong.  

I'm a hugger and a kisser. Peggy didn't like to be touched. When exuberance would overtake me I'd throw my arms around her and she'd stiffen up, giggle, and through her clenched smile say, "I don't do well with hugs."  and from then on I tried to remember to restrain myself whenever I felt the urge to embrace her. 

When Peggy and Dave got married it was a five-day extravaganza like I'd never seen.  There were brunches, lunches, cocktails and dinners.  A whirlwind of social activity that didn't seem to fit with the Peggy I knew — but it was Texas.

Just two years ago I went to visit Peggy in Texas for the first time in decades.  Her home was filled with art, art, and more art — wonderful art. There in my room was this little stack of boxes of Texas-style animal crackers — I thought it was an a small art installation until Peggy told me, "NO, those are for you to snack on!"

This is a gift Peggy gave me and this is what is typed in red on the back.

Woodcut print on rice paper

December, 1971

"The Gingerbread House"
by Peggy Flaxman, and a friend, whose name I have forgotten.
One other copy exists.

Its value is determined by all the effort and love which
went in to making the picture.  And there can be no value
placed on the love which it holds, as I share it with you.

I called her Pegatorie and today — especially on this birthday — I'm sending her good karma, best wishes, and a GREAT BIG hug filled with loads of love.

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