Saturday, April 21, 2012

Belle Mère



She was artistic, a really good cook, knowledgeable about birds and plants, and a bacteriologist who discovered a promising antibiotic during World War II. (Her bosses took the credit.)

She could sew just about anything, put an earthworm on a fishing hook, dress like a million bucks, navigate effortlessly in foreign countries, and decorate a room so it was memorable and always pretty.

When our child was having difficulty with the Periodic Table in Science class, she said, "Clearly, her teachers aren't teaching it right."

Advocate. Friend. Mother to me longer than my own mother was.

U of I grad. Southern Illinois girl. Wise in the ways of the stock market.

I have always admired those whose left and right brains work at full speed.

That was our Betty, whom we lost on Thursday.

Mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. My mother-in-law, or belle-mère, as they say in France.

I will admit she was intimidating at first. She was dignified and formal. It would take time to figure out this independent and elegant woman. Detente was achieved just about the time we produced daughters on whom she could lavish love and attention. And time.

She went horseback riding with us in the Smoky Mountains. She spent a lifetime weekend taking our eldest on every amusement park ride in Dollywood. She sewed clothes for the girls that were so sweet, people would stop me on the street and ask where I'd bought them. She loved Savannah's spring tour of homes and invited me each year to inhale these historic and gorgeously decorated houses with her.

She gave the greatest birthday gifts. And Christmas gifts. She was an expert shopper with a keen and discerning eye. She would tell the story of her "Piaget" watch (purchased on a street in Bangkok) that needed repair, so she had to drive at least an hour away to an anonymous jeweler who wouldn't blab about its real pedigree.

She could refinish chairs and tables and dressers. She arranged odds and ends from her yard into magnificent centerpieces. She designed every aspect of her home in Savannah, right down to the wood applique on the fireplace mantel, while laid up with a broken ankle.

Betty taught me how to quilt, and how to persevere.

I am grateful for the lessons. I will miss the teacher very much.


Betty's 90th birthday
Feb. 10, 2012
Savannah, GA



13 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful tribute, Cuz!!!!

Johanna said...

Tears in my eyes (again) after reading your beautiful and, oh so true, loving words about Mom. More than anything in the whole world, she loved her family.

Anonymous said...

Hugh and I are so sorry to hear this. You and your family are in our thoughts and prayers.
Vicki Beattie

Nancy said...

Betty was indeed remarkable. She even helped us quilt the angel banners at Knox. I will never forget her and am pleased I had the pleasure to know her. Our love and prayers to all of the Johnpeter clan.

Pondside said...

That was a lovely tribute to your Belle Mere. Such a relationship is such a gift to the whole family - she must have been a wise woman.

Char said...

Such a wonderful tribute--she must be smiling down from heaven. How lucky you all were to have each other. I know you will miss her, dearly. Love to the whole family.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely tribute. We are truly sorry about the loss of dear Betty. We are thinking of you all and send hugs.
Kevin

Judy Bigg said...

Nice tribute to Betty. I did read your profile and liked how you said you left Atlanta by way of Kansas City and St. Louis to move to Naperville. I left Southern Illinois (Mounds)by way of Southeast Missouri (Cape Girardeau)to Clinton, MO near Kansas City. I do love travel and adventure so day trips are fun and exciting.

Betshy said...

How special this was! Your whole family is in our thoughts and prayers. May Betty's memory be eternal.

Alison said...

Sue, your words bring back fond memories of Mrs. JP in the 1960's. My mother says she remembers her good friend from Crestway Drive well, and she is sorry to hear the news as well. We are thinking of you, Charlie, Johanna, and Sarah.

Alison & Steve Johnson, with Betty Harvey

Jenny said...

Wow... What a wonderful woman!

I am sorry about your loss but know that she will always remain a part of your life...

Through the things she taught you...

Hang in there, I am pulling for you...

Carol said...

Condolences to you and your family. I think your Belle Mere would have approved highly of that lovely essay you have written about her. She sounds like she was a remarkable lady.

anitamombanita said...

Thanks for stopping by. She sounds like an amazing woman. We all need those in our lives.

I'm way behind on my blog reading since I'm in Patagonia, but will catch up once we get back to the states. Meanwhile, wonderful post!