Over the school loudspeaker (we’re talking 1962 high-tech), the broadcast would come…”Merrill, come to the principal’s office now!” Not always a good omen, but fortunately most of the time it was my mother waiting for me in the office. Bebe, as my mother was affectionately known, had a penchant for pulling me out of school often, just like Auntie Mame, it was her way of “dealing” with life. She would tell the school principal she had a family matter to attend to…The family matter was shopping for plunder for the Kennedy White House .
Bebe had a style and elegance she inherited from her mother that flowed with classical ease. Along with various other textile manufacturers in and around the South, she was on the fundraising and acquisitions committee for the Kennedy White House. Dressed in her Montaldo or Chanel, a pill box hat, kid gloves, and an oyster colored ostrich bag and matching shoes, she would toss my books in the back of her custom-ordered blue Imperial with silver leather seats and jet set off to wherever there were items to investigate.
With all her style, she was never afraid to seek out a tiny town in Virginia or North Carolina to inspect a piece that may be suitable. Dressed to the nines, she would rough it through warehouses and dusty shops, and with her Georgia manners and voice, seduce the owner into either giving the item to the project or making a grand price for purchase. This could go on for days or even a week. When it came to me, she always said “Schools have books and they can be read anytime!”-Auntie Mame’s motto.
We were best friends and I was the sponge to any culture that she openly and patiently exposed to me. Fabrics, antiques, wood, period design and most importantly understanding style. Our shopping trips continued even after I started my design business at the age of 21. She would go with me to many locations and help shove a chest in a van, haul an oversize box or give me her seasoned opinion. We had a blessed life together and she truly gave me all I know today in so many ways .
I love you and miss you Mom,
Happy Mother’s Day