- Mandie Roberts
I was vacuuming my Ikea oriental rug this morning, when the light crept in from the kitchen window, past the partially dead herbs I can't seem to grow and hit my cameo of Martha Washington I have on my stove; ironically enough from my own grandma Martha.
(my living room, a smaller painting of Martha's, a claddagh mug from Eleanor)
It got me thinking when I looked around my home and at my life. Even at my photography. So much of how my grandmothers and great grandmothers inspired me is in my every day life. Little bits of their aesthetic have found their way into my own business and into my home. There is something about the way I used to watch my Nama dress her dining table for her massive parties (where my sister and I were recruited to be servers) or the way she always has a love and way with florals. It is also the way my Nama McElroy would put a kitchen table outdoors when it was summer for family dinners and I would snub all the food but the salad and bread. Always with a pug or two at her feet. These are seem like mundane things but when you are a little girl table high, it all felt magical.
(a vase of tulips at Martha's home in South Carolina and her pug Claire)
I am lucky. I grew up having met every single one of my Great Grandparents too. I have a Great Grandmother who just turned 100. All of my grandparents today are alive and I talk to them as much as I can, because I hold them so near and dear to my heart for shaping me to be who I am, and who I raise my own kids to be. I tear up writing this because my biggest fear has always been losing them and a world without them just doesn't make sense.
(bits and bobs of my own home)
I do not know why I am always living in the past. It was a slower time. People focused on books and nature and actually spending quality time together without screens. I used to run wild in the woods, setting up tee pees besides the Barrington bridge. Or ride bikes with my friends until the streetlights came on. This spirit, this way of life, is how I want to raise my own kids.
My grandma Martha is your aesthetically typical New England, coastal, antique, shaker furniture loving bad ass. She is a homemaker like no other but also an insanely talented artist. I think her style was most influential on my perception of art and decor and my appreciation for being from a family of Patriots, militiamen, puritans. New England quakers had a style about them that still sticks to this day; mostly primitive and simplistic design with splashes of colonial colors. When I visited my Aunt Susan in her historical cottage in New Hampshire last fall, she had the same sense of style. I always loved going to my Aunt Susan's farm house in Massachussetts as a kid. We would go play in the pond, eat outside at the table, swing in the infamous hammock and giggle at her vibrant fish decorations.
(Pip at Aunt Susan's New Hampshire home)
Just because I have this weird sense of Quaker style doesn't mean my grandma Eleanor doesn't trickle in too. Anything Belleek or Irish in my home is most likely from her. Nama lived in the same big house in Massachussettes for twenty five years, most of my life. Before they moved into a smaller apartment, I remember trying to memorize every nook and cranny of that house. It was home. We would sit by the fire at Christmas with our new gifts, unwrap hot weiners from Eats at her kitchen table, and always give the babies baths in her kitchen sink. Eleanor is one of those perfect grandmas who irons pillowcases and buys really expensive sheets and has lamps in every bathroom. Most of all, she inspired me to incorporate our ancestors into our lives by hanging them on the walls- even if half of them were creepy Catholic nuns. El also always has a small dog at her feet and spoils me with Starbucks, so I can blame her for the hit on my bank account for coffee as well.
(1990's me in one of the mowed "avenues" of Aunt Susan's farmhouse yard)
Grandmothers are the wisest women in the world. They have loved and lost, they have raised children and helped with grandchildren. They know the stories of our families and the world before us. They always have the best recipes and best advice. So if you still have your grandma with you today, call them and tell them you love them. Because you will one day probably turn into them and wonder how it happened.
(Martha, left. Eleanor, right)
If you sense an old spirit in my photography and feel like you could curl up on my couch and never want to leave when you are at my home; you can thank Martha, Eleanor, Madelyn, Harriet, Fran, Eleanor Turner; I only want to be as cool as they are and were.