Saturday, August 17, 2013

Remembering Frank...

Two days ago, on the 15th of August, a dear and beloved friend died. How can I begin to describe Frank Southerington? He was not a big man - slight in frame - but with a personality and an intellect that rose high above those around him, no matter their own stature.  Frank came to teach at Mary Baldwin College in 1968 and I am still amazed that a small, albeit extremely well-respected, private women's college in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia was able to secure an English, Oxford-educated Ph.D. who, amongst other things, was considered one of the preeminent experts in the study of Thomas Hardy and August Strindberg. But Frank wasn't full of himself nor did he pass himself off as anything other than a wonderful man with a great love of humour, friends, cigarettes and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. And he drew to him students and faculty alike who loved to be with him. 

I first met Frank in 1968 shortly after his arrival to teach at Mary Baldwin. He and my parents became fast friends and Frank was often a guest in our house. I can't believe he would have been just 30 when I first met him. As I said before, he was slight, with blonde hair and bright, happy eyes and he had an infectious smile. I got to know him better, as a dear friend, over the years. I remember attending the wedding when he married the lovely Terry, who went on to become a professor of theatre at Mary Baldwin. And we continued our friendship as we worked on theatrical productions together. I was one of many in the cast when he directed Strindberg's 'A Dream Play' and I can't remember a play I did when he wasn't involved somehow. During my years as an MBC student, my time spent with them was more frequent as we gathered at the house after rehearsals or performances of the various productions often directed by Frank or by Terry. At Oak Grove, I was Miss Prism to his Dr. Chasuble in a production of 'The Importance of Being Ernest' and, to my great joy, Frank fulfilled my dream of 'doing Shakespeare' when he cast me as Helena in a production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' my senior year at MBC. Twenty-odd years later, I was moved to tears when he and Terry played opposite each other in a production of 'Shadowlands.' 

Frank and Terry welcomed students, faculty, and theatre friends into their home for countless parties and evenings of just sitting and talking and sharing wit and wisdom amongst the many cats with whom they shared their house. They were a huge part of the college experience for anyone who was involved in theatre or literature and I know there were students from all the other disciplines who counted Frank and Terry amongst their most beloved friends. My parents, my sister and I were often guests in their home for an impromptu gathering and much merriment always ensued. Their Christmas parties were the stuff of legend.

In addition to the many cats (how many of us in the Staunton area at some point owned a 'Southerington kitten'?) who wandered in and out of the house on Coalter Street, Frank and Terry had three wonderful children - Paul, Jennifer and Margaret. One memory that stands out in my mind is Frank laughing to the point of tears when Paul dove into his first birthday cake face first, coming back up for air with his face covered in homemade chocolate frosting. I think it took several minutes for Frank to catch his breath again. There are so many memories I hold dear - playing darts, talking about anything and everything, square dancing at Pennyroyal Farm in the old days, the Christmas parties, cast parties. So many memories I hold so dear.

The news of Frank's death came through Facebook, through the Mary Baldwin College page. And the news spread quickly. Soon, conversations were taking place amongst those who had once shared in Frank and Terry's unending hospitality  - all of us wishing desperately that we could turn back time and find ourselves once more with Frank and Terry, once more in the comfort of their home on Coalter Street, once more surrounding him and Terry with our undying friendship and love.

Frank's health suffered in his final years. When I was back in the States in 2008-2010, I didn't see very much of Frank and Terry. His health kept him home most of the time and I, unfortunately, was not at my happiest at the time. But I remember so well one evening at Oak Grove - the theatre where we had been so often together - he and Terry arrived in the area where the actors and crew hang out before the show. As I emerged from the makeup area, I heard a voice say, 'There's the person I want to see.' And there was Frank, looking at me with a huge smile and I gave him the tightest hug I could muster. He was much smaller than I remembered, age and illness having taken a toll on him. But the smile was as bright and the eyes as sparkling as ever. 

I think sometimes we aren't even aware of how much we love people, how big a place in our hearts they occupy, until we hear that they are gone forever. I exchanged messages with his eldest daughter, Anna, who was born to Frank and his first wife. I got to know Anna when she came over to Virginia from Sweden for high school and college. Anna lives in Stockholm, so we shared the hardship of being away from our fathers when the time came to say goodbye. I shared with her my hope and wish that my father and hers are happily together again in the afterlife - having a smoke and a drink and enjoying each other's company again. Anna said the pile of used tissues beside her was growing. I remember that feeling well. As she said, the thought of never hearing his voice again was hard to fathom. I think it is hard for all of us who loved him to fathom that. 

Frank turned 75 last month and I had planned to send a card. Instead, I was distracted by a pressing health crisis here. How much I regret not having sent a card - just to remind Frank that he was and always will be one of my dearest friends. Frank was a part of my life - one way or another - for 45 years. That's a long time. But a time made better by his presence in it.

'For in the sleep of death what dreams may come.'
                                                          
Dream sweet, Frank, 'and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.'

(Both quotations are from Hamlet - Frank was a great Shakespearean scholar as well.)

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Catching up...

I know it is has been far too long since my last post here. We have been very busy. I just finished with a three-day event at the Aultbea Arts and Craft Fair. It was a good time and I've become more familiar with so many of the lovely ladies who live in this area. I sold one of my beautiful sets - a pink sapphire pendant with matching earrings - to a lady who will be giving it to her soon-to-be daughter-in-law. It makes me so happy to know that they will be presented to celebrate such a lovely occasion. A pair of copper and malachite earrings will be living somewhere in southern Austria now. It is so much fun to think about where in the world my jewellery can be found. I don't seem to be getting as many hits on the websites from across the world as I used to, but still. As long as I continue to love making the jewellery and as long as people continue to buy it, I'm happy. My table is looking better and I have a few little adjustments to make and then I may just stop trying to improve it. I think it is looking quite good now and people do stop and comment to me about my table, so I must be doing something right. Here is a photograph of my table as it looked at the Arts and Crafts Fair. 



My jewellery has now appeared in Harper's Bazaar and Aspire magazine, in addition to Tatler. I'm so pleased. I almost missed my appearance in HB because the space was so much larger than I thought it would be. The earrings that will appear in October's issue of UK Vogue have already been photographed and the design approved. I had a creative buzz the other night and created two more pairs of earrings for the November and December issues. I will try to get those photographed this week so I can get the photos off to my contact in London. So exciting.

But, our biggest news is that we are moving again. I know, you are all shaking your heads in disbelief, but I must explain. This Wednesday I have an appointment in Inverness to be fitted for a wheelchair. The pain that I experience and the affect it has on my mobility has increased to the point that I need a wheelchair some of the time. The Bothie does not have the correct set-up outside for a ramp. The size of the hallway and the doors will not accommodate a wheelchair. We were very lucky that someone just happened to mention to Chris about a lovely house that is in the village of Aultbea (as opposed to where we are outside of Aultbea). The house is beautiful and has been completed refurbished on the inside, so meets all the specifications for wheelchair accessibility. We couldn't be happier. The house will be perfect, too, as Caroline and Catherine are moving in with us on the 3rd of September to stay a for a little while until Caroline can get settled again. So, as of September 1st, we will be living in a lovely little house in Aultbea. We have enjoyed our time at the Bothie, but we need the easy access of large halls and doorways so I can be as independent as possible.

I've recorded six of my radio programmes and will be recording two more this coming Friday and then more the following week. I am told they have been very well received. I missed two of them because we were going through a small health crisis with Chris (all is fine, crisis is no more). I was thrilled that the gentleman I've been working with was able to burn CDs for the two programmes I missed. I am going to try to convert them to files so I can send them to my mother. I know she would love to hear them.

Now, I have finally taken a photograph to share here that I've been meaning to share for such a long time. Our drive to Gairloch from here takes us through some beautiful countryside - from lush riverbeds to desolate moorland. One of my favourite views along the way is looking down to Loch Maree with Slioch (a hill, the name meaning 'spear') rising to the left. One day last week, when it was particularly beautiful, Chris stopped and I was able to get this photograph from the car. I love this view and it is beautiful year round. In the winter, with the snow on the hills, it is equally gorgeous. So, finally and at last, here is the view.


So, that's all for this time. I may not have the time or opportunity to write again before our move in three weeks' time. But I will be back as soon as I am able.

Don't forget to look at my website, www.ailleasdesigns.com to see my latest designs in sterling silver and luxurious gemstones. For bronze and copper jewellery that is a little less dressy (and less expensive), be sure to look at my site for bronze and copper jewellery art, www.selkieshaunt.com. I am having a good year so far, and I hope it will continue.

Until next time, Slainte mhor agus a h-uile beannachd duibh (great health and every good blessing to you).