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309 as one might well imagine, mother was not a conventional mom. We children ­ were treated as ­ grown-­ ups, if not equals: free spirits, left to decide how far from the ground we chose to fly. We ­ were allowed to run in the rain without wrappers, pad about barefoot, and, following her lead, ­ skinny-­ dip. Discipline came from Daddy. For minor offenses, he would mostly shake his head at “Jane’s hooligans.” We ­ were expected, however, to be present at every celebration, of which there ­were many. I believe that through entertaining, Mother allowed herself to best express her joy. She was naturally shy, so celebrating others took the spotlight off her, and she did it all with her innate sense of style, grace, and humor. Mother celebrated everything you could think of and some we couldn’t imagine. She heralded in each spring with her Easter party in Houston. She could reconcile her love of entertaining and glorifying God in one fell swoop. Planning would begin with a guest list of twenty, “just family and a few friends.” The caterer was called, menus chosen, tables and chairs ordered. She busied herself writing personal notes to all invitees. Once the invitations ­were sent, we realized the guest list had tripled. Mother would always insist that she simply could not have left out ­ so-­ and-­ so. Brushing details aside, she would calmly return to her flower arranging, which she loved doing every year, and setting out the family linen for the tables. The troops rallied and lurched into high gear, once again contacting caterers and heaving another hundred colored eggs into the bushes. It was on one such Easter that half the guests munched on the chicken nuggets usually reserved for the children. Mother could never be persuaded to stop sending out those little handwritten invitations. Aside from the typical Easter, Christmas, May Day, and Halloween, there was the annual En­ glish-Speaking Union garden party. Mother always had an affinity for everything British: the history, the Queen, and Her Majesty’s consul general in Houston. As one of the founding members of the Houston En­ glishSpeaking Union, Mother felt it her duty to the Queen to entertain hundreds of Afterword life was to celebrate Anne Dale Owen 310 Afterword Anglophiles with the current consul general presiding.1 She once noted that the Queen never carried a purse. Of course not. The Queen, always surrounded by a battalion of loyal protectors, probably has a Guard of the Purse! Never questioning the logic, Mother became stuck on the idea. Happily free of purse, she proceeded around Houston for weeks, until she had to buy something or was stopped for driving erratically, with no visible sign of a license. If you had ever had the chance to meet my mother, you’d be prepared for her signature,­ extra-­ large brimmed hats, each designed by Mr. John to match her every outfit, including one for gardening.2 Stylish, yes, but while driving they acted like blinders, obliterating her peripheral vision. It was a miracle that she somehow survived Houston traffic with only the occasional ­ fender-­ bender. While being hatted and without a purse was a bad idea in Houston, she blithely continued this practice in New Harmony, where everyone knew her and gave her a wide berth when she was out in her golf cart. Another annual event or grand excuse for a party was to put the property on show for the River Oaks Garden Club of Houston Azalea Trail. Hundreds of strangers would pile through the ­ house and tromp through the garden for several weekends. It seemed longer to me. Mother, however, was in her element; she greeted many and gave a select few a personal tour through the property. A­self-­taught gardener, she took every opportunity to put spade to earth. Begrudgingly , she permitted others the larger jobs. While she planted and prepared her garden beautifully, she con­ ve­ niently forgot the subsequent mess; inevitably, grass had to be replanted, and floors resealed and buffed. Mother, ever ebullient, never tired of her garden or reading the hundreds of handwritten notes of praise. I can’t remember the lucky beneficiary for whom Mother had planned a per­ for­mance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in our garden, but I do recall running around impaling the soft earth with hundreds of lanterns so the actors could see to perform on a moonless night. I then quickly retreated to Daddy’s bedroom...


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