Monday, November 26, 2012

Of Memories and Milestones

My mom, Ruth, in a 1945 publication
of the Caltech newsletter
Had she not succumbed to breast cancer in 1998 at the age of 83, my mother, Ruth Lucile Tobler, would have been 98 years old yesterday. Her two younger brothers are in their mid-90s now and are still thriving independently. Their mother, my grandmother, Hester Angeline Myers, lived to be 93, so I’m hoping all that hardiness bodes well for my own longevity.

Mom was a fashion icon of unpretentious origin. At 5’ 6", she was a bit taller than me with a stunning figure. Preferring to be known for her intellect rather than her measurements, Mom kept her nose deep in books all through college, wrote beautiful poetry, and during WWII took a job as a civilian draftsman at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, drawing blueprints for top secret Navy weaponry. Yet despite her scholarly yearnings, Mom was soon referred to as "The Body" by her fellow draftsmen at Caltech. She met my father in 1950 while posing as an artist’s model at a Los Angeles gallery (my father was a photographer and painter). So much for that known-for-her-intellect strategy.

It didn’t hurt my mom’s innate sense of style that my grandmother was a talented seamstress who made all my mother’s clothes. For most of Mom's formative years, my maternal grandparents lived with their three young children in modest quarters above desolate railroad stations up and down the California desert in the early 1900s, with only a sewing machine for entertainment. Assisting my grandfather in his duties as stationmaster for Southern Pacific Railroad, my grandmother worked as his ticket agent, often having to sweep rattlesnakes off the platform before the afternoon train pulled into the station. As a youngster, my mom would pick out dress patterns from a Sears catalog. My grandmother then sent away for fabric and buttons. When the packages arrived by train, Grandma would make matching outfits for my mother and two of her childhood friends. I come honestly by my affinity for fashion.

My mother wrote this poem in 1928
when she was 14 years old as a class
assignment in Palm Springs, California 
Throughout my own childhood my grandmother made outfits for me, too. I have blogged about some of them in the past (see "A Hepburn Sensibility", and "Cinco de Mayo"). Even after a stroke in 1978 left one of Grandma’s arms paralyzed, she used the stiffened arm to push fabric through her trusty Pfaff sewing machine, one of three she owned.

Mom was possessed of an eternal wanderlust, if only in her imagination. She dreamed of exotic places she’d visit and often traveled to them in her beloved books, but in life never ventured far beyond her home county in the San Francisco Bay Area where we lived. A huge fan of Carl Sagan, Mom told me once that she so longed for new realms to explore that if space aliens landed in her backyard and invited her to accompany them to some distant planet, she would leave this earth and go off with them "in a heartbeat", so intrigued was she by what else was out there to discover.

I did some modeling in Hawaii in 1991
I’d like to think I inherited a tiny bit of my mother’s wit and wisdom. She was eloquent, an amazing intellect and a lifelong learner whom I’ve tried to emulate in my day-to-day musings on Lynell’s Vintage Look. It was in celebration of my recent 70-pound weight loss and a serendipitous discovery of some vintage clothing in my cellar that I launched this vintage fashion blog one year ago this month. And having recently surpassed 10,000 page-views, a feat I never expected to achieve in one year’s time, I have to say that this blog has far exceeded my expectations.  In fact, just today I received word that Lucky fashion magazine has selected several of my blog posts to publish in their online edition (Luckymag Posts).

I’ve had so much fun putting outfits together and then writing about them! At the outset I imagined I would try writing a blog for a year and then decide whether to continue. Right now I can tell you that I have no desire to give up this creative outlet which spurs me to think about every-day occurrences in totally new ways.

I’ve now written about almost all of the clothes I own, vintage or otherwise. So look for different topics in some of my coming posts, as I explore in more depth other subjects, like cooking, gardening and decorating, which also appeal to me. I’d like to think my mom (and my grandmother) would be pleased with what I’ve done with my mutual loves of fashion and writing. I’d like to think my mom would be a fan of my blog. No doubt she’d be urging me to explore new ambits, even if I, personally, would not be first in line to board an alien spacecraft on my lawn.

Thank you, dear readers, for supporting me in this wild and wonderful venture out of my comfort zone and into the public realm. I shall strive to continue providing you with an entertaining look at my fashion choices and quirky reflections on life, home and the change of seasons. I believe Mom would be proud.

1 comment:

  1. And thank you, again! I look forward to another fun and fascinating year. Best, Peg