Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Rest & Recreation’ Category

How Green Was My Garden

June 9, 2016

Susan Marg

In my last post, I took exception to an article blaming British baby boomers for their children forsaking gardening. I still stand by my point that each generation is different from every other generation, but I also note that certain interests and talents are passed along. A case in point: the pleasure I get from taking care of the garden I certainly got from my father.

a_0000029AWhen I was a young girl, my father spent his free time in the backyard planting and weeding. He grew beautiful roses and peonies, placing cucumbers among the flowers, so they would not be noticeable. He cultivated tomatoes on the far side of the detached garage, frequently checking on them, as they turned from green to red and ripe.

I recently went back to the family history my husband and I had written for my parents’ anniversary to see what we had said about my father’s favorite pursuit. My mother remembered that he “spent from early spring to late fall out in the yard blissfully gardening.” I recollected a few incidents, including one spring, long after I had left home, when he had discovered that a migrating bird had laid her eggs in one of his larger flower pots. What could he do, despite his lack of patience, but wait for the ducklings to hatch and fly the coop? My dad, a hardworking businessman, never mentioned his outdoor activities at all.

Do you spend your time in the garden? Do you have a favorite flower? What about your parents? Why not write about it? As English author P.G. Wodehouse remarked, “Flowers are happy things.” And they bring back wonderful memories.

© 2016 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

May 26, 2016

Susan Marg

A recent article from The Times, a British daily newspaper, deplores the state of the English garden. It seems that younger generations have never learned the joy of weeding and planting. Their gardens, if a patio or barbeque pit hasn’t replaced them, are neglected. A spokesperson for the Royal Horticultural Society is quite concerned about the situation, as well she should be.

Photo in public domain.

Photo in public domain.

English gardens have a long and illustrious tradition. Landscape gardens, designed to represent an idyllic pastoral environment, date back to the early eighteenth century. They incorporate rolling hills, green grass, possibly a lake, and a scattering of classic structures, such as bridges and sculpture.

Cottage gardens, hosting vegetables and herbs, as well as flowers and perhaps a beehive and some livestock, originated even earlier, dating from Elizabethan times. Over the centuries they became more decorative than practical, informal rather than structured, and populated the countryside. Roses tied to wooden trellises were a common sight. Honeysuckle added its sweet scent to the mix.

Why are English gardens dying out? One explanation is that renters, rather than owners, don’t invest in the property where they reside, and there are a lot of renters these days. Another explanation put forth in the article from The Times lays the blame squarely on baby boomers for their failure to teach their children, now in their twenties, thirties, and forties, to nurture nature. “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade,” wrote Rudyard Kipling.

Still, why blame baby boomers, if a drive in the country isn’t what it used to be? I maintain that each generation, shaped by the social, cultural, and political events that occur in its lifetime. is different from every other generation. We shouldn’t forget what made us who we are, but the past shouldn’t dictate who we become.

© 2016 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved

Oh, What a Doll!

December 14, 2014

Susan Marg

You can buy a Madame Alexander doll wherever fine toys are sold. Saks Fifth Avenue, for example, has a wide selection from babies to ballerinas, including Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious Cloth Dolls. Or, you can buy a vintage Madame Alexander doll on E-Bay.

A Russian Madame Alexander doll from the International Series. Photo by: Jennie Ivins

A Russian Madame Alexander doll from the International Series. Photo by: Jennie Ivins

Beatrice Alexander, the founder and namesake of the doll company, began her business from her kitchen table in Brooklyn, New York in 1923. The daughter of Russian immigrants, she learned her craft by the side of her father who operated the first-of-its-kind doll hospital.

Initially the Madame Alexander Dolls were homemade from cloth, but the business soon expanded. In the 1930s, Alexander added lifelike details. With synthetics introduced in the 1940s, she began using plastic to create vinyl heads and hair that could be styled.

In the 1950s advertisements touted various models:

Madeline – fully jointed at wrist, shoulder, hip and knee for pretty posing.

Kate Smith’s Annabelle – with the pixie look.

Rosebud – soft plastic baby with voice and moving eyes.

Maggie Walker – walks where you lead her.

Dryper Baby Doll – let her drink, change her real Dryper pantie pad insert.

Alexander believed that dolls could be used to educate and created collections based on historic events, literature, music, art and film. Some of the well-known personages on whom she based her designs include Jacqueline Kennedy, Coco Chanel, the Dionne Quintuplets, and Queen Elizabeth and her daughters (at the royal family’s request). A Scarlett O’Hara doll is housed at the Smithsonian.

My mother received a Madame Alexander doll on her eighth or ninth birthday. It was the height of the depression, so my mother wonders how her parents had the money for such a wonderful gift. She still exclaims, “Oh, such a beautiful doll.”

As a personal historian I believe a favorite plaything can fill a sleigh with happy memories. What are some of yours?

© 2014 Susan Marg – All Rights Reserved