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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Lucy


Many years ago, when I was a working weaver, I did a Michigan Guild show in Greektown, Detroit. One of those arrive at 4 am Saturday morning shows, wait for the committee to come by, marking off booths. Set up, vans off the street by nine, show runs from ten to seven. 

I stood beside my van, waiting, and a small woman came by with a broom, sweeping the dirt and pebbles away from the curb, into the middle of the road. “That’s very nice,” I said, thinking perhaps the Guild had hired her to do this. Soft southern tones came back, “I did where I think I’ll be and I thought you all could use a clean place, too.” That’s where I met Lucy.

She came back toward the end of the first day and asked if I’d booked a motel room. She always trusted to luck the first night, she told me, hoping to find a friend to bunk with. I took her back to my motel, and my long friendship with Lucy was begun.

Lucy was a retired math teacher. The height of her career covered a time when schools were meant for learning, and she had “what for” for the young ‘uns who were not so dumb as they wanted her to believe. Her husband was a retired college professor; she had three grown children, two sons and a daughter, two daughters-in-law, a son-in-law, grandsons a granddaughter.

Lucy also had a knack for designing and making hand puppets and bringing stories about them to life. Actually, she was good at several crafts, including weaving, but it was the puppets, and later the plush toys that became a business. Eventually her sons quit their jobs to buy the plush fabrics, manage her little shop and three sewers and provide enough inventory to keep Lucy on the road several months a year, at fairs.

Everything about Lucy was a marvel. She was ten years older than me, drove a van as big as mine, and pulled a trailer. With the trailer and van packed full she’d leave Anniston, Alabama for three months at a time. She did shows I barely knew of, in Texas, Oklahoma, St. Louis. She’d head on up into the Midwest, where I met her in Michigan. We did shows together, and roomed together, in Virginia, New York, New Jersey, the Carolina's…..

In those days before phones were common, if Lucy ever would have used one, when I’d check into a show the next thing I’d ask, “Is Lucy here?” Soon, they just told me Lucy already was there.  She set up a ten by twenty foot booth, constructed of two foot by six foot metal frames, gridded two by two inches. They were heavy. After she had all the uprights together, she and her two foot step stool constructed a ceiling of more frames, where extra big chair sized toys were stored.

When she was done setting up Lucy would appear, saying “Honey, I am so grateful I don’t have to unhitch that trailer to get to bed tonight.”

Lucy’s sons did all the booking of her shows, Lucy did all the selling. As the years went on, and Lucy’s hair turned from grey to white, her sons developed a probably well placed apprehension of the sorts of motels I booked. They were cheap, and Lucy didn’t care. 

Lucy loved to tell stories, and probably repeated a couple too many back in Anniston. Like the morning she faced down a desk clerk telling an obviously pregnant and poorly dressed young woman to leave his lobby; he knew she hadn’t booked a room the night before and was not entitled to breakfast.  After Lucy quietly and thoroughly shamed the clerk, we paid a night’s lodging for the girl. Lucy wept for her, as we went to the show.

Her sons took over booking Lucy’s motels, and holy, moly, did we stay in some swank places. Dinner bars, sit down breakfasts, constant coffee, concierge, bell boys. Business hotels. The first time I stood at the counter with her, paying up to leave and the bill we split was sixty dollars for two nights she was grinning like the Cheshire cat. Hotels dot com, she explained. I never could make it work, but her sons could.

The last couple of years I worked my standard was being able to lift the hand truck up into my van. If I could do it in the spring, I was good for the season. My gold standard was Lucy. She was ten years older than me, drove a van just a long and hauled a trailer. I visited a couple of shows after I retired, just to hug Lucy. I wrote her a couple of emails, which her sons answered. “Lucy says hello, and she loves you. She just isn’t a letter writer.”

Linda met Lucy a couple of years ago, still doing shows, but now with her daughter or grandchildren. Linda emailed me, “She is such a pleasant lady and everyone knows and respects her. She told my neighbor that she needs to keep doing it as quitting means she will fail quickly. She lifted as many grids as her grandson. Said to tell you that she loves you.

Last month, at Crosby Festival of the Arts, Linda pointed out to Emily a trailer with Alabama plates being backed around a sidewalk curve, with two inches to spare either side of the tires. As soon as everyone was settled, Linda sent Emily over to introduce herself. Lucy is still ten years older than me, drives a van as big as the one I used to drive and still hauls a trailer. She gave Emily a big hug and sent me her love.



 Linda's picture of Lucy and her grandson Drew
at Crosby Festival of the Arts.

31 comments:

  1. I was afraid this was not going to end well, so glad I was wrong!

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  2. A charming story. Greektown has some interesting sights. I hope you got to look around a little.

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  3. Hari OM
    Oh my word... Joanne - I actually held my breath till I caught sight of the photo.... phew....
    YAM xx

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  4. What an interesting and lovely person. I'm so glad you shared your room with her.

    Love,
    Janie

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  5. Lucy sounds like a wonderful woman.

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  6. I too thought this wasn't going to end well, but so glad to read that Lucy is still up and running, driving her van and trailer, and continuing to sell her wares. Such an interesting lady! Wonder if she ever gets out west.

    betty

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  7. I too was a worry-wart and am thrilled to see the photo of the pocket dynamo. Love that smile too.

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  8. Wow bet you two had some great times together, I didn't think it would end badly but I did wonder.
    Merle..........

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  9. Lucy doesn't look that old to me, I guess the shows keep her young, amazing.

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  10. Two amazing women, creating wonderful memories together. I loved this Joanne.

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  11. The past tense had me worried,but at the last picture I could breathe again!
    Lucy...the original energizer bunny.
    Jane x

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  12. The people we all meet in our travels... and in our lives... are just amazing... and your Lucy story just confirms that.

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  13. How easy it seemed to make instant friends years ago. We trusted our gut and were rewarded with the gift of a lifelong relationship. Today we are bombarded with negative news and people keep to themselves out of fear. How wonderful that you have these great memories of Lucy and I hope there may be at least one more adventure for you and your energetic friend.

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  14. What an amazing lady. I wish I had her energy and enthusiasm.

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  15. I love these stories and these role models.

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  16. How amazing, we should all live so well and long. As Satchel Paige said, don't slow down and look back they might be catching you.

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  17. Lucy is very much like yourself, you both are amazing and strong.

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  18. I love this sweet story. Women like Lucy are the beautiful ones.

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  19. What a wonderful lady. The Lucy(s) of this world make it a better place to live in.

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  20. Great story, Joanne. Apparently Lucy is still going strong. Glad Emily got to meet her... and I agree with her about quiting the things we love might make you fail quickly - unless you can replace it with something else that keeps you going...

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  21. I'm one more who held my breath until the end! Some people are a marvel, aren't they? And a little good luck never hurts, especially in the health department. But so much is of our own choosing - our lifestyle, our outlook, our attitude, our drive.

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    1. From the first day she read of Mad Cow Disease, Lucy went off beef. All her meat comes from the ostrich farm up the road. I just remembered that!

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  22. I also thought the story was going to end on a sad note. There is something driving her that is a wonderful thing to have.

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  23. I also feared Lucy's story would and badly, but by God's grace, Lucy had success and changed the lives of many who met her.

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  24. I think I met Lucy about 10 years ago,after Joanne had retired but remember hearing about her. I see her about 4 times/year. She is indeed an inspiration and always tells me to tell Joanne that she loves her.

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  25. My admiration for you and your "keep on keeping on" attitude runs high, and now I learn about Lucy who deserves just as much admiration. I hope both of you continue to do shows for many more years.

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  26. What a lovely tribute to a lovely woman. Sounds to me as though you are two of a kind.

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  27. A marvellous friend to have...and she is right...keep on keeping on !!

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  28. This is the greatest story I have read on the internet today! Thank you for sharing Lucy with us!!!!!!!

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  29. What a truly amazing lady. Wow! She is really an inspiration.

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