National Museum Day is Saturday, September 24th, and the Museum of Art and Archaeology is hosting an open house featuring the portrait exhibition on display in the galleries, with a special museum display of some of Betty Hodgman’s treasures and personal items. These items were provided by One Read author, George Hodgman, and are accompanied by this statement about the collection:
This cabinet of curiosities includes many objects of particular significance to the world of my mother, Betty Hodgman, and to the memoir, Bettyville. The tiny map of Monroe County is a commemoration of the place my mother lived almost all her life, first in Madison, where she was born in 1922, and later in Paris where she resided after 1972.
Betty was not only an avid collector of antiques and old things, she was a conservator of objects important to her family. One of her passions was antique hat pins and she kept small vases full of them in our living room and on the bureau in her bedroom. Note the blue baby shoes hanging from the pins. I discovered these tiny shoes, which I once wore, wrapped in tissue and carefully preserved in our basement after my mother’s death.
Betty also loved cloissone—vases, ash trays, napkin rings, bowls– and kept a large collection of these treasures on view in the living room of her home in Paris, Missouri. Although the hat pins and cloissone were important to her, perhaps her favorite objects (and mine) were two small figurines of a pair of merry Chinese children purchased for her by my father for ten dollars in Chinatown in Chicago when he was a salesman in the early years of their marriage. Value to my mother was always a personal, emotional thing, never merely the figures on a price tag. She also loved the tiny gold shoes shown here. They will be returned to their place on a marble-topped stand in our entry hall after the close of this exhibition.
The photograph of my parents when young was taken at a New Year’s Eve celebration at the Moberly Country Club in the mid-sixties.
Most resonant perhaps is the oil painting of the pink roses that she had done for our living room by a local artist when we moved to Paris. At that time, she transplanted two pink rose bushes which had grown in her mother’s yard for decades, carefully nourished with well water and coffee grounds, to our new home. They still survive and are easily more than fifty years old. So many things in our home—wall paper, decorative plates, roses, the carpet—refer to her mother’s flowers. They are, to me, the dominant image in my mother’s world and symbolize her love for Mammy and for her home. Those original roses still grow in our yard and I try to look after them with care.
The antique brush and mirror belonged to Betty’s mother. The silver cranes– which fascinated me as a child– were a wedding gift from my father’s aunt, Sade Sizer of Kenilworth, Illinois. They stand on the piano that my mother played for decades and she could look at them during her hours and hours of practice, her reflection shining back to meet her gaze. I remember her often there at that piano.
The deck of cards refers, of course, to bridge, one of my mother’s favorite pass times. She played in bridge groups in Moberly and Paris for more than a half century with many of the same partners. Despite her illness, she was—and this was a special gift—able to play bridge relatively well three weeks before her death at a luncheon at our home with her old friends.
On bad days there was the movie “Dirty Dancing” which never failed to uplift her. Some of those days came during her chemotherapy during the last year of her life. One of the photographs shows her, from behind, waiting at Boone Hospital for a treatment.
I brought her the Louis Vuitton scarf from Paris where I bought it in a boutique on the Rive Gauche. I’m not sure she ever wore it. She had the tendency to guard her special things rather than wear them out. She did, however, wear the bedroom slippers featured here day after day during the last year of her life. They are of great sentimental value as it seems they traveled with us through a million miles of difficult experience. To me they are as valuable as gold and more beloved than any precious substance that I might have inherited.
I hope you will think of Betty as you peruse this display.
Please come to the Museum of Art and Archaeology to visit the “Portrait of Betty” display Saturday, September 24th, and see the collection of invaluable items George Hodgman is sharing with our community.
Saturday, September 24 at 1-3 p.m.
Columbia, Museum of Art and Archaeology, Mizzou North, 115 Business Loop 70W