Thursday, November 10, 2011

Manners Learned at The Finishing School

I attended a homemade finishing school. This was conducted a few times a month with the assistance of my Aunt. She lived in a lovely house a few streets over from us.  Her house was decorated with elegant paintings, beautiful lamps and lovely furniture. She had a guest room with white bedroom furniture, a rose colored lamp, end-tables and gorgeous shades on the windows. There was even a large vanity mirror above the dresser.

My sister and I were invited to sleep over her house.  She would set our hair in rollers, then settle us in the guest room. She would open the door just a bit, and say, "Do you girls need anything?" We were so comfortable in the soft beds, and warm, expensive blankets, that we felt like royalty. She was an excellent, patient hostess. I never saw her rushing about.

In the morning, we would get all dressed up and go out to breakfast.  The first restaurant I remember was across from the harbor in a lovely Massachusetts town.  Auntie taught us how to sit up straight, order our food, and place a napkin on our laps. She told us which silverware to use and how to act like ladies. This was all done as if there was all the time in the world.

This went on for many years. Then, as we got older and started to move on, we girls were busier and didn't have much time for our "informal" lessons.  My sister and I had a different schedule. We weren't together as often. On occasion, as I was walking to the high school bus stop, in the early morning hours, my Aunt would be on her way to work.  She would stop and pick me up.  This was the first time in my life I ever heard classical music. It was calming and soothing. She would listen to this on her way to the city, where she would take the subway, or ferry, into Boston for the day's work.

At other times, she would invite me to breakfast. My favorite place was called "Mug 'n Muffin," which was a high class cafe in the plaza.  The lights were dim. The tables were dark mahogany, and the booths were burgundy leather. I always ordered the same thing - A hot chocolate with whipped cream, and a warm chocolate chip muffin served on a delicate plate. I ate this with a fork, as if it was a delicious  pastry one could order in a French restaurant. During our little visit in the cafe, we would talk about our days and upcoming plans. 

Auntie had family parties at her house. We always dressed up for these. She had a finished basement, where a table was set up with a tablecloth. There were all kinds of wonderful things  to eat and drink lined up for the guests.  It was always family, and perhaps a friend or two.  We enjoyed these gatherings so much!  We would walk throughout the house, visiting everyone in the different rooms depending on who was where. Perhaps a cousin was in the formal living room. Or an Uncle in the kitchen talking to Dad and Mom.   There were usually a few small children who entertained us with their antics. But even they were dressed in their best!

Auntie had stories of travelling. I was most fascinated with her trip to Italy.  She once gave me a gorgeous pair of white, long leather gloves which she bought while abroad. I cherish them!

And while this all might sound even more interesting when reminiscing, it was really just we girls, spending time with our Aunt through our growing up years. I don't think she even realized she was the very source of our education in manners, or that she was our teacher in a homemade finishing school.

Mrs. White

From the Archives -

A photograph of our Vermont House - The Purple Parlour.

Nourishing the Soul - Kitchen Sermons.

When things are rough for the older ones - Childhood Home as the Nursery.

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Lisa Grace said...

I love this! My grandparents did something similar with me and I want to with our children.

LeAnn said...

This was an awesome post. It brought back memories of an Aunt similiar to yours. I loved staying in her home. She had victorian furniture and I now have her China cupboard that now has all of the tea cup sets my mother collected through the years. Blessings to you and thanks for the memories.

Illinois Lori said...

Oh, my...I've had many a muffin at the Mug & Muffin in Harvard Square! Is that where you and your sister went? I had forgotten about that wonderful place...I loved it! I attended Simmons College in Boston; my dh was a grad student at Harvard, we met at Memorial Church there. Good memories of my years in New England!


Gabrielle said...

This is so inspiring! I remember reading it before but how lovely to revisit.