I apologize for the grainy 1985 photograph of my mother. She was hosting a Bridal Shower in our home for my cousin Sharon.
Rita Claire Patricia Higgins Gallagher (1928-1994) was polished, glamorous and knew everything about style and manners. Her mother Nora Cecilia Moclair Higgins (1887-1957) came to America from Aughrim, County Galway, Ireland on board the Majestic arriving from Queenstown May 27, 1909 at Ellis Island, NY. My Grandmother was a live-in Domestic - a Baby Nurse for more than one wealthy family in Manhattan - before marrying Sigfried Higgins - moving New Jersey to start their family. Nora’s name is inscribed on panel 192 on the permanent American Immigrant Wall of Honor erected in 1993 on Ellis Island, NY.
In honor of the upcoming Mother’s Day holiday - I wanted to share where I got my spark for design and I simply can’t chat about Rita without saying that all she knew she learned from her mother.
My Mother was a fashion model. She shared one fun story about being in New York City and being pulled on stage to participate in a live game show - during which she was asked to dinner by a celebrity - she demurred - instead heading back home to Verona, NJ on the train.
Rita inspired me not only by how she dressed - she loved clothing - but, her accessories. My love of bracelets, pins and scarves is no accident my friends - it’s been bred into me!
Our home was lovely. Beautiful wall color, wonderful textiles. My mother never shied away from recovering a chair - adding a new pillow. I learned about gallery walls from her - we had two walls covered with family photos in our paneled Den. We had the most gorgeous octagon table that held picture frames en masse in our livingroom. My mother didn’t have many shelter magazine subscriptions but, she always read House Beautiful and Town and Country. I would leaf through them and read articles - gosh I wish I had a kept a few!
I always new as a child my home possessed a quality that was hard pressed to be duplicated. So many of my precious heirlooms were passed down to my Mother and I’m so lucky to have them in the Chalet - I cherish my 3 chairs - the Blue Bergere, the Beige Wooden Arm and the Pale Blue.
Although she will be gone 25 years next week - I never set a table without thinking of her and how we dined every night at 6:30 in our formal diningroom. My mother’s entertaining was always effortless - Sunday Dinners, Drinks, Lunches, her Bridge Group, Bridal Showers, Baby Showers, Christmas Eve - She loved to be with people - and our home was large enough to accommodate whomever could come.
This ease of entertaining started me thinking about how I could certainly carve out an hour or two - to spend with people - we all should! So now, I’ve started issuing invitations to the Chalet - for some it’s the first time, for others they’ve been coming over for years - but, I’m choosing to set aside dedicated time and hope they are able to as well. I’m thrilled to extend my hospitality. My mother instilled in me a love of home that has grown and continues to inspire me.
I so wish I had more photos of her. These were the days before cell phone and the constant snapping of images. She was my everything. I miss her every day. She does let me know she’s around - by the time on the clock. My eye is drawn to 11 minutes after any hour and I give her an audible greeting. Even Liam knows and calls out “Hi Noni!”
Til next time! Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mothers out there!