Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Rest in Peace, "Toodie"

It's pronounced "2-D" (accent on the 2), and when my godmother Toodie made little notecards, she drew a little 2-D logo on the back of each one. Toodie (her given name was Irma) was Mom's eldest sister and my godmother. Yesterday afternoon at her home in New Orleans Toodie died. At the time, all of my sisters (two of whom had been very involved in caring for Toodie over the past year) were in Boston's Logan Airport, waiting for their return flights after a long weekend visit with me. They received word of Toodie's death before their flights boarded. (Actually, one of the flights wouldn't even take off for another three hours, but that's a different story.)
As the eldest of seven children, Toodie was a take-charge sort of person. That quality served her well in her 50+ years at WDSU, the NBC affiliate in New Orleans. I remember many visits to Toodie's workplace, then located in the French Quarter's Brulatour House (now being restored and renovated as a museum). That media connection in her professional life means that Toodie has an automatic claim to Pauline prayers until Jesus comes again.

For me, Toodie was an ideal godmother. Faith came first in her life, and daily Mass came first in her morning. When we kids would spend the night at our grandparents' house (which we called "Toodie's house" since she was the most kid-engaged person who lived there), we knew that the morning would bring an early Mass followed by breakfast with fluffy orange juice, a real favorite. (Recipe: in blender, combine frozen OJ concentrate and water. Run blender until foamy. Serve.) Evenings with Toodie involved Scrabble or card games (Old Maid was a favorite). Sometimes we went through her abundant stocks of remnant fabrics and trim, making doll clothes while Toodie made dresses for us. She made my eighth grade graduation dress as well as the blue velvet dress I wore to a winter prom in high school. (The prom dress had a matching choker, that being the 70's.) She served the men of the family with her barbering skills, and no special occasion ever ended without the family being documented in a photograph taken with her trusty Canon.

Toodie traveled the world, even bringing a niece or two along. She stayed in correspondence for years with the people she met in places like Paris, Rome, London, Munich. Sometimes our visits to Toodie's house found us pulling shoe boxes out of the antique armoire in her room, each box filled with souvenirs that we could beg for.

I didn't manage to go to any exotic destinations with her, but a month before I entered the convent, Toodie and her best friend ("Dimpsy") led me, my cousin Lynn and my sister Jane on a trip to the Smoky Mountains. We bought my convent trousseau linens in the factory stores of North Carolina's mills and prayed the rosary each day in the car. (See what I meant about her being a real godmother?)

This was taken in 1952, but
I remember that coat. It's
probably still in the closet.
Hurricane Katrina brought many material losses to Toodie's neighborhood (near Tulane University), but it also brought a big surprise. In my grandfather's soaked ground floor workshop, Toodie found a box of papers: her father's memoirs. Long since retired, she marshaled her secretarial experience in a labor of love and filial devotion, carefully typing and editing the papers and having them published in book form.

She remained active and on the run until last year when she (somewhat reluctantly) surrendered her car keys at age 95. "I knew this day would come," she said, "I just didn't think it would be so soon." Her loss of independence was magnified just two months later, when in October a broken hip led to her (first?) hospitalization. The ten months since that were a long Purgatory for a woman who had never had a major illness. That Purgatory ended yesterday. The convent Mass was offered for her (and the father one a novice) this morning, hopefully ending any other Purgatory she may have needed.

+ + + 

I think Toodie was in her eighties when Mom expressed concern about Jane's not having yet married (Hurricane Katrina later took care of that). Mom may have said something along the lines of "she might end up like Toodie." Which Toodie definitely heard. She looked up indignantly. "I've had a wonderful life!"

Rest in peace, dear Toodie!

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