I met Mrs. Schoop only once and it happened 52 years ago. I was a young girl of 14 years old and it happened when I was on a vacation with my girlfriend Mary and her family. I had traveled to Mary’s cottage on Mullett Lake in Cheboygan, Michigan. The word cottage was a not really a good descriptor. For my house guest’s home was truly was a grand lake side home.
At 14 years old, one of my earned titles was “Book Worm.” I felt pride in that. No hard feelings about the stereotype, just bring me more books.
On the second day into our stay at the cottage, Mary’s family was gravely disappointed that it kept raining outside. But, because of that day of rain, I had two experiences that have made lifelong impacts on my life.
The first of those was a found a basket of comic books I found in a window seat. When I earned the name “Book Worm”, it was certainly not because of reading comic books. I read novels, classics, and poetry. I had amazing parents, but they were not parents who allowed comic books in my library. I had seen the funny pages in the paper on occasion, but never a full comic book! While the rest of Mary’s family played the board game Clue, I made my myself comfortable on a soft pillow and grabbed a stack of those comic books. It was a story of true love. I particularly fell in love with Archie, Veronica, Betty, and Jughead. I read the stack and then read it again and again.
The other event that happened because of the rain that day was Mary’s mother suggesting we meet the woman in the cottage next door. All I knew before walking into her door was that she was a proper old lady who did not like nonsense. “Oh great, an old spinster” I thought. Yes, words like spinster were very much in my vocabulary thanks to the books Nancy Drew and Anne of Green Gables.
Mary’s mother wanted us to dress up a bit for the visit. It had been arranged that Mrs. Schoop would provide us with a full tea party at her home. Mary’s mom had us practice our manners, but I was comfortable in this subject, I even knew how to curl my little finger while drinking.
As we approached Mrs. Shoop’s home, she stood guarding her back doorway. She perfectly fit the look that I had put together in my imagination. Tall, stately, white hair in a tight bun, a shawl around the shoulders and a cane. She did not smile but offered a little wave instead.
“Oh swell” I thought, “this is going to be a horrible day.”
But, once my foot passed over the threshold of her back door, I was in a new universe. One that I would model later in my adult life. I was ever so familiar with the phrase, “do not judge a book by its cover” and this was certainly the case now. Mrs. Shoop was much more than she appeared at the first glance.
The tea party was set on a table with fancy frilled linen that was printed with a strawberry pattern. There were teacups, fancy china, creamers, and sugar bowls all shaped to look like fanciful strawberries. The wallpaper was a beautiful border of budding strawberries, the rugs were shaped like enormous strawberries and the chairs had a similar pattern on the fabric seats and backs. Of course, the tea party included fresh berries and large strawberry milk shakes. “This is so cool”, I thought to myself while remembering my manners and waiting for Mrs. Shoop to be seated before I sat and placed my strawberry linen napkin into my lap. We had our party. And then, Mrs. Shoop suggested that we might like to take a tour of her home.
The first room upstairs was a train room. The room was complete with train tracks built around the walls, and little trains chugged past us overhead. The lamps, chairs and all the décor continued the train theme.
I was beginning to understand that Mrs. Shoop might become one of my favorite people. The amount of creative talent expressed in her decorating had such appeal. It allowed her guests to be in an almost reverent awe of her creative expressions.
What would the next rooms hold? As it turns out, I would then see a room of pigs…yes fancy porcelain pigs that were large and walking right across the center of the pig room floor. There were flying pigs moved by large fans on the ceiling. From room to room, we continued the tour of themes.
Many years later, when I became a single woman again after my divorce, I had my own time and place to decorate as I saw fit. I started by making my living room fit for any sea captain. The walls had great nautical art and word art about the seas. A large shipping chest sat in the corner. A sextant with mermaids sat on my shelves. She was a beauty.
Friends that I entertained, loved the feel of the room. They said that my house gave them the sense that they wanted to memorize and find each of the treasures. I expanded to a family room bedecked with Little Red Riding Hoods…antique illustrated books, cookie jars, all sorts of treasures. The Red Riding Hood art pieces on my walls were both contemporary and classic paintings.
Eventually, I downsized, and all my theme rooms got packed up for the taking. I have ended up living in a tiny house. No longer in need of so many possessions sitting on shelves anymore. The creativity that I have still finds room for expression in writing, photography and art.
That being said, ALL of my current artwork in my tiny house is of my favorite animal…Elephants. In fact, a large Vietnamese porcelain elephant is a corner piece in my living room and even my pillows are shaped like elephants.
I don’t have shelves for display items anymore, but needless to say, if I did have a curio cabinet shelf, I expect you would see a very fancy and fun shelf of elephants on display.