Three Years Ago Today
Copyright Vladimir Kagan, December 13, 2014
This is my daily reminder of Erica. Her hat and the Erica Chaise in my bedroom
Three yeas is a lifetime – Three years is within living memory – Three years is a life changer – It was three years ago that my darling wife Erica left me.
Life has its cruel ways: here today and gone tomorrow, not planned, just plucked out of my life. Even as I was holding her hand, still warm and blood coursing through her veins she was gone. I held on for twelve hours not believing the enormity – the life changing moment. Three years to this day, my life changed forever. I was cast adrift as her spirit soared into the heavens and I was left holding a cold hand. This was not the script I had written for myself. It is traditional that the wife outlives the husband.
It was not to be. Life is a gamble and God deals a wicked card. You are expected to accept and carry on. You are not alone – that is of little comfort. But God also doles out an opiate that lets you survive. It is buried in memories, in flashbacks, good times dominate –others diminish. I was not perfect but she was. What lingers in the mind is the harmony we enjoyed for fifty-five years. Me, the scrooge who loved to kill Christmas and she, who lovingly bought presents for one and all, the more was better. Our bedroom became the warehouse for piles of accumulated gifts. Wrapping never happened until the night before Christmas. Scrooge was sucked-up into the process and like Ebenezer, his heart melted and willingly, happily joined into the festivities. This, of all times, is when she left me. The unwrapped presents accumulating in the room and dinner parties to accept and decline. Christmas cards to be written and addressed and now tell the world that I was now alone.
She is gone. She left the dining room table filled with ancient family photographs that we were meticulously pasting into photo-albums. Her father, Colonel Wilson in Mesopotamia, little Erica driving a goat car in Bermuda, Major Spragge her stepfather, looking dashing in his uniform as the A.D.C. to the governor of Bermuda – Mummy England, Erica’s elegant mother, looking smashing dressed for a queen’s tea party. And there were photos of little Vladi and his sister Tanya, looking shy and demure as tiny tots in traumatized Nazi Germany. There were photos of my family braving it out in very difficult times. Those albums remained on the table for weeks until we realized the task was more than we could face and so once again they were swept into storage boxes, awaiting a second spurt of nostalgic energy and there was more; two thousand pieces of Erica’s needlework to be sorted, cataloged, appraised and donated to select museums. This is still a work in progress, three years after her death. Erica was amazingly prolific. A quiet plodder who got things done. Sixteen hard cover books, thirty-six television shows shown over the entire English-speaking world by WGBH and the BBC. She wrote a newspaper column called: “Ask Erica” distributed by the Chicago Tribune Syndicate. She designed hundreds of custom needlework projects for her students and clients. She designed the kneelers and vestments for some of the most important churches in America. And she had time to cater to her very demanding husband, we both probably ignored our children, who had to fend for themselves a lot of the time, but at least no weekend went by without a family ski trip or sailing outing.
Colonel George Wilson in the first World War and Drorothy "Mummy England" to all
Erica with her Dad
The dashing Major Basel Spraqqe, ADC to the Govenor of Bermuda - Erica's Stepfather
Her’s were the days of writing letters in legible monastic handwriting. She never learned to type, the computer was complete anathema. We had stored all her family’s letters in ancient wooden boxes and on visiting storage bins in Europe, we found an equal number of Erica’s letters written to her mother. A perfect subject for the book “Conversations with Mummy”. Erica had always wanted to write a cookbook, of course, heavily laced with needlework illustrations, the title: “Really Dull English Cooking for When you are Pregnant or have the Flu”. These books still await a willing historian to take on the task.
Erica's long-hand notes in her inimitable handwriting
Drawings from Erica's hundreds of sketch books
It is difficult to carry on in her spirit. She wore big shoes; I’ve found no one to fill them. My children each carry a good slice her genes. Our son Illya inherited her amazing artistic strain. She painted beautifully, so does he. Erica would draw incessantly, as does Illya. They both have an overwhelming love of nature. Of all of my progenies, Illya’s daughters, blond and slender, most resemble their grandmother. Jessica, the oldest of our children, has inherited Erica’s endless energy and in her career as a jewelry designer and maker, uses so many of the needle work skills that her Mother taught her. She is a devoted embroiderer and often lays aside her blowtorch to pick up a needle and thread. Vanessa worked closely with her mother in her shops and now lovingly runs Erica Wilson Nantucket, one of the Island’s most iconic retail locations. Vanessa carries on her mother’s tradition and teaches needlework classes to small children, guaranteeing a continuation of Erica’s legacy. Vanessa has been blessed with Erica’s caring and compassion. She is the mother hen of the family.
Erica, teaching little Jessica to do Crewel embroidery - a lesson that she has never forgotten
Kids, horsing around in Vanessa's needlework class at the 1800 House in Nantucket
Erica was a marvel, she touches our lives daily. She had a saying for everything and she was stubborn: “You can agree with me or you can be wrong!” She strived to be tidy and admonished us all with ”A place for everything and everything in its place” – she inspired me daily with creative ideas “don’t sit on a table – its bad luck”, so I dutifully designed sofas with wide backs for sitting. She was a pesky; when a bug hit her there was no escape. She was a mosquito buzzing around my head relentlessly until I would finally acquiesce. My Fettuccini chair took ten years to put into production. It was only her persistence that made it happen. She was a frustrated furniture designer and sketched her ideas on paper table clothes, napkins or envelopes and then persisted until I adopted them into my designs. She was the inspiration for so much of what I did.
Erica may now be teaching needlework to the angels, but she has left her imprimatur here on Earth!
Yes, my darling Erica – I miss you – but you have never gone away.
Erica and I traveling the world in her ubiquitous straw hat