The Clarion Content is delighted to welcome a new friend to our home. As we told you in our meditation on transition here at the Clarion Content, we are bringing some fantastic new people into the fold. We are all made better by being open to the talent around us.
We have long subscribed to the Poor Richard’s Almanac formula that what’s good advice is good content. We believe in the practical and since our earliest days, we have had a header for “Practical Advice.” Now we are going one better, we are introducing a dear friend, Bonnie Cohen, who will have a recurring column here at the Clarion Content, “Molly’s Minstrels.” Bonnie is also the warm hearth at the center of our upcoming project “The Coaches Inn.”
“The Coaches Inn” which Bonnie will host is a place to come for hope and inspiration, for a quick laugh, and a worthy thought. Bonnie is a life-coaching professional, but that hardly begins to scratch the surface of her varied and fascinating story. Heading into Bonnie’s space is a warm, comforting journey, there is always a cup of tea and a nosh, along with an attentive, thoughtful and invested listener.
One of the wonderful things about our partnership with Bonnie is she is going to bring a variety of interesting voices from the coaching, health, leadership, and entrepreneurial worlds to the Clarion Content via “Molly’s Minstrels” and “The Coaches Inn.” We will meet experts in time management, story-telling, building, creating and more.
The first person Bonnie is going to introduce us to is sadly no longer with us. But Molly Kaplan, Bonnie’s grandmother left a whole lot of spirit behind.
She was one of those folks who helped Bonnie gain the confidence in herself to trust in her long and winding road. When Bonnie was teen and feuding with her parents, Grandma’s house was a place of unconditional love; a place to get torn jeans patched, with chicken in the stove and cookies in the jar alongside it. Bonnie found refuge.
Years later she was able to return the favor. Molly Kaplan had lived a long life in an unhappy marriage. That story, in and of itself, is a remarkable tale of a naive eighteen year-old Jewish girl in Chicago as sheltered as if straight from the Shtetl, who met and married the man with a fancy car who always brought fruit to her family. Only to later discover, she had married Al Capone’s bagman, when he threatened to kill her one night, gun to her head, for simply asking where he had been. She never asked again.
Molly silently retreated into her art, turned inward from the suppression and rage of her husband. The classic outsider artist, she made art out of the found objects in her everyday life, covering whiskey bottles and lamps in hundreds and hundreds of tiny, fragile seashells. Finding beauty in the daily, rendering the ordinary extraordinary.
When he passed, Molly was in her seventies, and they were living in a retirement community in California. At the funeral, she danced as she never had before, she let her braids out in public for the first time in many years. Bonnie saw this joy in her Grandmother and thought about the unconditional love of her teen years. She spontaneously leaped into the moment and proposed to her Grandmother that she move to Durham, North Carolina. Grandma Molly said, “No, it’s crazy,” for thirty minutes before relenting and agreeing to move across country.
She landed in Northgate Park, in a little house on Shenandoah. Free of her millstone, in Durham her art leapt to the fore. She was in her eighties and on a creative roll as never before experienced. She bought her own home at eighty and paid it off by ninety. Her neighbors nurtured and watched over her. Her community embraced her, helping her with her shopping, mowing her lawn, and thrilling in her art.
Molly created with the passion of lifetime. Her mediums were limitless. With Bonnie’s encouragement she started a new project, a series of handmade dolls. But not just any dolls, Molly’s Minstrels, were made from the torn scraps of a lifetime, a lifetime of dresses, quilts, blankets, dishclothes which she started deconstructing and reconstituting. This one from a wedding she attended, that one from a graduation, another from the workaday kitchen stock, torn and rewound, mixed with pins, buttons, and jewels.
These handmade one of kind creatures were popular with Molly’s friends and neighbors and now live on in homes all over Durham. Bonnie bought herself collection, all the while telling Molly that she was selling them to a store in New York City.
Imbued with life by touch, intimate connection, and love, Molly’s Minstrels have secret messages tucked deep inside their fabrics by their creator, a metaphor for the messages that each of us have tucked in our own hearts by life and loved ones. Towards the end Molly’s used to say to visitors and friends, she might be blind as a bat, but she had an eyeball in every fingertip. And indeed, she did, along with drive, passion and desire in heaping measures. She created right until the end. She passed in Bonnie’s arms. She held Bonnie in her arms on the way in and Bonnie held her in her arms on the way out. The never ending circle of life continued.
As the first of many wonderful collaborative projects, we will begin to share the gifts of Molly’s Minstrels in these columns. Heartfelt messages, earnest meditations, thoughtful advice all embedded with Molly’s spirit. Given to live on within each of us.