|Milly Rose, Heidi and Rosie (2014)|
When we lose people in our lives that we love so much we have to find a "new normal" and move on. We all know this and we know it is just the cycle of life. Different things help us through this process: for some it is a strong faith and prayer. Others stay busy and active, some create, some simply live one day at a time until the raw pain abates.
My friend Milly Rose left this world in June 2017. She suffered from diabetes and the side effects of that ravaged her body through the years to the point where she simply could not fight it any longer.
But when she was alive, boy was she ever alive.
Milly Rose was one of the most vibrant, funny, and generous souls I have ever known in my life. You often hear the expression "he would give you the shirt off of his back if you needed it," but in Milly's case it was absolutely true. She gave of herself so much that she literally had nothing left for herself in the end. It did not matter to her, she would simply smile, say "Precious Jesus will always provide,"and she believed that with her whole heart. She might sing a song, do a little dance, and move on to the next thing.
I first met Milly Rose on April 5, 2010 when Steve and I drove over to Minden to get our marriage license. The courthouse was one block from Main Street which looked charming with its brick streets and there was Second Hand Rose Antiques. The building was old, dark red brick with large display windows filled with antiques: a blond mannequin dressed in vintage clothing and a fur coat, a wooden sled with large dolls sitting astride dashing across the leftover Christmas snow, Disney cookie jars and toys, and many vintage Coca-Cola items, including the iconic large red button Coca-Cola sign hanging on the wall. There were white twinkly lights hanging in both windows.
We went inside and my life changed.
The heavy door had a large glass panel almost covered with photographs of Milly with various
"Helloooooo Welcome to Second Hand Rose! Come in, Come in! Everything in the shop is twenty percent off today! I'll make you some great deals!" we heard from somewhere in the shop.
When you walked into the shop it takes you a minute to acclimate yourself. It was a long, narrow space. There was a second story which was mostly open in the center so from the bottom floor you could look up and see the second story. There was a balcony rail that went all the way around it and the stairs to get up there were all the way in the back of the shop. Then there was a third floor, sort of attic space, accessible by a long narrow staircase. And then there was a basement. Every single inch of space in that building was filled with "treasures." Milly once told me that she wanted to have "one of everything" in the shop and I really believe that she did. There were beautifully illustrated maps, a full set of dentist tools, and at one point she even had a baby alligator in formaldehyde.
Both of the dogs at our feet that day had bandannas on and one, Heidi, was dragging a red leash behind her, and both were delighted to see us. We pet them for a few minutes then I stood up to look around. Heidi and Rosie were as much a part of that shop as Milly Rose was and she never came to work without them.
There were two "pig trails" Milly would call them, going deep into the shop. I was surrounded by display cases filled with depression glass, cookie jars, action figures, baseball cards, kitchen kitsch, a cast iron stove, furniture, costume jewelry, and enough Coca-Cola memorabilia to open a museum. And that's just what I could see without moving.
In the very center of the shop was a counter with Milly's cash register ("Use the 'No Sale' button, sugar - can you ring those people up for me?") and a million plastic bags and newspapers for wrapping up purchases. The counter was filled with trinkets, photographs taped to the front, notebooks where she wrote down everyone's name and contact information if they would share it, random pieces of jewelry she was either having repaired or saving for someone special....That day there was a vintage cast iron black bank standing there, ("Give me a penny!") which I eventually bought and still have.
To the right of the counter was a display case with sliding glass doors filled with the REAL treasures - really fine pieces, things, that she wanted to keep close where she could keep an eye on them. The case should have been locked all the time but it seldom was. Inside this case could be found lovely,
The things I brought home from this shop through the years aren't the point (but seriously my house kind of looks like the shop now, and Milly is everywhere in my house!). Sometimes I would find things at estate sales that were really great deals and Milly made me her unofficial "picker" and I would bring things for her to put in the shop, but the best thing in the shop was Milly Rose. We became instant friends. Milly, Steve, and I were all born in the same year. She and I had the same wedding anniversary. We shared a love for antiques and unique things. She loved hearing Steve's stories from when he was a policeman and she laughed her head off and clapped her hands with glee at the silliest things.
Milly would talk your head off. We spent hours there every time we went but it was so much fun. She would spontaneously burst into song at any moment. I never had a birthday that she didn't sing some silly rendition of Happy Birthday to me and then hand me a gift bag filled with things she had collected for me.
She loved the dancing, singing Santa figures at Christmas, those toys where you pushed a little button and the toy would dance and sing a song. She would dance and sing right along with it. And let me tell you, Milly could really sing. She had a voice that was a gift. It was beautiful.
She had no inhibitions whatsoever. During the Mardi Gras parades in Minden, or the Fasching celebrations, she would literally dance in the streets in front of the floats. She loved a good parade.
When the Mexican restaurant opened next to her shop they sometimes had live music and she would sing and dance there, too.
Milly drove to Minden everyday from Magnolia, Arkansas to run her shop. That shop was her life. She loved the people it brought to her and the joy it gave her when someone found something in there that made them happy or recalled a memory for them. She would drive over in her little silver HHR no matter the weather or how poorly she might feel that day. Sometimes she was worried about getting home safely and would call me just so we could talk while she drove. The little dogs were always with her.
The shop also brought many celebrities to her. When Louisiana had the tax credits that temporarily made us "Hollywood South," lots of movies were made in this area and so Milly met Jessica Simpson (who signed a publicity photo for Milly that she framed and hung on the wall) as well as Ice Cube who bought a Boston Terrier from her. Milly would tell these stories to everyone who came in. Nearly every television station, newspaper, and local magazine did a stories on her, including Rick Rowe from Channel 3, Doug Warner from Channel 12, LA Riders television show, and various tourism promotion videos.
One day I suggested to Milly that she needed a Facebook page; she was not very adept with technology so I started the page for her. She had an old Dell laptop on a desk in the shop but she never really used it much and never really figured out the fancy printer someone talked her into buying with it. So whenever I went to see her, which was about once a month, I would take photographs of everything I could and then we put them on the Facebook page. She let me have free reign with that but sometimes she would have something special come in that she wanted me to put on the page.
In those early days I did all the posting for her but eventually she figured out how to sign into the account and do her own posting. She posted there even after she closed the shop and loved the comments people left for her. It kept her connected to people she couldn't get to see any longer once she became so sick.
Thank God we did that. We still have Milly's "voice" on that page. She's still there for us.
Milly Rose was the most unselfish person I've ever known, hands down. She worked with abused women, she did prison ministry working with the families of incarcerated people to ensure they had their needs met and that the children had gifts at Christmas. During the holidays, after the shop closed at night, usually around seven or eight, she would stay and gather things for these ministry projects, stuffing them in the back of her HHR, and then hosting an annual event to spread her own holiday cheer. She would take in every lost soul that came into the shop, letting them work there to help her move things, clean, whatever she could come up with for them to do. There would be some days when the shop had made no sale at all, nothing, but she wold still find a way to pay her "helper" something from the register.
Most of these people became close and loving friends with her. One or two disappointed her but she would just shrug it off, pray for them, and know that it would be alright.
I always worried that she would place herself in a vulnerable position doing this but she never worried at all. She had strong faith.
Milly loved Christmas. Every year she would have her husband come and hang the white lights from her outside overhang and around the windows. She would decorate Christmas trees in the windows and outside the shop and she would create beautiful displays in the big windows. She always had a candy dish and Christmas cookies for her customers.
You never left the store, Christmas or not, without some "lagniappe" whether you bought something or not: everyone got a red Milly Rose pen that she ordered and gave away ("Here! Have a pen! These are GREAT pens!"). I've got a couple of them saved away so I can always have a Milly Rose Pen.
As we move into the Christmas season this year, the first Christmas without Milly Rose, I think about her daily. She made such a positive impact on so many people in her life. She loved her family, her friends, especially her grandchildren, without limit. I've never met anyone with such a capacity for unconditional love all of the time.
I've never met anyone in my life that loved living more than Milly Rose. She lived every single moment of her life and I will miss her every single day of mine.
To spend more time with Milly Rose on this blog click on the Milly Rose tag.