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The Cottage

One recent night, while waiting and then watching the full moon rise, I thought how constant the cycle of the moon, the habits of animals, and the presence and behavior of nature. Perhaps that is why I love the

moon so much…nothing changes ‘up there’; I can always count on its beauty to shine upon the Earth no matter what is going on ‘down here’. Anyway, those ‘dreamy’ thoughts of moon beams and life made me think of all the changes here, in our world and more specifically, in our town.

Little by little, over the decades, I have watched as many of our local businesses have closed, and I have written about many of them, eulogies of sorts, for I always mourned their leaving.

During my rendezvous with the moon, I thought of the changes and by the time you are 69, there are many. I am commemorating these nostalgic thoughts with a repost of one of my favorite retail establishments in New Iberia, The Cottage. I hope to make my point about how losing that one store possibly shaped some of the prospects of future generations of young artists that lived here…losing that magical spot, that place filled with creativeness and someone there to encourage a young artist, I am certain, has caused a void…that feeling I describe can never happen with online orders and big box stores…and I mourn that loss of intimacy.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this column from 2012.

When I drive down Main Street towards Live Oak School, I always look for the exact spot where The Cottage used to be, where Mrs. Renoudet used to be. That little wooden house, a cottage, was a wonderland for me; it is where I discovered how much I loved the things that made art. I was recently told by her daughter, Margie, that the house was her great grandmothers on her dad’s side and her mom, Mrs. Renoudet, opened The Cottage in the late sixties. Well, that was perfect timing for me – a child of the 60s, someone who loved the natural world, John Lennon, van Gogh, and peace was about to discover the wonderful world of art and integrate it all and forever be a part of that harmony.

I wish I could remember the exact first time I walked in and heard the jingle from the old wooden door behind me and t he whisper inside my head that told me this was where the expression of my art would begin. I knew then, I could go beyond No. 2 pencil sketches and dime store watercolors; here, I could find real drawing pencils and fluid paints I could mix, everything changed.

I remember more of a feeling than the lay out of this little shop. The doors were left open sometimes in the spring when the weather was perfect. Sometimes I would park my mom’s oversized Mercury behind the store and go through the back door up the old wooden steps. I would go past the antiques windows and doors that lined the back porch and past the little room on the right, a personal space where Mrs. Renoudet and her daughter created things and had coffee. Once inside, every room had something to discover and something that stirred me.

I believe that the soul of an artist is always there but many times the art does not become apparent because of environmental reasons but when it does there is usually a catalyst, something or someone that brings it out. For me, my parents are the two people that noticed my interest and nurtured it; I give all the credit for my love of the arts to them, but those little moments at the cottage nudged me along also. It was there in that place with Mrs. Renoudet, small and pretty and always there with answers to my questions and always given with a smile. I swear I can still see how she gingerly put my little purchase in a small brown bag and folded the top, thanking me as she went.

My daughter is a painter and, unfortunately, we are at the mercy of the big chain stores and online ordering for paints. Elizabeth will not know this feeling I describe, she will not create a memory of going into a place that was made for the love of art, instead she will only know a place that was created to sell in volume. Like most everything today, people are directed more by money than soul, so those details, those memories, will not be.

I wanted to mention how wonderful those days of retail were in New Iberia, those days of personal attention and quality products, those days of shopping in a place where the doors were propped open with an iron Victorian doorstop in early spring and fall when the air was lite and fragrant with Sweet Olive and the owner was there and you felt you got a lot more than what was in the bag when you left.

“It’s hard to explain how a few precious things seem to follow throughout all our lives” (Return to Pooh Corner – Kenny Logins). Thanks Mrs. Renoudet.

Pam Shensky

Berry Tales

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