When I was waiting for my baby to be born, I was Christmas shopping and sending out Christmas cards. I was so late with the cards because I kept thinking the baby would come in time for a photo on the card. NOPE. She was due in late November, but she did not feel like being born yet. In fact, it was three weeks past her due date when she finally arrived on December 19th, a few days before Christmas. In those days no one would listen to me about trying to bring the baby early. The doctors said, “No, we will not induce. It is not a good idea to rush a baby. It is best to wait until the baby spontaneously begins labor.”(How things have changed!) She arrived a few days before Christmas sparing me the horror of being in the hospital over the holiday. Before going to the hospital I spent some time finishing the last couple of presents that needed to be wrapped.
When she was born later that evening at about 6:00 pm she was adorable. She looked like the Gerber baby. (The baby on the Gerber baby food which was the cutest baby in the world). I used to think of her as my angel child. I was able to leave the hospital on the 22, after just three days. This was really “fast” and they let me out as a special favor. My unassisted labor and birth were easy and short. I felt fine. However, I felt a little guilty about leaving the hospital so early. Most women were forced to stay longer. The idea of fear was implanted in my brain. It might be too soon to bring my newborn home. Perhaps I helped change the strict rules about staying for a week or more after a birth. It was not too long after that that women began to be sent home sooner.
Lilla Youngblood Matheson was our third child. We knew what we were doing (finally). We brought her home from the hospital to our house on Kalorama Road in Washington D.C. and into our room without guilt. Our first two children slept alone, in their own nursery. What were we thinking? A baby needs company. Now I believe in co-sleeping but I didn’t even know about that then. In any case, having the baby next to our bed made it so easy. She was so loved, adored, cuddled, and petted. I loved her so much that I was afraid she would not live to adulthood. People stopped me on the streets to tell me how beautiful she was.
She was always protected to some degree by her two older siblings. Her brother Charley and her sister Helen were wonderful to her. She was so sweet no one wanted her to experience anything unhappy or uncomfortable. She was verbal early. She was wise beyond her years, I believe she was gifted by some sort of special ethereal forces.
She was and is fearless. Once we bought her a pony for Christmas. It was meant to be a wonderful surprise. However, we were in such a hurry to get that pony in time we did not properly “vet” the animal. It turned out to be a totally unsuitable pony for a little girl of six. We went riding with her on the pony, down towards Little River. As we came up the hill, the pony threw Lilla to the ground. Not only that, he stepped on her chest as it took off at a run. She was hurt, but not finished with horses. She rode all through her girlhood. She once hunted three different horses on the same day and came off in the creek on one of them. She said it was one of the best days ever! She loved hunting when on a good horse.
Lilla loved all animals. She especially loved her dog Sophie, a dachshund given to her when she was only five. Sophie was such a sweet dog who ultimately met her death in a freak accident when the herd of horses trampled her. Life is full of shocks but no one wants such events part of their children’s lives. Our dog life was often rocky but also full of new litters of puppies and an occasional stray who stayed.
When she was about 5 she began to beg me to have a baby sister for her to play with. For a long time I tried to explain that our family was complete. But after a couple of years of this constant begging, my husband and I changed our minds. We had a lot of friends who were having babies. It looked like so much fun. When I told Lilla she would have a new sister or a brother she was thrilled. But she definitely hoped for a sister to dress up and play with. As fate would have it, we had a boy, Robert and a year later a second boy, Murdoch. Have you forgiven me yet, Lilla? It has been 50 years! I know it was a shock for me to have boys instead of a girl or two.
Lilla was always an artist. Her art teacher at Hill School in Middleburg took me aside and told me that she was gifted. She said “Do not underestimate her abilities. Be sure to always support her.” Her early years were magical with Mrs. Sharp encouraging her. Later she had a less talented art teacher who drove Lilla crazy by telling her what she should do artistically, what to paint, and how to do it. That set her back a bit, but she did not lose heart. She went to boarding school at Westover, in Connecticut, graduated, and went to France to the Parsons School of Design in Paris. She stayed in France for 2 years, coming home for holidays. When she returned fluent in French and an accomplished sculptor we all took notice. Continuing to study at several Universities, she got her degree from Skidmore College “University without walls.”
She married a man who had grown up nearly next door. Because of an 8-year age gap, they had never met. Her grandmother gave a coming-out ball for Lilla at Beaulieu, her beautiful summer house in Newport R. I. On the night of her debut ball, she went to a dinner party at Chris’s mothers’ house. Lilla was 18 and he was 26 when they met. Christopher Ohrstrom called his father the next day and said, “Father, I have met the girl I am going to marry. I just need to wait for her to grow up a bit first.” And he was correct. Four years later they married. They have four children each of whom are total individuals. Bright and beautiful these children understand that they have a very special mother.
Lilla went back to college later in life and earned a master’s in Art Therapy. She has built a clientele of her own and is very serious about her career. Yet she continues her own art, sculpting and throwing pots. She is gifted as a sculptor and as a teacher.
She is beautiful and she is smart. She is an entrepreneur… She is a wife and mother… she rides to hounds and has a couple of dachshunds that she adores. She and her husband travel a great deal. But she spends more of her time in the Virginia countryside not far from where she grew up. It nourishes her soul.
She leaves me awestruck with her grasp of art in every way. She has the eye of an artist and uses this in everything she does. My heart wells up with love for this fierce, wildly passionate, and lovely daughter. Lilla, I adore you and admire you.
Copyright©. 2023 Bonnie B. Matheson