Saint Peggy Shrine

Blog by Sue Wallingford

Most of you who read this blog have probably already heard the story of how NCAS-I got it’s seed money.  But with the Small Resources=Big Possibilities Gala only weeks away, and being that I am a southern girl in love with a good story, I think it needs retelling.  If you don’t know this story, enjoy, if you do, enjoy a new and improved version. Because besides being a good southern girl, I have to be a good story teller too, so the story I tell has to be more embellished than the times I told it before.

So, the story goes like this…

My mama was born and breed in the hills of Ky.  She is a descendent of a strong and prideful Scotch-Irish heritage.  True to the characterization of many forks from this descent, she is generous of heart but sometimes stingy with her finances.  It’s not that she is selfish it’s just that she wants to make sure her money goes to the right place, and the right cause, where nothing will be wasted, not even a dime.

For years my mama would give $50 to a charity in all her children’s name for birthdays and Christmas.  Even though I was happy she did this, and I approved of the charities she supported, I wanted her to give to a cause that was close to my heart, so we had a running argument about this for years.  I wanted her to donate to the Naropa Art Therapy Program instead, but no amount of encouragement could convince her that this was a worthy cause.  Did I say my mama was stubborn too?   Anyway, finally, one Christmas, two years ago, my mama gave me a check for $50 and said with a bit of sarcastic chagrin , “Spend it however you want!”

“Humph”, I thought, I’ll show you I can make good use of this money!”  Did I mention that I am stubborn too?  I carried this check around with me for months, scared to death I would spend it in the wrong place, and disgrace generations of my family honor.  God forbid, I spend it wrongly and make for wasted use of money.  Then, one day, like a bolt of lightning, while some students and I were talking about ways to make money, the thought came to me, “Small Resources=Big Possibilities, I’ll buy as many matchboxes as this money will buy, and we will have a grand fundraiser!  I’ll show my mom that I can take that money, not only put it toward a good cause, but also make money too!”  Something else my mom valued, turning a little money into a lot.

So, I went out, without a second thought (thank goodness) and bought 500 matchboxes, and still had money leftover.  Now a year and a half later, that $50 has turned into over $75,000, and has enabled NCAS-I students to travel to Cambodia and work with girls who have suffered years of abuse from the trauma of sex trafficking.  My mom is proud that the money was put to such good use.  She beams a gratified smile when I tell her the results, and of course denies the part of the story about her stinginess.  But that’s ok, because we both know it makes for a better story.

I have spent the past few days in Ky with my mom, at the home and place where I grew up.  She is very sick and her days are few now.  We have shared many memories, talked about past generations, especially as it has to do with women’s equality.  My mom has always been a good and genteel southern woman, very proper and socially graceful, but strong too in her beliefs about women’s rights.   She is also an artist, and spent her young adult years painting and teaching art, until she had her four children, and then she committed her life to raising us.  She also, like her mother and my grandmother, has a fondness for little things; she has always collected miniatures to display in her curio cabinet.  Yes, she really has one of those.

So, it seemed right that I make a matchbox, with my mama, while I have been home, as a way to honor and commemorate her life.  She has been an unsung hero for the most part, with my dad getting most the accolades, even though she was a master bridge player and the first woman in my hometown to serve on the city council.  She raised four kids over 35 years (we were spread apart), she was a elder in the church, and recently was honored as an “Elder Emeritus,” by the Presbyterian church, which she is very proud of.  And she taught me everything I know about being a good woman, a good mother, and an artist.  She has taught me about what it means to fight for what is right, and to spend my money well.  She is my hero, my mama, and I am blessed to have her.

So in making this little matchbox, entitled “Saint Peggy Shrine,” my mama told me how she wanted it to be designed.  Did I tell you she is a little bossy?  She picked out the colors.  She loves blue and gold, and she picked out the wallpaper in the background, She picked out the dress I gave her.  She loved the idea of being enshrined as a queen.  :o)  The embellishments are all from her costume jewelry collection, and the words, like her, are beautiful, simple and from her heart, “Life is a Gift.”


My mom is a gift to me, and she has been a gift to this project, and I want everyone to know that.  Thanks for letting us share this story.  Maybe next time it is told, it will be even better.

10 thoughts on “Saint Peggy Shrine

  1. Sue,

    Your story brought tears to my eyes. I didn’t know it, so it’s great you retold, I bet there are other followers. It made me want to connect you with Daniel Weinshenker and digital storytelling; maybe the next project can be getting a grant for students to get the 3-Day Digital Storytelling workshop. I’m following the blog with great fondness and am always inspired and think the digital stories can be yet another way you can continue to inspire others with this amazing work, perhaps even reach different audiences through utube/vimeo. Telling our stories well does make a big difference. A big warm hug, Sibel

  2. Peggy loved so many children that were not her own (even the bossy, stubborn and stingy ones!). Although she probably considered herself just a helpful adult in their lives, she has really been much, much more than that. With few words and gentle actions, she taught me perseverance, patience, how to find joy in small circumstances, laugh at myself, love the unloveable, see a future beyond my backyard and have hope for a better tomorrow. I love you Peggy Chambers. And thank you to your children for sharing you with me!

  3. Sue,
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story about your mom and the matchboxes, again. I am sorry to hear she is sick. How proud she must be to have you as her daughter, she did good.
    Much love to you, Sue.

  4. My dear Sue,
    You are so blessed to have had this amazing experience with your Mama; “The Queen!” LIke her, you are also a Queen; “Queen Sue!” I loved hearing your story and I am so sorry she is ill. If I can do ANYTHING to help please let me know!! Hope to hear from you soon! Peace, Love and Light, as always, Denise

  5. Pingback: Repost: In Honor and Celebration of the Life of Peggy Chambers, 1927-2013 | Naropa Community Art Studio-International

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