tender spot on her nose). About her withdrawalrnfrom Foxcroft, she says:rnAt some point, the school becamernso alarmed at my utter lack ofrnprogress that they took a step unheardrnof in those days. They suggestedrnthat I be analyzed by a doctor.rnMother took me to Dr. Draper.rnHe was a psychiatrist, but he alsornwas a relative, so that made it allrnright. He asked me, “Do you likernschool?” and Mother answered,rn”No.” He asked, “Do you like riding?”rnand Mother answered, ‘Yes.”rnHe asked, “Do you believe in God?”rnand Mother answered, “No.” Finally,rnhe told me that I could leave. Hernasked Mother to stay.rnNothing was left untried in Sister’s upbringing,rnbut all efforts at instructionrnproved futile. During trips to Europe,rnSister kept her eyes “closed tight in everyrncathedral.” Not until she was 18 and revisitingrnher family’s apartment in Parisrndid Sister feel the first sfir of interest:rnI marveled at the delicately carvedrnIjouis XV and XVI fauteuils coveredrnin exquisite stripes andrndamasks. I began to feel the love ofrnpainted furniture that has followedrnme through all my decorating. Irnknew I was discovering somethingrnimportant, but I didn’t know why.rnThe rest of the trip was spent touringrnFrench houses. This time, myrneyes were open, and so was myrnheart. I was at last beginning to understandrnbeauty and the role itrnwould play in my life.rnThis ineffable feeling, together with herrnsense of tradition and family, was the restrnof Sister’s artistic sensibilifies:rnAlready, at eighteen, I had a deep,rnabiding belief in all things inherited,rnand all things of real lashngrncjuality. I was not afraid of change,rnbut I firmly believed in the continuit}’rnof values that I had learnedrnwhile growing up. A sense of fami-rnM O V I N G ?rnSend chaiisc of address and thernCHRONICLES Subscription Dept.rnP.O. I!i)x 800, Mount Morris. II. 61054rnly and of home were the strongestrnvalues of all.rnhi Sister’s family, pedigree was not ju.st anrnexclusive club, but a su.staining “wire ofrncharacter” that linked present to past generations.rnAlthough not rebellious by nature. Sister,rnas a young newlywed, delighted inrnshocking her mother-in-law b’ painting arngift of ebony furniture white and havingrncurtains made from mattress ticking.rnThis was just the beginning of the shockrnwaves Sister was to cause. When thernstock market crashed and it looked asrnthough the young Parishes woidd have tornaccustom themsehes to a more modestrnlifestyle. Sister, who had been informallyrnhelping neighbors with decorating, tookrnmatters into her own hands and hung outrna shingle. It took Harrv three turnsrnthrough Far Hills, New Jersey, before hernnoticed the small sign that read “Mrs.rnHenry Parish II Interiors.” One of herrnvery first jobs was helping a new restaurateur,rnHoward Johnson. She used ac[uarnwalls, aqua place mats, atjua rmiforms.rnShe did the job for “free ice cream” andrn”never used aqua again.” Although Harryrnwas a steadfast supporter of his wife’srnwork and a beneficiar)’ of her success, thisrnstep did not come without a price. An anticipatedrninheritance from Harry’s unclernwas forfeited because Sister had gone “intorntrade.”rnSister Parish was born into die socialrnelite, and she did stick close to her ownrnkind, with some exceptions. In additionrnto many of the yoimg staff at Parish-rnHadlcv, Sister felt close to her black driverrnand the permanent residents of herrnbeloved summer retreat at Dark Harbor,rnMaine. She was intrigued by celebritiesrnand was the first to pay social visits v4ienrnactors came to Dark flarbor, and she invitedrnAndy Warhol to parties in NewrnYork. (At these gatherings, Warholrnwould remain closeted in one of Mrs.rnParish’s lavish bathrooms or observe thernparty mutely from a corner. Fvenhialh’,rnthe invitations to Warhol stopped, Sisterrnpronouncing him “no fun.”)rnSister was quintessentially American, arnpioneer who introduced informal, impretentiousrncraft materials into traditionallyrnformal and highly sophisticated settings.rnAlong with her partner, AlbertrnHadley, Sister invented the “AmericanrnCountn.- St)’le.” In 1990, she wrote.rnYears ago, mv partiier, AlbertrnHadle’, and I were delighted whenrnpatchwork cjrnlts, four-poster beds,rnpainted floors, knitted throws, ragrnrugs and hand woven bedsteadsrnwere first listed among the “innovations”rnof our firm. The list soundsrnold-fashioned, and no decoratorrnwants to be tiiat, but Albert and Irnimderstood that innovation is oftenrnthe abilit}’ to reach into the pastrnand bring back what is good, whatrnis beautiful, what is lasting.rnThis biography is like one of Sister’srnlovely old patchwork quilts—or collages.rnSister’s daughter and granddaughterrnhave assembled recollections from an arrayrnof family, friends, clients, and businessrnassociates — decorators, domesticrnstaff, craftsmen and -women. These differentrnvoices combine to effect a delightfidrnportrait of the grande dame of decorating,rna crusty dowager with razor witrnwho makes Martha Stewart look like arnAladison Avenue mock-up, a kind of talkingrnbillboard. I’he best parts of Sfster,rnare, of course, those passages written b’rnSister herself. (She had tried to writernan autobiography, and I assimie thesernlong passages are taken from thosernmanuscripts.) Floqucnt and with’, herrnstories end with just the right punch. Sisterrnwas the embodiment of wit and drama.rnShe spoke in perfect hyperbole:rn”You can’t paint it green — it woidd be fatal.”rnBut then, extreme language mayrnhave been necessary for the task atrnhand — “making the rich look right,” as arnWomen’s Wear Daily article put it. Herrnsuccess may have come as much fromrnknowledge of her clients as from her skillsrnas a decorator. Sometimes Sister wouldrntake a client shopping and ask her to pickrnout the one piece in a shop she wouldrnmost like to have. Usually, when thernclient selected an object, a tag underneathrnwould say, “Hold for Mrs. Parish.”rnSister Parish died in Dark Harbor inrn1994 at age 84. In her final years, she hadrnwritten, “The fog is closing in aroundrnme. I feel very alone. But I also feel contentrnfor the sense of continuity is stillrnstrong within me.” Sister had requestedrnthat “America the Beautiful” be played atrnher funeral; she was laid to rest bchveenrnher two Harrys, husband and son. SisterrnParish worked for the rich, but her contributionrnto interior decorating and goodrntaste has benefited craftsmen nationwide,rnand homes throughout the comitr’.rnloxley Niehok teaches at Loyola Collegernin Baltimore, Maridand.rn32/CHRONICLESrnrnrn