I write this post with a heavy heart. My mom passed away on Memorial Day. R.I.P. Kay Bardsley, 1921-2011. She was a pioneer and inspiration to women everywhere. I am dedicating this post to her courage and fighting spirit. She died as she lived, with strength and grace.
I think of everything she taught me growing up, how she raised me on Greek myths and took me traipsing all over Manhattan in the 60s, spending countless days in Central Park, the museums, and so many other NY landmarks that are gone but not forgotten. How we spent hours in the library, and she fostered my life-long love of reading.
I learned my love of plants from my father, but my mom gave me my fascination of how plants are used in different cultures. I can remember staying up late into the night building a model of an Iroquois roundhouse with her, how she brought other cultures to life, and came into my elementary school and shared her knowledge with other classes. She was a storyteller, and passed that on to me.
She was born in Egypt, of Greek-Cypriot heritage, and came to New York when she was eight, where she helped her parents fill out their citizenship papers. She studied and performed at Carnegie Hall as a featured dancer in the Heliconiades with Maria-Theresa Duncan, one of Isadora Duncan’s adopted daughters (the Isadorables), starting at the age of nine. She would go on to embody the Duncan philosophy in dance, movement, and education throughout her life. She was also valedictorian and editor of the school paper and yearbook at Straubenmuller Textile High School in Chelsea.
She went to Hunter College, where she studied anthropology with Margaret Mead, scouring the Museum of Natural History to find the answers to study questions, and worked the night shift at The NY Times during the war. (She said of her Hunter days, “New York was our campus.”) She was the fashion editor at Woman’s Day, and had a long career in early TV, working with Gloria Swanson and Don Ameche in the 40s and 50s, at WPIX and ABC, among others. She had an office in the Guild Theater, and later one in the Empire State Building. She later travelled all over the country in prop planes doing P.R. at regional stations.
This, and much much more, was all before I was born, at a time when most women were homemakers. She had been offered a great TV job when she was pregnant with me, but her doctor told her she couldn’t have and raise a child at 40 and continue to work. (this was 1960) So she made her decision to put her energy into raising her children (my sister was born 2 years later) and never looked back, continuing to write articles for Dance Magazine and Time Life Library, among others. With Maria-Theresa, she founded the Isadora Duncan International Institute, and continued lecturing about dance history and education.
My son and I were so lucky to have had her living in San Francisco for the last nine years of her life. She has enriched our lives so much, we don’t really know how to carry on. Our family has been diminished. Her humor, resilience and uncommon views will become a part of us.
We spent a week with her in the hospital, and she fought so hard to overcome a massive brain hemorrhage, that at one point we really thought she’d recover, like she had from her other strokes. We were by her side all week, alternating days/nights first, then both sleeping there until she died. Dave was our support, bringing us food and whatever we needed to be there for her, and staying and crying with us. She left peacefully, and we stayed with her for some time, telling her how much she meant to us and how she would live on in us.
So very sad. I know everyone has to do this at some point, but I am just demolished. It feels like the world will never be the same. I still had so much to learn from her and to give her as well. I spent time in the garden for the first time yesterday, and it was the right place to be to heal, but this will take some time. I don’t want to forget anything. This may just be the first of my grieving/remembering posts. I know I can’t encompass who she was and how much I’ll miss her today, but it’s a start.