Fortunate That Way: A Sitdown with Pat Briggs and Jane McGoldrick
April 05, 2014
Aunt Sadie's is situated on a hill in the town of Lunenburg, Vermont, having moved there after our inceptual years in Boston, Massachusetts. Lunenburg is situated close to the 45th parallel, halfway between the equator and the North Pole, although 90% of our town's residents would say it feels like we're twice as close to the North Pole this year than the Equator. For those not really familiar with our background, our owners are two friends of 20 years, Gary Briggs and Brian Schnetzer.
The lives and day-to-day operations of a Vermont-based candle company may seem like glitz and glamour to you, but we'll let you in on a little secret: it's not really. It takes people working long hours, bending and straining their lower backs and shoulders over tens of thousands of candles, hand-pouring them just right, making our operation successful, both from a practical and financial viewpoint.
So we'd like to pay tribute to our staff who are beside us day in and day out by featuring them on this blog with profiles and featurettes. It will give you the opportunity to take a bit of a peek behind the scenes at Aunt Sadie's and give you some insight and perspective into the lives of some pretty wonderful and fascinating folks.
This month, we're going to interview a pair of sisters born in the 1930s who've seen more history than most of us would care to: Pat Briggs and Jane McGoldrick, born and bred in Lunenburg, Vermont. Pat is Gary Briggs' mother, and Jane his aunt. They work Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, among other days during the busy season.
Pat is 80 years old; Jane is 83. Neither one of them expected to be working at their age, but they say the main reason they still do is that Aunt Sadie's doesn't feel like work at all. They have fun. They reminisce. They discuss family, church, and other going-ons while they trim candle labels, which is their primary task. If asked if they'd change anything about their days they say in unison "Not a thing!".
That really makes us happy.
The sisters are quick to praise Gary and Brian for their generosity ("to a fault" according to Jane), and how they always look ahead and plan for special events, like birthdays.
What can we say? We love cake at Aunt Sadie's!
Having seen as many decades pass as they have, they're of the opinion that there is more "good" about the present-day than there is "bad". Many diseases have been eradicated and there have been major medical advances that they never dreamt possible.
One of the things they stress they love about Aunt Sadie's is they believe Brian and Gary have mastered a candle that smells both fragrant and "clean". Of course, we needed to know what their favorite candle is, and each sister had different answers. Pat LOVES Tree-in-a-Can, with our signature Pine scent, while Jane really likes our new Moss candle. The most popular candle, they say, is the Tree-in-a-Can candle (with the "Snowy Tree" label). According to Pat, during the holiday season, they're "cutting, cutting, cutting" and of course, just like an iconic old gent in a red suit, she said it with a twinkle in her eye.
They added the Bacon candle is popular right now, which brought us to the topic of bacon, and eventually livestock, when there were many more farms and rural communities were dependent on them.
One of the best things about yesteryear: bacon was a staple. Jane and Pat both say is was "tastier, and thicker", and that bacon grease was saved and not thrown away.
When they were talking about their childhood, neither claims to be the token troublemaker most large families have, although they claimed their mother said she'd never seen two girls fight more than Pat and Jane.
As with many small towns and villages, religion plays a prominent role in the community. Both girls grew up in a Methodist church, but many of their friends were of Catholic faith. They recall "tension" when they were children, "but only among churches and never with the people". Both sisters have spent time away from Vermont in the first half of their lives; Pat's husband Bob was in the service, and Jane and Bob (yes, both sister's husbands are named Bob) moved south to Springfield, VT, to find work. What they cherish most about those days was the safety and security they felt when it came to their children. They never worried where they were, or whom they were with. They agreed that they were "fortunate that way".
Once both Pat and Jane really warmed up to being interviewed, you could see they were both spirited females who speak their minds, and if there's any right we earn when we become octogenarians, it's the right to speak our minds. We talked about a lot of different topics, from favorite cars (Fords) to favorite Presidents ("Jack" Kennedy), to least favorite Presidents (no names mentioned to protect the reputations of the *cough* innocent).
We think the funniest response they had was to the question, "If your life was a country song, what would be the title?". When you're asked a question like this on the spot it's difficult to produce a satisfactory answer. Jane's response was "Heavens, I don't know." Immediately we all knew that was it, the name of our great country song for the afternoon: "Heavens, I Don't Know".
Pat and Jane are just as generous in every part of their lives as they are with their laughter; when anyone is feeling under the weather, they work alongside them and come to the rescue with natural home remedies. Having two motherly octogenarians on the payroll has taught us that life experience can trump work experience and that taking a bit of family, adding some zest for life and a dash of laughter produces some pretty fine candles. If we must say so ourselves.
We began this story saying we wanted to acknowledge our wonderful staff. And just like we want to pay gratitude to them, we want to pay gratitude to you, our friends, supporters and customers. When we think about where we'd be without you and our staff, there's only one answer:
Heavens, I don't know.