Antique Toaster

Flip flop toaster by Sunbeam. This came with a rather frayed cord. The toast is placed between the two metal grids, one side toasted, then you flip it over for the second side. Typical purchase for my mother who was a lover of odd-ball antiques. She would go for an antique humidifier over a fancy chair any day.

She took pictures in the same way. Whereas my daddy took carefully framed and planned pictures, Mother took pictures of everything. The leaves on an unfamiliar tree, the front of a bus, an unusual traffic sign. When we got home from a trip, she would have hundreds of pictures. Of course, as she said, the English pictures were mostly green fields or sheep. The Greek pictures were piles of stone and olive groves. But looking at her photos the country would emerge.

With Daddy’s pictures you remembered a specific moment: When he dropped the stone into the pond. When you posed for the umpteenth time on a fence with mountains in the background and your stomach was growling. (Those fence pictures always seemed to take place early in the morning before breakfast.)

When Daddy died, Mother took over as family photographer.  At first she found the camera daunting and the shadow of Daddy’s perfection hung over her. I remember her taking this picture of me and two friends in Germany. She adjusted the lens and stepped a couple feet to the left. The sun went under a cloud. We waited. She refocused and squinted into the view finder. She asked us to move closer together. She refocused. Finally my friend’s husband said, “Did anyone ever die waiting for you to take their picture?”

Salt and Pepper Shakers

My grandmother-in-law’s salt and pepper shakers.

The stamp on the bottom seems to indicate they are from the Moriyama Mori-machi factory in Japan, mid 20th century. Hand painted. Well loved.

My grandmother-in-law was a feisty woman. If you’ve been reading this blog, you know I was given the engagement ring from her first husband. For a while, we lived close enough so that we could drive out to visit her on holiday weekends. Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July. She lived with her second husband on the border to Nevada and our visits always included a family outing to a casino.

Now I’m not a big gambler. And we were not exactly rolling in dollars. My husband and I would set our limit to 10 bucks each and I’d head for the nickel slots. I could make those nickels last for hours – it was more fun to watch the people than to see my money sliding away.

This grandmother used to cook for us – some of my husband’s favorite foods, like 3-bean salad – and so I chose these as momentos when she died. They sit in my kitchen and remind me of the times we spent together. Strange the things that we want to keep, that come to represent good times. My husband chose the cat canister.

If you have time, I’d love to hear what little object invokes a loved person or place in your past. Just write your comment below. Or if you want to submit a picture and your story, click on “Submission for Family Objects“.

Hope you are enjoying the summer. Stay cool.

Boating Grandparents

Photo of my husband’s grand- parents.
A beautiful couple in a romantic setting.

Row boating – in a full suit and pearls…I’d like to know more about that, but it was another era. From the picture, you might think their lives were full of picnics and ease. But I doubt it.

This grandfather worked at the Celanese, a manufacturing plant set up during World War I to produce cheaper fabric for airplane manufacturing. On a historical note: they located the plant inland to protect against Zeppelin attacks! From 1924 it employed thousands of workers and produced a fabric intended as an alternative to silk. We now call that alternative acetate (which I associate with linings that melt easily if the iron is even a bit too hot).

It probably wasn’t the healthiest environment and when my mother-in-law was 15, he died of a blood disease. Now I don’t believe you can ever really know your parents, even if they live long. But if one of them dies when you’re young, you don’t have the chance for them to become a person removed from their parental role, a removal that makes them more your friend. I see it as a separation of sorts, different from leaving home and good. In any case, my mother-in-law has a gap in her heart from this death that I can feel even today.

The grandmother in the picture is the one whose cat we now own and who took my husband bowling. I knew her and she was as lively as she appears in this picture. I can only assume she chose a wonderful man to match her personality. From this distance and given the old photo, I note he is handsome and I think my husband inherited his nose.

So…sending father’s day greetings to those living and dead. We love and, in the latter case, miss you.

(to those who got this twice – the page seemed to have gone belly up. My apologies..)

English Family

My husband’s Great-Grandfather in England with his sisters. He’s on the right, quite dapper I think. Don’t you love the hats?

Although her father migrated from England and we don’t think she ever visited, his grandmother wrote to her English cousins throughout her life. Sadly, by the time we became interested in meeting that side of the family, his grandmother had died. We decided to travel to England to see if we could locate them. (It would have been cheaper but less fun to write to the address he had…)

Before the English trip, I went on a tour to China. Among the group were a couple of Brits and I mentioned that I was traveling to England soon. “Oh where?” “Just a tiny town. Hebdenbridge.” “My, we live just a few miles from there.” The story of why we were visting was told and the British women decided to help. We sent them the address and one Saturday we got a call. A very-out-of-breath voice said, “I just ran up the hill to a phone box. I’ve found them!”

The house had been sold but the people living there knew my husband’s relatives (the pleasures of small town living.) The upshot was a wonderful afternoon with many many cousins, eating, talking and learning various recipes for trifle. One of the cousins had just completed a family geneology, but had been unable to locate the U.S. relation. We completed her information which was displayed in a large family tree on the wall and there were namtags for everyone that identified relationships – daughter of Emma, and so on. The tags for the women who had made the reunion possible read “Go between.”

A result of this trip, besides some wonderful hours, was a confirmation of U.S. family gossip that that great-grandfather and his wife moved to the States because their first child was born “too soon.” The Brits said there were always whispers that stopped when they came into the room but they didn’t know why.

My indelible image of that afternoon, besides all the food and conversation, came when we were leaving. Ella, the oldest surviving relative stood at the top of the stairs and waved us off with a British flag, singing “Till we meet again.”

Hand Sewn Raggedy Ann

Handmade Raggedy Ann doll. My grandmother sewed this for me. My sister, the tomboy, got a Raggedy Andy.

This doll is not the first one I received. The older doll was hugged into oblivian – yarn hair in flags, an eye missing, the dress faded and limp. But both of them were made just like in the story, with a little candy heart packed into the stuffing and the eyes of real shoe buttons. I never liked dolls really, but I slept with my Raggedy Ann for years.

If you’d like to reread the stories, here’s a link . They seem rather tame now; I doubt any modern child would read them.

The other object from my very early years was a small stuffed rabbit. I regret to report that it was made of real rabbit fur – the softest you can imagine. I don’t remember having it but evidently it was my “blanky.” When we closed down the house after Mother died, there it was, nothing but bare leather. All the fur had been loved away.

Washing Ewer and Bowl

Antique pottery bowl and ewer used for washing. These are not a set. One belonged to my mother’s maternal and the other to her paternal grandmother. They are delicate, so it’s easy to understand that a set might not survive.

In houses without plumbing, most houses at the time these were made, water was kept ready in the pitcher for morning wash-ups in the bedroom. The piece of furniture the bowl sat on was called a commode. It had a rack for a towel, sometimes a mirror, and a chamber pot was kept in the cabinet. I’m eternally grateful to have been born well after a commode was necessary!

My mother’s two grandmothers were very different. The one was stout and looks in pictures as if she likes to cook – she often wears an apron. The other was very thin. Mother said when they visited her father’s family, she was sometimes chosen to sleep with her grandmother. The bed was high and difficult for a young girl to climb into. Mother would cling to the edge, hoping not to fall out, but worried she’d roll over in the night and squash her grandmother.

BTW, the flowers, sadly, are fake.