Sunday, August 26, 2012

Washing Gertie's Dishes

Thursday was auction day, and as usual I returned home with a load of stuff for my booths. As I was unpacking one box I came upon a pile of family photos. These weren't old-time pictures; they were mostly from the 70's through the late 90's, with a couple from the 50's in the mix. They weren't professionally done and there was not much in them to keep the attention of anyone except the family captured on film. Apparently the family didn't think these important enough to keep, or perhaps they had duplicates and didn't need these extra ones.

It was the ordinariness of the people and activities that stuck in my mind as I sorted the pictures. These were just everyday people living in a standard ranch-style home that was furnished in the style of the day--70's furnishings, brown, orange, gold and avocado green colors. They weren't dressed up or posed. There was one from the 50's of a young man holding a baby, probably his first son, at Christmas. There was one of perhaps the same man years later, asleep on the couch with his two dogs. There were two men posed beside a large blooming magnolia and one of a family potluck dinner that looked like it was set up in a home's unfinished basement.

Simple, everyday activities. But looking at the photos and sorting through the rest of the boxes gave me clues to who these people were, even their names. I googled them and learned that Gertie and Gus lived in northern Ohio, and were a little older than my parents. She passed away before him at the good age of 86; he died just this past December.

I think they liked music. There were photos of musicians, one with an accordion, and one of a band at the WWVA Jamboree. One auction lot that didn't sell was given to me by the auctioneer--a stack of 78 records with lots of dance music, especially polkas. Maybe they danced?I liked the idea of them as young people, maybe just after WWII, dancing together to the lively tunes on their Victrola.

Tonight I sorted through more boxes of glassware (Larry is earning sainthood carrying heavy boxes of glass for me). There was nothing outstanding in the boxes: some good stemware, some Homer Laughlin bowls, a chipped Jadeite bowl and so on. Some will go to a donation center; some I will sell. A few things I will keep (like that chipped bowl).

I never knew Gus and Gertie but I know a lot about them by what I found in the boxes. Tonight as I stood at my sink on this very rural land in West Virginia, I thought about the lady who collected the amber-stemmed glasses, the Popeye tumblers and the pretty flowered plates in a northern Ohio suburb. I washed Gertie's dishes carefully and set them out to drain, enjoying the sparkle of the glass as dust and packing-away washed off into the dishwater.

I am sure that when I am gone my sons will be sending a lot of my stuff to auction or to a donation center. After all, I am the one who loves glassware and old things; they do not share that passion and I don't expect them to. I hope they will take what is special to them and let the rest go. And I hope that someday a woman will be unpacking her auction finds and wonder who it was that liked so many creamers and had so much red glass. Maybe there will be something in the box with my name and she will go searching online to see who I was. I hope she will enjoy the shine of just-washed glass as much as I do.

Copyright 2012 Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

14 comments:

Nance said...

oh. Sue. I have a set of 12-14 LuRay pastel plates. Bought them at a garage sale for about 10 cents a plate 5 or 6 years ago in Missouri. Husband and wife were there (I see them in my mind's eye almost like the American Gothic couple. Stern.) The plates are all chipped or scratched. I didn't care. I looked the woman in the eye and told her I would take care of the plates. It was my impression that the husband said "they have to go" and that set of plates was probably her wedding present. Or gained one at a time at the grocery store, thru a premium program. And treasured. I wish I knew her name. I wish I could tell her that each time I take one down to use it, I think of her. And I do use them regularly. I'm glad you know Gertie and Gus' names.

Mimi Foxmorton said...

:'(

Well, that went right to my heart and I had a wee cry.

I'm a collector of *junque* as well....no booth or store......just a house full of unwanted things belonging to those passed on.

I collect old photos and frame and display them in my home like family. Tattered lace becomes my finest display item. And so much more. I whisper to the Gerties in my life that I promise to cherish and care for their left behinds.

I'm quite sure that your Gertie smiled today.

If I go before you.....I hope you're at my sale.......... ;)

Have a vintage kind of a day....

*hugs*

Mimi
Collage Pirate


Granny Sue said...

That's it exactly, Nance. Knowing that these things were special to someone once is what makes them special to me. They are just things, but they carry the memories and the past of those who owned them.

Granny Sue said...

and I bet your home is beautiful, surrounded with well-loved items and memories, Mimi. And, if you're like me, if you don't know the backstory of something, you wonder and make up all sorts of possible stories. An adventure in itself!

Chicken Wrangler said...

I enjoy your thoughtful posts, as I, too, wonder about the folks who owned the treasures that I find. That is part of the charm of collecting!

Amy said...

Your post reminds me of why I collect vintage linens and needlework. Because I sew myself, I know how long it takes to make these precious items. I feel like I'm saving some woman's personal handiwork when I bring them home with me. I've wondered many times if there will be someone after me who will also pass them on. After all, it's just my turn to borrow and appreciate them.

Amy said...

I forgot to ask you, do you have any Wheeling Decorating Company glassware or china on Ebay, etc.? I just recently discovered this neat past WV company. I'm going to do a future post on the company and am linking some Etsy shops that have some of the items. If so, I'll post the pic and link to you.

Granny Sue said...

Amy, I know of the Wheeling Decorating Company, but I don't have any of their pieces. Am I right in thinking that they bought "blanks" and then added the painting (decorating) to them? That was a common practice among many companies. Even Homer Laughlin used to do that, I believe.

Rowan said...

How nice to know the some of the history connected with these things. I occasionally wonder what will happen to all the things I've gathered around me during my life - I hope they end up with someone like you:)

Jai Joshi said...

Very true reflections, Sue. What we love is not necessarily what our children will love but we know that they'll treasure the things that matter to them about us. That's enough.

Jai

Granny Sue said...

Rowan, I feel the same way. I would love my things to go to someone who appreciates them--even if that route is through an auction and an antiques dealer.

Granny Sue said...

That's what I hope for, Jai--that mine will select what is meaningful, even if it is plant from my gardens, my journals, or something from my kitchen that they remember from childhood. I hope the grandchildren are allowed to select things too because they love my house and the old stuff. My granddaughters once divided up my house among them, each vying for the room she liked best! It was so funny, and touching at the same time.

Jenny said...

When I was young I so wanted the perfect house with all new china & linens...all matched, bright & clean. Gradually, I don't know how or when, I changed & wanted my home to feel like my grandmother's house. When people visit I wanted them to feel the like I did when I went to grandma's. I didn't really plan it but one day I noticed I'd painted my kitchen the same soft spring green as my grandmother's. I used all the every day dishes I'd inherited from her & used the beautiful linens my mom had made.

I've added a lot to what my mom & grandmother left me & my favorite gifts from friends are old dishes or linens they've found at sales & they know how much I'd love them AND use them. I often think about who used them before me, or the time spent making them. I think there will always be women who enjoy things like this so I'm not worried about who gets my stuff after I'm finished with it. I just hope it brings as much contentment to someone else someday as it has me.

Granny Sue said...

So well and elegantly said, Jenny. I think I'd be right at home at your house.

I think I am trying in some ways to recreate my mother's kitchen when I was a child, and also those of the elderly neighbors. Those kitchen memories can make me feel like I'm 7 again ,skipping down the street to meet Grandma Compton who is carrying a big kettle of applesauce to our house. "For the children," she'd say. The heavenly, spicy smell is with me still.

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