Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Psst...got a steamer truck? I got some knickknacks.

The proposed revamp of the house is still awaiting the financial negotiations, but that doesn't stop me from dreaming, and making some minor changes here and there in the meantime.

My brother has been the delighted recipient of some of the antique future -- a gateleg table that was shoved, neglected, into a corner in the living room because there was just too little space for it; an Edwardian chair with a lovely floral cover; and a little glass-topped table that my son used to store his Game Boys and Tetris cartridges in. Kevin and I are in agreement that items like this should be kept in the family. It would be unthinkable to donate them, or worse, post an ad on Craigslist and have some looky-loo try to take them for 15 bucks. As I age, and need to take deeper breaths, so I see my living space as needing, well, more space. When we moved in here in 1964, the environment became uncomfortably like a museum. Furniture was packed into the living and dining areas, family curios placed on the shelves on either side of the fireplace, and I was given a stern "don't touch anything, don't move anything" order. No wonder I rebelled as a college freshman, and took off in the summer of 1973 for a hitch-hiking odyssey (another story for another time!). I felt stifled physically and mentally, and couldn't get out the house fast enough.

Decades and life milestones later, I have distanced myself from those feelings of imprisonment, and actually love this place. As I told my brother recently, I plan to only leave here "in a body bag."

This morning I was up at 4:00 AM, before sunrise, and before work. I culled through drawers and cabinets in the dining room, and the living room shelves. There are so many things that are dear to my heart, having seen a certain spice jar, or perhaps a ceramic figurine, since I was little. They are part of family history, points of reference when different family stories are told. They are as much a part of the home as the structure itself.

And yet, there were other items which have crept into place among the treasures. Candle holders, generic-looking vases, and various white elephant items that came home from too many an office holiday party. They were weeds crowding out the flowers. Gotta go, all of 'em.

My rule of thumb: if I don't remember who gave it to me (or am actually trying to forget the giver), or if no sentimental feelings for this item arise, it's out the door.

Still, it was fun sitting on the floor, looking through some books. I will never give away the Merck's Manual or the medical encyclopedia Mom got when she went to Glendale College for her midlife career change into nursing, nor the sadly unfinished series of books by Mary Canon about an Irish dynasty. I also found a Reader's Digest March 1971 issue, which featured an article about my cousin Peter Cook, and the then-pioneering corneal transplant surgery that treated his keratoconus. Marking the place in the magazine was an article clipped out of the Buffalo Evening News, with a photo of Peter reading to his daughter Karen, who was 2 at the time. Besides the article about Peter, there were some pieces relevant to the era: "Angela Davis: Making of a Martyr" and a Book Feature, "Kent State--Campus Under Fire," by James Michener.

What a great piece of history! I was almost losing track of time, I was so transported back into time (my junior year at Burbank High). Into the Brass Box (see my November 10, 2011 post, if you haven't already) the Reader's Digest went.

I packed up four boxes of stuff, destined for one of my favorite places, the Helping Hands for Animals Thrift Shop on Burbank Boulevard (http://helpinghandsforanimals.com). It's a clean, orderly shop, unlike many places where things are tossed around and left on the floor. The shop is run by David, his mom, and their two Shepherd dogs Jack and Dionne, who amble around and make customers' acquaintances.

And then, there's the matter of that coffee table! Circular and nondescript, it does nothing for me. It's gotta go, too, ASAP.

I want to replace it with a steamer trunk, kind of like this one.


Oh, sure, I want it in good shape to grace my living room. But like me, I want the trunk to look seasoned, like it's been around a while, and all the better for it.

I've asked David, who says they get them in the shop frequently, but that they get snapped up quickly. So, he suggested I call frequently, and come in as soon as one appears. Easy enough, since my office is about a mile away.

I'll let you know when I've scored my prize.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Treasure-Hunting in Mom's Closet


My phases usually strike in the early morning, fueled by dreams or vague ideas shaped in the first waves of morning consciousness. And they have occurred at regular intervals over the past couple of years.

They are my rearranging of anything in my path or field of vision -- pictures, furniture, curios. The only "thing" that escapes me is Tiggy, who usually runs for safety behind the couch until the whirlwind passes.

I'm currently on the hunt for a couple of wall-hangings that were among the many my mother and grandmother did in the 1970s, during that craft's height in popularity. Once I find the one with Nippper,the RCA dog staring into the gramaphone, it will be prominently displayed on a living room wall, and the one with the grandfather clock retired to the storage box. My astrology-adherent friends would say my Sagitarrius longing for change is being expressed; I think I'm tired of the visual status-quo, and just want to freshen up the living room.

Rummaging through the catacombs of a certain walk-in closet was a heart-warming trip back into family history. The above box, musty cardboard in remarkably great shape, has a trove of knitting needles of every size. Looking at them, I can transport myself to our old living room in Kenmore, New York, or to the end of Mom's bed, as I watched, mesmerized, as Mom's rhythmically created sweaters, Christmas stockings, or afghans. No matter the family calamity of the moment, Mom's knitting needles provided me a sense of continuity and stability.

Another box contained a miniature library of how-to booklets -- how-to make pillows, pom-poms, as well as Mom's unfilled wish, "Sewing for Little Girls." Bless her heart, Mom tried her best to make me a girly, domestic female, but it didn't quite take the form she imagined. My interests have always gone more toward pursuits like gardening or carpentry.



I've got some more nooks and crannies to search for the elusive latchhook, but I will find it before the day is over. Stay tuned for a picture of it.