The Sun is Setting on an Era
Several years ago, I read an essay in a magazine about a middle-aged woman who was dealing with what to do with her mother’s prized antiques. She had recently decided to sell them and the essay was about coming to terms with letting go of the things that had meant so much to her mother.
I read that then, knowing I would be that woman someday.
My someday is here.
Perhaps it was reading “The Lovely Bones,” which is a book about moving on – for the living and the dead in that case – but I awoke one morning several weeks ago ready to let some of the things I have of my mother’s finally go.
My mother loved to antique, so I have quite a few pieces and only a very few have I found a place for in The Little House or The Belle Writer’s Studio.
Ironically, it’s the pieces that are perhaps worth the least monetarily that are worth more to me sentimentally.
The hardest is the 1950s-era dining room china cabinet and table on which my mother served so many Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. After our little bungalow was remodeled, which took out the tiny dining room and opened the kitchen, the set waited almost unnoticed in a corner of the back family room until the holidays, when the furniture was moved and the dining room table extended to seat my parents, three siblings, brothers-in- law and 5 nephews. Sometimes, there was a “stray,” as my mother called them, and engineer or car inspector my father brought home from the railroad who couldn’t be with their own family for the holidays.
After we moved from the bungalow to the big brick Tudor, the set found a home once again in a formal dining room.
The set has been moved so many times now that the legs on the table are loose and wobbly and dampness is causing the veneer to come loose on the bottom portion of the hutch. But my mom loved that set; it represented to her the first pieces of furniture that weren’t hand-me-downs.
Most of the rest of the pieces were purchased for that move to her dream home, the Big Brick Tudor.
One of the other pieces I’m having trouble parting with is a huge portrait of what I’ve always thought of as the French countryside. It’s in a beautiful gold frame. Mom looked all over the city to find just the right piece to go over the fireplace in the living room. The fireplace was centered on a wall with two leaded glass windows and leaded glass built in bookcases on either side, so the centerpiece needed to be something stunning that screamed from the Gilded Age of Victorian decadence.
The portrait was bought at the Jones Store and I remember it had to be delivered, as it wouldn’t even fit into the trunk of my dad’s 1978 Ford Fairmont.
Although too overwhelming for most of the tiny apartments my mom lived in after selling the Tudor, she took it with her everywhere, a reminder of the house she loved.
When she finally moved into the duplex a block from our home, the portrait hung on a wall above the stairs. Dale and I bought one of those fancy art lights that highlighted the massive piece and she used as a nightlight to guide her up the staircase to bed. She even insisted on taking the portrait to the tiny senior apartment, where she spent the last year of her life.
It’s things like that, rather than things like the antique pie safe and spinning wheel that I’m having a hard time coming to terms with selling. Yet I know now that I will never have the room or the need for them. I know that it would be better for someone else to enjoy these items.
Logistically, it might be hard to get people to come out this far to look at the pieces, and when Dale asked me to come up to the storage area the other day to “look at some of this stuff and decide what you want to do with it,” for the umpteenth time, I was horrified to find most of the wooden pieces (including my own furniture from our house in the city) had developed mildew. I’ve read it can be carefully washed, but I need a warm sunny day (or probably at least a couple).
However, the splotchy mold only pushed me further to let it go, let someone else’s large family enjoy the dining room set and maybe some other person restoring an old Victorian will get nearly 30 more years of enjoyment from that painting.
It’s time for the sun to set on that era of my life.
Have you ever had to part with things that held so much sentimental value? Also, readers, would appreciate any tips on cleaning mold and mildew from wood and finding an appraiser who can tell me what some of the oldest pieces I have are worth.