Recent Posts

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Lorena’s Chair

It is the abandoned family photographs found at flea markets that pinch at my heartstrings.

I always ask myself the same question, “How has this happened that no one cares enough to keep such personal things?”

But I know the answer.

I’ve lived the answer.

Sometimes it’s circumstances.

Living as a young airman’s wife I moved 4 times in one year. It was a struggle to pack and load my great grandmother Lorena’s old sewing machine and cabinet. It had no purpose for me really. The sewing machine was beyond repair and the veneer on top of the cabinet was badly in need of costly restoration. I used it haphazardly as a table surface most of time. There came a time in which the government needed me to make hard choices about what to take and what to keep in order to remain within weight restrictions allowed in military moves. I made inquiries to the few remaining family members left and no one was interested. So, the cabinet was sadly sold to a very nice man who wanted to restore it for his wife.

sewing machine

Sometimes it timing. 

After my grandma Mary’s death and my Papa Jack was living in an Alzheimer's care facility I set to the task of cleaning out their home. Fifty plus years of a well lived life together. So many of their things left a fingerprint of time in my mind. There was amazing mid century furniture that they had carefully saved for, purchased and treasured for many years. As a wife I already had a house full of furniture so most of it was sold, some was donated and the rest given away. A few years later my daughter had her own place and was in desperate need of furniture. Her tastes run to mid century. Isn’t that always the way?

I did however bring home the huge and heavy family bible. The first inscription inside was for the birth of John Bradley in 1819. As I initially looked at the bible an index card fluttered to the ground. I picked it up and read it. It stated how the bible had come into the hands of my grandmother, Mary Bradley Varner, the great granddaughter of John Bradley. The last line on the card was that the bible was to be kept “in the family with someone who cares.” I was the only one cleaning out the house.

It came home with me.

Fall 2015 044

Last winter I drove our truck through a dangerous snowstorm across two states to attend a funeral. The truck was needed to collect heirlooms for family members of mine living further away. One of the items was my great grandmother’s rocking chair. Since that trip it has been sitting in my garage with the intent to live in someone else’s home. I recently learned that due to a lack of space there is no room for the chair in their home. I understand this all too well.

I brought the chair inside my house. It’s currently blocking the one main walkway in the kitchen as I write this post.

I have no room in my house for this chair either. But I cannot bring myself to sell, donate or give it away.

This is rather an ironic struggle.

After the deaths of my parents there was no room for me in any of my family members homes.

Yet somehow I have become the keeper of their things.

Fall 2015 052

How is this possible?

As an adult I now understand about timing and circumstances. But more importantly I have learned about unwavering love.

Love always protects, trusts, hopes and perseveres.


“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8


GSGreatEscaper said...

Dear Laura,

I got up early today to look up verses from the Bible to present to a family member for possible inclusion at her husband's funeral.

How is it that 'in my father's house there are many rooms' but sometimes no room for people? We ask these questions, but sometimes we cannot answer "yes, I have room for you," or for your stuff. Sometimes we have to shed things as if they were our mortal bodies being shed so we can have new life. I hope that someone will want the chair (paint and reupholster?)

Sandi said...

It is sad to see those old photographs without a home. You never know how they got there. Maybe it was a misake or maybe there was simply no one left to take them. I think it would be fun...maybe not the right put them in an album and try to guess who they were, what they did...people could look at it and ask, "Is this your Grandmother?" ..."No, but she was someone's Grandmother. I think!"

Ok, that sounded way less odd before I typed it out! ;-)

marty (A Stroll Thru Life) said...

It is sad that some people don't have a desire to preserve family and history. You are such a blessing that you have preserved all you can.

Lisa said...

I'm so glad you got to bring your family bible home with you. What a beautiful legacy it holds! And your grandmother's chair is so adorable!

Ivy and Elephants said...

You are such a blessing. The love and history of your family will continue to live and grow through you. You are that strong link that holds the family together.

Karena Albert said...

Laura this is so moving and poignant. It also serves to let us know that our beloved possessions may not be needed or wanted by future generations, so we should enjoy and use all of our "nice" things! It is the loving memories that count.

The Arts by Karena

Fox and Finch Antiques said...

I had to think about this post for awhile before I could write. I put myself in your place and thought what you must feel. I remembered a story a friend of mine told me about being in Germany at the end of WWII. My friend was 15 then and the family farm was taken. The family loaded a cart with what they could carry and began to pull it down the road. They walked two days to the nearest relative's home and that aunt and uncle said they would not take them in. Exhausted and hungry, they pulled the cart for two more days, but the last remaining relative would not take them in either. My friend said they found sponsors to take them in the U.S.A. (There was probably money involved.) They never spoke to the relatives again. Nothing hurts more than the feeling of being misunderstood or let-down by those we think love us. In my mind, keeping your grandmother's chair says that you are strong enough to rise above all of it. This post was very touching.

Vicki said...

The chair is lovely. I can just imagine the stories it could tell. I'm always sad when I find family photos at sales. It also saddens me to find personal needle art. I guess since I'm a stitcher, I feel what went into the making of the piece. When possible, I buy them, re-frame or repair them and display them in my home.

Kelley Dibble said...

In Bible times, the patriarch set up stones of testimony. Not heirlooms, not photographs. Stones of testimony of how God brought them through. "What's this stone for, Papa?" the children would ask. "I put it there as a testimony of how God helped us make it through."

I love the movie "The Quiet Man." It's my all time favorite. Rich in culture and custom, it pays tribute to days when courtship was strictly observed by chaperones and a dowry was saved by a little girl for her someday home as a wife and mother. Her things were created by her, created for her, and often passed down from generations gone by. They were treasured, cherished, and their stories were passed down to the new little girls in the family.

I also LOVE to watch Antique Roadshow. Some of the stories are known about those old things, and some were bought at a yard sale, story-less, history-less. One woman's trash is another woman's treasure.

This post struck a cord with me since we've moved more than 20 times in 34 years of marriage. I always warn my girls-- and oh! They've learned this lesson-- be very careful what you get rid of.

Letters Unfolded

Katie Mansfield said...

I understand this post all too well. I've had to make some hard choices about some stuff lately. For some reason I am the family gatekeeper of family heirlooms but I don't have room for it all. I'm keeping what I love and re-homing the rest.
That is such a cute chair. I hope you find a spot for it.

Linda said...

This is so sad and beautiful at the same time, Laura. I can fully relate as I am very much the curator of such things in our family!

Auntie Em said... your home has become the Trading Post. lol That was what my Mom always called our old homestead. And after she passed away, our home became the Trading Post for not only my side of the family but for Hubby's too. But somehow I always managed to find a spot to tuck in another rocker or dish or what ever. They add to the story of our home and make it the place that everyone seems to like to visit. The items are not fancy or worth a lot, but they hold memories and stories.
And I feel so sad when I see stacks of photos at flea markets. I have often purchased them just to keep them from being destroyed. They are often better than many books I have read. :)

Maureen Wyatt said...

I always feel sorry to see family photos and documents dumped in boxes and sold at auction. I've even adopted a few folks in photos into the family. But, storing family heirlooms can become a true burden and I'm feeding as much of it out as I can these days. I do have to add that I shed a tear or two for that girl that there was no room for in the family that should have folded itself around her like a comforting blanket. I'm so glad you are surrounded by love now.

Magali@TheLittleWhiteHouse said...

This is a beautiful chair, all the more beautiful because it's linked to memories. I'm sure you'll find a place for it in one of your rooms and later you'll be glad you kept it.

Rue said...

If I were you, I wouldn't get rid of that chair for all the money in the world and I wouldn't paint it either (but that's me lol). I think it's a beautiful piece and it might be cute in a guest bedroom or any bedroom really.

I'm the keeper of the family heirlooms. My mother knows how much I love and treasure the past and gave quite a few of them to me when she ran out of room, before she downsized. My daughter Annie is next in line. No one else really cares. When the time comes (and hopefully not too soon!) to inherit my mom's things, I'll give, what I'm replacing her things with, to Annie and I hope she does the same with her children and so on. I think she will. Although, when I was waxing my wood antiques about three months ago, I told her this was her job next and she rolled her eyes lol She'll do it though. She's as sentimental as I am ;)

Photographs I'll never understand though. They say that you're not truly dead until no one remembers you. It's so very sad... all the forgotten lives.