Yesterday as I looked around my house I began to think about the people who have been part of my life. There are many tangible reminders of them so I think of them often. My home is filled with furniture and other family memorabilia. I treasure the things that I have collected as a wife and mother.
Years back I made a photo inventory of all of my hand-me-downs. It is kept in a safe place so that the children will know the history of the things that I cherish.
In my living room I have a rocker that was my grandfather's. I remember exactly where it sat at their house. Grandpa rocked away as he watched television. We watched the old sitcoms like "I Love Lucy" and "Leave It to Beaver." They were funny without being offensive. I could relate episode after episode, but that is not my intention here.
What is important is the fact that I can clearly remember my grandfather. Often during the evening he would send me to the cellar for an apple. When I gave it to him he would cut it up and share some of it with me. I remember that he had a habit that really annoyed my grandmother. He tapped his fingers on the large oak arm rest. Oh, how I wish I could hear that sound once again. He has been gone a long time now.
Another chair that is rather straight used to be my great-grandfather's chair when he got on in years. He sat in the chair by a little sewing table (that I also have) to play solitaire. He shuffled the cards and spread them out time after time.
A large upholstered chair (I believe it would be called a barrel-back) used to be grandma's favorite chair - that is until grandpa gave her a lounge chair with a foot rest so she could keep her legs up. The chair that I have has been reupholstered at least three times. It went from my grandparents' house to my mother's. It is the chair that my mother always sat in when we visited her small apartment to watch television with her.
I also have some tramp art that my great-grandfather made out of wooden cigar boxes. I have a shadow box that my grandfather made with an old frame. He filled it with seashells that he and grandma collected on one of their trips. The other piece is a knickknack shelf with a small mirror. Yes, these pieces need dusting frequently, but I consider that the privilege of having them.
By the time we disbursed my mother's things the children were married so they took some of her familiar things. Swansons have a bedroom suite. Martones have a vanity and some bookcases. It is wonderful to think that the furniture that was passed on is being used every day. I know that my mother would be happy about that. She was such a giving person.
When I look in my pantry and kitchen I think of my husband. One Christmas he built me an oak cabinet to put under the telephone. Although the phone hangs on the wall, there are books and other necessary items that fill the cupboard. He also refinished my step-back cupboard. I am so thankful for that cupboard. It houses my dishes, platters and glassware. It is sturdy enough to hold almost anything.
In the pantry I have what people call a jelly cupboard. No, there is not only jelly stored in it. It is really a pantry for all of my canned goods. He tucked a pocket in the back to hold my wooden cutting board. That board used to be my grandmother's. We used it for everything.
The Hoosier cupboard that I have is one I bought. I had another one, but that one did not have the slides so that the shelf could be pulled out. When we moved to Hickory Heights it was here. The bottom part of the cupboard was in the house. The top part I discovered months later in an old chicken coup. My son and his wife recently refinished it and put on the pieces so the top will slide. It is part of their kitchen at this point.
The spot where my microwave sits was built in by my husband. It is in my pantry out of the way. When I redid the kitchen the lady wanted to put my microwave over the stove, but I said no. The stove has a ceramic top, and I thought that just seemed dangerous. Besides, I had small grandchildren who would not be able to reach it.
My sewing box was a gift from my grandparents when I got married. Grandpa refinished it for me. He gave it to grandma just before they got married. Every time I get out my scissors or some thread I remember grandma and grandpa.
My kitchen table is another hand-me-down. My great-grandparents bought it second-hand. It was the table that my grandfather grew up eating his meals by. After all of the things from my great-grandparents' house had been disposed of the table was still left at grandpa's. When I said I would like it, he fairly beamed. He refinished the whole thing using a finish that is water resistant. It has been part of my home for 40 years.
Having things that remind me of family and friends is what keeps me going. I think of each one as I use what used to part of their homes. The past is important to me, but I live very much in the present. I am a composite of the people who went before me. They trained me in the way I should go. Is there any better legacy than that?
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.