Friday, July 31, 2020

Still at Home with the family treasures...

Now it’s the end of July and the COVID virus rages on around us as we stay safely at home. The days pass surprisingly quickly. Ray works in the yard, futzes with his sprinkler system, sorts books donated to the used book store where he volunteers and this week he is processing the large crop of garlic from the garden. He has been drying some, chopping and freezing some. The house reeks of garlic, but I know we will be happy to have it when we’re cooking good serious soups and stews this winter. 

This time at home has been an opportunity to attack some improvement projects, like painting the kitchen. A couple weeks ago Ray found a guy to come in and repair some ceiling damage that happened years ago, but we’d never been able to get anyone in to repair it. That necessitated moving my great-grandmother’s China cupboard out, away from the work area. I had to box up all the treasures inside and today I cleaned everything, inside and out and put it all back in place and wondered, not for the first time, why we save the things we save. I can assure you there’s little of much monetary value in there. 

This piece of carnival glass came with the cupboard. My mother seemed to remember that my great grandmother either won it in a drawing at the movie theater or it came in a box of laundry powder.  The China cup, below, was her father’s mustache cup. It is quite worn and chipped. 

Here’s a treasure!—an old, unopened bottle of Coca Cola with the name of my hometown, Pocatello, Idaho, molded into the bottom of the bottle. My dad did a lot of work, designing and building machinery for the bottling plant in Pocatello, and the manager of the plant became a good friend. 

And here’s a miniature version—another relic of my childhood. 

Faded 4- leaf clover in an old dish

Old Chinese tea cups from second hand stores. They remind me of the old Chinese restaurant in Pocatello. I loved that place...

OK, here’s something that might be valuable—a commemorative plate for the coronation of King Edward VIII of England in 1937.  “Long may he reign”. Remember how that turned out? 

Found an identical one currently for sale on eBay, asking $60 or best offer...

Well, seriously, why do we keep such things? Going through them this morning I started out planning to cull out a lot of worthless “junk.” I ended up putting it all back. It was nice to think about other times and the people connected to all these things. It felt good to wipe down the wood and clean all the glass of the cupboard, that was a prized possession of Cora Lee Shelton, my great grandmother, in this house on the Colorado plains so long ago. That’s Cora with her family. My grandmother, Clarice, is the little girl with the horse. 

When she died the cupboard went, with my mother, to Idaho. When my mother died it came to Oregon with me. Putting it back in place and handling and placing each piece took me out of the moment this morning and let me feel my connection to people I loved and times past. Those dear people, long gone are treasures and these odd, collected bits my only material connections to them. I hope someone in my family will want the cupboard someday, and love it, as 4 generations, so far have. As its current guardian I’m happy to keep it safe. It’s nice to see it sparkle again. 


  1. There is something meditative about cleaning a china cupboard. I also had my Great Grandmother's and then gave it to my sister after Mom died. It was supposed to go to the oldest grandchild. Since I don't care for glassware and filing it with threads or fabric seemed laughable, I asked Tammy if she would like it. She loves the old milk glass and the clear glass with the clear pearl bubbles. As I emptied the few treasure I had in it, I realized that the things I keep have stories. The item is worth only the memory it has to me which is priceless.

  2. These are treasures, whatever their value in money... My family comes from Warsaw (Poland), a city completely destroyed during WWII not by direct warfare, but by methodical and systematic plans of destruction. Few of such treasures survived the war, but there is an almost complete set of crystal glass dessert plates my grandmother had received from her parents as a wedding gift and in 1945, dug from the ruins of her house... I hope one day to become the custodian of these old, cute little plates with some history...

  3. For me the best way to do this kind of thing is with my mother. I get to hear the stories about all the people who things are related to, some I know, some before me. But I too love the connections. It is a balancing act though, the connections vs. too much stuff. I also appreciate prior family members who took time to label or keep info with things, the connections are so much easier to track that way.