The Things we Inherit

Before we even considered buying the Crow’s Nest, I already had plans for my dream home. If you ask Sara I have designed and redesigned our dream home at least 100 times in the almost 11 years we have been together. I designed our dream home as a Queen Anne, a Craftsman, Italianate, Tudor Revival on numerous occasions, Greek Revival, Carpenter Gothic, and a poor attempt at recreating a modernized layout of Myrtles Plantation. I lost track of how many designs there could be. (I really should create a book of these plans so that maybe some my past dreams can see the light of day as someone else’s dream home). But one thing was constant in every design I did, I had places set aside for my antique furniture collection. My collection has been tucked away for years and I have dreamed of the day that I could unearth these treasures from their dusty tombs to be seen, admired and used. However, I think I am getting ahead of myself. I suppose I should start at the very beginning.

As a young boy and later as a teenager I loved old things. I was fascinated about things from the past and facts about times gone by. If you ask my mother, I probably could recite all facts to be known about the Titanic by the time I was eight. It was a cute but probably annoying habit. It was the Gilded age and the Victorian age that became my obsession and it probably still is. My grandmother quickly took notice.

My grandmother, which one day she will have her own post because she deserves nothing less, was a keeper of family heirlooms and wonderful forgotten treasures. She was like an enchantress from another time and every time I went to her house she would show me an item that belonged to some relative from long ago. It has become a running joke that if you have a question about who owned what piece, you just had to point I could promptly tell you who owned it and where the items provenance came from.

Grandma saw how these items brought me joy and when she had her cancer diagnosis when I was 9 she made it very clear to all in the family that one day when I was old enough any items that weren’t already promised would one day pass to me. My beloved Grandma Yvonne passed when I was 14 years old surrounded by the family she loved so much and there isn’t a day that I don’t miss her.

My grandma with my mother.

It was strange growing up thinking I had a house full of antique furniture and no house to put it in. I dreamed of the day of inviting guests into the library or parlor and have them amazed at a room so full of beautiful antiques. Most of the furniture dates from 1910-1930 with a few older pieces scattered in but I love it all. My Papa Del is still alive and he has stored all these wonderful treasures for me and when we bought the Crow’s Nest, I sheepishly asked if I could take the pieces from the rooms that were no longer in use. My 94 year old Papa looked at me and smiled. “Take it all. I don’t need it anymore.” I was happy to oblige.

This being said there are things that don’t make sense to have in a home for a family just starting out. Do large wobbly ceramic statues belong in a house with animals and children? What about mint condition oriental rugs from the turn of the century that can so easily be stained? What about stiff back needle point chairs that great grandma Emilie did by hand (Emilie deserves a whole post)? Tanta Anna’s knick knacks from around the world? Antique china from London and Germany that will never see use? Again I am reminded of Sara’s rules about comfort and functionality but does inheritance override these items? For now these items are staying where they are while I contemplate their future. If I don’t enjoy them, I hope that someone else in the family does because I refuse to hoard items that I don’t love or want. It’s just stuff I tell myself but some part me is sad if we were to sell or get rid of these items in the future. However that would mean that someone else will enjoy them. I also wonder if my future children or grandchildren will want any of this and I hope they do, but if they don’t, well it’s only stuff my mother would say. What matters are the memories and good works that we leave behind. For if I leave even 1/2 of the legacy that my grandmother left behind, I will die a happy man.

Some of the antiques in the library

Having these items out in the open for public use for the first time in over a decade brings a smile to my face and I can imagine my grandmother would be more than happy to have the parlor set in my library and the dinning room furniture to be an assortment of family heirlooms. There are quiet moments that I can imagine her here with a good book or watching her evening program and giving me a content look knowing that she is remembered. I miss you grandma.

Grandma and Me

4 thoughts on “The Things we Inherit

  1. I can see a lot of my grandmother in this post. Though she bought most of her furniture new she had a decent amount of inherited antiques. She told me that no one wanted any of this stuff until they took it, then suddenly everyone was jealous that she got it all.

    We have a mixed relationship with her stuff. I treasure ordinary things, like the Magnalite Dutch oven she got as a wedding gift from her ex-boyfriend’s mother and a high Victorian marble topped burled veneered dresser and wash stand. People ridicule the latter, which makes me like it even more.

    For things you like but are afraid of damaging, don’t live in fear. My grandmother ate off junk while good dishes sat on shelves collecting dust. I just listed my everyday dishes on Buy Nothing (and they’re too far gone for even that group to bite!) and unboxed hers. She’d be horrified. They’ll chip! So if you have a home for the rugs, just take them. My mom scrubs red wine out of her rugs all the time. It’s fine.

    Then the things you don’t want. These are a little harder. I’m holding onto a couple of plates at least for now that I have no use or space for because my great-great-great grandmother’s name is marked on masking tape on the back. But my dad is fuming mad about all the extra chairs, including remnants of a Victorian parlor set, in his attic.

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  2. I remember when she talked about you and your love for antique things. One of her dreams was to one day take you to Europe to see all the old architecture. She couldn’t do it but i am glad you have had that opportunity.
    She would be so proud of you and would want you to follow your dreams.

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  3. I just looked a little closer at the picture of grandma and your mom. The table you have in your parlor is the same one by grandma in the picture. I grew up sometimes sleeping on that couch – don’t do it, it’s not comfortable! I’m so happy to see it all together again and love that you treasure it.

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