A Confession

I have a confession, I am an addict………..to decorating programs. I hunger after programs on HGTV, Candice Olson, Steven and Chris. I find myself drawn to white, shiny, modern cubicles to display collectables. Each room makeover leaves me with wishes that I did not own an antique family sideboard and could just dispose of it and replace it with one of these crisp, sharp cornered display units. Somewhere in time I have begun to regard this family heirloom as a burden.

On a recent morning I sat on the sofa staring at the tall, tiger wood side-board and like a ghost I visualized my late uncle standing there in his pale blue polyester pants, white shoes and a long errant piece of hair coiled back over his skull to imitate a full head of hair. He playfully thumbed the brass handles of the cupboard. He was in his early nineties and even though we did not know it then would not celebrate many more birthdays. He told me he remembered playing with the handles on the cupboard as a little lad and being chastised by his plump, loving mother not to scratch the furniture. This set me off on another journey of remembrance. My short, round, floury smelling grandmother always had a kitchen fragrant with baking apple pies, large kettles of chili sauce or jam cooking down to just the right consistency. It was an old fashioned kitchen with the table in the centre of the room. No running water for wash up; just a cast iron pump on the end of the short counter to supply cold water direct from the cistern. Water had to be heated for washing and added to the low, wide sink. As grandmother was short so was everything in the kitchen to accommodate her use. This was the bane of existence for those of us who grew taller than grandma and had to wash up in her sink long after she had passed away.

The stately side-board is well over one hundred years old and in it’s original condition. The silver on the mirror has worn off in places but still reflects the people and space around it. The metal casters have protective pads added to save the hardwood floor it sits upon. Today it still holds the full set of fine china which my Grandmother cherished along with the tarnished silver candlesticks given to my parents by one of my Dad’s brothers and sister-in-law as a wedding gift. The drawers smell of years past, once lined by scented liners; wax from long burnt out candles stain the bottoms and old Irish Linen is still nestled in the cupboard. The side-board shines and smells with years of paste wax and more recently a spray polish.

This piece of furniture has witnessed numerous family events. It is from a time when babies were birthed at home, the dead were waked in the adjacent room and weddings were celebrated in the parlour. Family Christmas’, Thanksgiving and Easter dinners saw the table extended to its fullest and the table would groan with the burden of turkey, dressing, potatoes, every seasonable vegetable available for the occasion, cheese pickles, homemade bread and buns; all of which would be replaced with an array of pie, sweets and puddings. The side-board observed all this celebration from its place against the wall.

It’s origin is unknown to me. I don’t know if it was newly acquired by my grandparents or passed on from another family member. Perhaps it was purchased second hand. Money was not always plentiful on the farm and it would not be unreasonable to find it was secondhand. Antique dealers can place a value on it but as a family heirloom it is priceless. I have become aware that this is not a burden but rather an honour to be the custodian of this lovely piece of furniture.

The challenge now is to find a way to blend this side-board and a few other antiques into a brand new house. The side-board can display our antique pink bowls. By choosing a neutral shade of grey paint for the walls the side-board graces the great room; along with heavy dark brown leather furniture and throw rugs featuring reds, golds, orange, beige and grey blues. Pieces of furniture from different time periods co-exist in a harmony which can only be appreciated by those who know the history. This may not be what designers like Candice Olson would select but it suits my taste and gives a special comfort that my grandparents would approve.

There will be a day when the old side-board is passed on to my daughter. I will give her this background in hopes that she too will cherish her family history and take on the custodianship for another generation.




6 thoughts on “A Confession

  1. Me again gud buddy 😄

    Well you just took old Thelma on quite the roller coaster ride just now as I read your latest blog entry!

    First…it was ‘get comfy Thelma, Louise is going to talk abt her love of decorating and compulsion to rearrange furniture and repaint rooms. If you are lucky, just maybe she will divulge some of her secrets as to how she comes up with all those GORGEOUS vignettes you love so much!’

    Then came the curveball surprise news that you love shiny white display cubes…didn’t see that one coming! What other secrets lie waiting to be disclosed by my best friend !?!?

    Then the shock of learning that you wished you didn’t have the family sideboard totally blindsided me! I always thought that your two gorgeous antique DR pieces were your favourite, most treasured pieces!

    By now you had me totally confused and thinking I truly did not really know my best friend!!!

    Then came the glorious tales of the history of the sideboard and the acknowledgement of how special it is in the grand scheme of things. You even had me wondering if any of my Dad’s relatives had attended any of those wakes or other events years ago! Thelma finally relaxed at this point as this is how I had always thought you felt about the piece.

    Then came the realization that ‘I’ have recently been having the exact same mental battles recently about all kinds of furniture, dishes, crystal, silver, linens, knick knack paddywhacks that Don and I have been ‘saddled with’ from our grandparents, parents, aunts etc etc. THEIR treasures have literally overtaken Oakhill and are seeping their way to Napanee and Florida.

    Our entire LR at Oakhill is now furnished in my parents’ mahogany furniture filled with Mom’s silverplated crap, crystal, china, cups and saucers, linens, and Doulton figurines. There are numerous cartons of my aunt’s similar stuff piled in the LR as well. Our own DR cupbds house mostly Don’s Mom’s similar fancy schmancy stuff. Our flat to the wall cupbds in the Great Room house his Mom’s glass dishes and compotes. There are more cartons of THEIR stuff under every bed and piled in the basedump. Odds and ends have migrated to Napanee and Florida where they remain unused and taking up space.

    Somewhere in there, OUR love of primitive sparse furnishings and pressed glass and earthenware got pushed aside to make room for other people’s treasures…and their stuff is preventing us from displaying, using, and enjoying our own things! All those years I spent refinishing every piece of our furniture…only to have it used to store inherited stuff we don’t like and which holds no memories. Somehow, we have allowed ourselves to be GUILTED into keeping all these items that we don’t like and will never use…as if we will go to hell for eternity and be a disgrace and disappointment if we dare dispose of any of these items and, gawd forbid, just keep and enjoy and surround ourselves with things we have had fun saving up for and collecting ourselves.

    We have pretty much decided lately that we are going to let go of that oppressing guilt trip when we sell Oakhill. We plan to rid ourselves of everyone else’s stuff that we have anywhere and everywhere unless it holds really special happy memories or is used regularly…and only keep and enjoy the things that are special to us while we can. When we can no longer live independently, all our own treasures will have no home to go to…so we need to enjoy them while we can! We will pick and choose our favourites from Oakhill and Napanee and downsize as needed so we only have things we love in Napanee and a small condo for when we ‘need’ to be in the GTA for family reasons or hockey overnighters. The thought of downsizing, freeing ourselves from all that guilt-ridden baggage, and finally enjoying our own treasures makes my heart soar dear friend 💖. Only wish we had taken this stand YEARS ago!

    Thanks for the roller coaster ride to reality!

    Hugs, Thelma

    Sent from my iPad


    1. Thelma: During a recent conversation with some of my pals in the Creative Writing Group one idea stood out. Create a photo album of these pieces that you hate to part with but still can’t accommodate in your life. An album will take up much less space and can be pulled out at a nostalgic moment. Hugs…..Louise

  2. I will love and cherish this family heirloom with the hopes to also pass it on. I always feel close to my family history with my mom’s memories. Thanks

  3. Oh Lillie this is beautiful I have some pieces here that have been passed down for generations too and can picture the person I love standing beside it. I have already been passing down these treasures to our daughters with stories attached so they will not be forgotten should the time come I may no longer remember. This is so well written and I cannot wait to see you hopefully soon.
    I also love Thelma and her thoughts she sounds like she knows exactly what to do to make things easier. Hug B

  4. Lillie I’m so glad that your story ended with your love of your family heirlooms, after your introduction about wishing you could exchange them for shiny white modern pieces! I too have a number of antique pieces passed down from my family, and others purchased from my former father-in-law, who was an antique dealer. Sadly, when I moved from a 2700 square foot home to a 720 square foot condo, I just simply had no room for much of it. I had to sell some and the sadness was further complicated by the fact that nobody wants antiques any more so they are very much devalued. I shed a few tears when the buffet from my grandparents’ dining room set went out the door with a local dealer. I had no offers on the table and chairs so I made room for most of them in the condo. The table without extensions works with four of the six chairs. The rest are stored in the basement storage area. Unfortunately, any of my family who might have liked having these pieces lives too far away. Enjoy them while you can.:)

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