“just things”

Apr 4, 2011 | 5 comments

From My Linen Cupboard

I’ve been told that I’m “house proud” and I must admit I am.  I love this house and, even more, I love its contents.  But I don’t think of that as a bad thing, probably because I don’t feel ownership in the usual sense.  Most of the things in this house – the furniture, the dishes, the knickknacks, the linens, even many of the books – have been here since before I was born. My ‘ownership’ is more a sense of stewardship.
This was my grandparents’ home and it was the only house that was a constant when I was growing up.  My parents and I moved a number of times – six by the time I graduated from high school – so, over the years, this family house where my mother had grown up became the one that was most familiar.
When my parents retired here, they blended their things with my grandparents’ things, keeping the best, the oldest, the bits and pieces with stories attached.  Ten years ago when Nyel and I moved here, we fit ourselves in around the edges. It was easy for me and Nyel, bless him, has never complained.  After all, he did get his Master’s Degree in Museum Studies!
But, this isn’t a museum.  We use the crystal and china.  I keep the silver polished and the furniture dusted (well, more or less!)   And, though the linen pillowcases have thinned with age, I occasionally use them, too.  I simply can’t resist the hand-crocheted or tatted lace edgings, each stitch made with love by my grandmother or even by her mother.
Once when a careless in-law dropped and broke a platter that had been my great-grandmother’s, she said to my mother, “Oh, I’ll go down to Dennis Company and replace it for you.”  My mother never forgave that bit of insensitivity.  Nor would I.
Bottom line, I guess, is that I missed out on the pleasure of knowing my great-grandmother, of sitting in her lap or holding her hand.  But her hands had used that platter and so had my grandmother’s and my mother’s.  Now they are gone and so is the platter — another passageway to the world of long-ago, lost.
I can’t really agree with people who say “They’re just things.”  They are far more than that to me – they are a physical connection to the past.  By the very feel and look and heft of them, I know something of the people who chose them or made them, enjoyed them and cared for them.   I love it that my own forebears used these particular things and kept them in good order for those of us who followed.  I hope I do as well.


  1. Nancy

    The “things” that you tend: the gate is opened, passed through, feet carry one to the porch. The front door is opened to a time that feels “then” yet is “now”. Those of us who have touched and been touched by “things” say thank you to you and Nyel from the depths of our wells of appreciation and gratitude for your love of the past and your desire to share it with others.

  2. Pam

    I have given up on the idea of living in your house, but I have admired it for years! I drive by every time we are on the peninsula. Who occupied the house prior to your moving in 10 years ago?

    • sydney

      My parents lived in the house before we moved in. Before that, my grandparents lived here. Our family (three generations) has lived in it continuously since 1902.

  3. Jeanne B.

    This is a subject that I have pondered long and hard since my mother died, and my mother-in-law moved out of her home of 50 years (both in the same year), and we ended up with a storage unit’s worth of “things.” The sheer volume overwhelms, and yet both Steve and I find it difficult to find the courage and emotional distance to sort through it all and make the tough decisions of what to keep and what to “throw.” I suspect we’ll keep procrastinating, and our children will curse us for it someday!

  4. Stephanie Frieze

    It is important to live somewhere that feeds your soul and I am sure that your wonderful house does that, Sydney. I love my things that belonged to my parents and grandparents and a few that belonged to great-grandparents. I especially love the linens and china. I don’t know why I am so drawn to those things, but I think it is because they are what made frontier homes special and soothed the hearts of women. I use one of my great-grandmother’s silver plate forks each day at lunch. It’s only plate, but it has their surname initial on it and I had wash it each night. Finding delight in handmade pillow cases or thinking about the hands that held objects in the pass brings me much joy. These things hold no particular charm for my husband, but he’s happy if I’m happy. 🙂 Although our house is old, we do not have the attachment of family that you do, but nevertheless I think of the other women who cooked in my kitchen and wonder at their lives.


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