While cleaning out My Mother The Dowager Duchess’s apartment in August, we had some surprises. She and my father purchased their massive bedroom furniture in 1950. I found the original receipt. I have no idea how they afforded it considering the fact that my mother always claimed they were poor. They paid $846 in 1950. In today’s money, that’s equivalent to $8,472.39.
We would have loved to have shipped it here, but it would have cost a fortune. Besides, our largest bedroom couldn’t fit it all. The two dressers together were about 7 feet long.
I found a bunch of doily-like items in black and white. They’re provided free for women to cover their heads at Jewish rites such as weddings, bar mitzvahs, and funerals. Black for funerals, obviously, and white for the happier occasions. Typical of my mother (“I might be able to use it for a project”) she kept every single one. One drawer of the side cabinet in a dresser was filled with them. I laughed when I tossed them all on the bed. But then I discovered that two more drawers were also filled. There were hundreds of them. I can’t imagine that my mother actually went to hundreds of events. I think she stole a lot of them. But, she would argue indignantly, “I didn’t steal them. They put them out for free. I only took some extras… just in case.”
(Click the images for the bigger picture.)
THE TWO DRESSERS THAT WERE STUFFED FULL. TWO LARGE MIRRORS WERE MOUNTED ON THE SAME MAHOGANY.
THE HEADBOARD. THE ONLY PIECE OF FURNITURE THAT WAS EMPTY. (EXCEPT FOR AN OLD, DEAD, LANDLINE TELEPHONE AND A BOX OF TISSUES).
A SAMPLING. MY NEW BUSINESS: BULK ORDERS ONLY. HIGHER RATES FOR THOSE WITH ADORNMENTS.
If you’ve been with me since August, you might remember the huge collection of knitwear, all made by My Mother The Dowager Duchess. In addition to the sweaters pictured in a post from August 25 (click here), I set aside photos of some special ones to share with you when I had the time. Well, I have the time.
Of the items pictured below, I only remember the first, which my mother made some time in the early 1960s. The others were all new to my eyes, so, while sorting through her photos, I was really pleased to find a shot from 1984 of the Duchess wearing the last one.
(Click the images to inspect the workwomanship.)
WITH INDIVIDUAL CRYSTAL BEADS. THIS WAS PAIRED WITH A FLOOR-LENGTH TAPERED BLACK SKIRT (ALSO MADE BY THE DUCHESS). CLASSY.
1984. THE DIFFICULT YEARS SHOW IN HER EYES. (BUT NO DOUBT THAT WAS CLUB SODA IN THE CUP.)
In 1987 when we were living in Southern Connecticut, San Geraldo had a business trip to San Francisco. I was going with him. It was three months after my father’s death and My Mother The Dowager Duchess was about to turn 60. So we invited her along.
My mother and I sat next to each other on the plane. San Geraldo was one row back. As boarding continued, a very attractive woman came through the door and walked down the aisle toward us. She had red hair and was dressed in teal blue from head to toe.
As the woman approached, The Duchess commented in a stage whisper, “How beautiful.”
We hadn’t noticed that behind her was a little boy. He also had red hair and was dressed entirely in teal blue.
The Duchess stage-whispered, “Cute.”
A moment later, an extremely large man came lumbering down the aisle. He had red hair and also wore teal blue, top to bottom. A matched set.
The Duchess harrumphed, “Well that’s just a bit too much!”
CLICK THE IMAGE AND DECIDE WHAT WORKS FOR YOU. AND DON’T WORRY WHAT THE DUCHESS MIGHT HAVE SAID. SHE HAD A TEAL BLUE “JOGGING SUIT.” SHE DIDN’T JOG.
Since our return from New York late September, I’ve been trying to get the apartment more settled and organized. We finished most of our renovations months ago and never got around to putting things completely back together. Then My Mother The Dowager Duchess took her final bow and we returned with memories of her. What we carried home with us was followed months later by some furniture, art, and other things we didn’t have the heart to part with.
We also shipped back from South Dakota dozens of framed family photos we had left with Linda and Tom (Jerry’s sister and her husband) when we moved to Spain. About 10 boxes. They were supposed to go through the photos, keep what they wanted, share with the kids, and then get rid of the rest.
Somehow, in the emotions of our departure, Linda and Tom missed that point and thought they were simply storing boxes of papers! So, in September, we whittled the 10 boxes down to 4. We’ve now got a lot of framed photos and not a lot of wall space. I’m doing what I can, while turning what I had hoped would be a minimalist apartment into a Victorian-looking collection of clutter.
I’m trying to keep the clutter under control and, I must admit, we both love seeing so many family photos back on our walls (thanks, Linda and Tom) along with original artwork, including paintings and sculptures by The Dowager Duchess.
We used to have close to 200 photos lining a hallway or stairway in every one of our [more spacious] homes in the States, plus dozens displayed on tabletops. A few dozen is all this place can handle, I think. And each one requires me to drill a hole into the concrete wall. So, if I measure wrong, that’s where it stays! I still have to figure out permanent homes for all the additional sculptures and knick knacks that are strewn on most surfaces.
We shipped a few pieces of furniture, some artwork, and two boxes of miscellaneous goods from my mother’s (The Dowager Duchess) New York apartment in late August. It went from there to Amsterdam to Madrid and finally arrived here in Fuengirola today.
New York and Madrid were great — well, except for the guy who incompetently packed the two boxes of miscellaneous goods. So, OK, Madrid was great.
The representative in Amsterdam sat on the shipment for nearly three months. As he explained to San Geraldo, when he finally responded, “It’s a long way from Amsterdam to Spain.”
But, it’s here. And it’s a joy to see my mother’s things in our house — especially my mother’s paintings, sculptures, and needlework.
Today’s photo is an embroidery The Dowager Duchess did more than 25 years ago. It’s 18 x 22 inches (46 x 56cm) and the work is so expert that, at first glance (and sometimes even after careful study), most people think it’s an oil painting.
As we unpack and start to get organized, we’re reminded of — and in awe of — my mother’s exceptional talent. (Click the image to be wowed.)