Due to other commitments (my mother, the book I am not finishing, my mother, chickens, my mother, Bruno’s apathy, blindness and deafness, attending an Alzheimer caregiver support group, and a tendency to malinger) I have not been able to participate lately in the ongoing process of dismantling and emptying the family home, the Orchard.
But my sister is there. She is valiantly risking Hanta virus while throwing out six decades of New Yorkers, Yachting and National Geographics; she is bravely opening up trunks that have been locked for generations; she is unearthing vintage 1960’s travel posters; she is finding new homes for antique bird cages; she is delivering dozens and dozens of hats to a local theater company. Random crucifixes and holy medals and ‘holy’ books, she wisely donated to the local monastery. She made the tough decision to throw out my father’s school notes from middle school through college. She discovered multiple silver sets of dressing table objects no one uses any more (on Ebay they appear to be called Vanity Grooming sets), poignant testimony to a time when all ladies had silver backed brushes, combs, mirrors, shoehorns and powder boxes. Not to mention glass jars filled with mysterious unguents and powders. We cannot feel good about discarding multiple dressing table sets. There has to be a place for them.
In the matter of jeopardizing one’s health in the interest of an empty barn, this is my sister’s latest find: a Precisionaire Column device, made once upon a time in Dayton, Ohio, to weigh and tell the temperature of cotton. A similar but newer device recently sold for almost $400 on eBay, advertised for its Steam Punk value. Or maybe it was something else, because this particular device is filled with mercury, and hence must be brought to a HAZ MAT repository. Apparently it is leaking mercury even now.
Less toxic, but no less interesting is this record:
One of our family myths concerned my mother’s career as a belly dancer. My father found this concept uproariously funny, and presumably, so did we. Dad loved to tell strangers that he met Mom when she the star belly dancer at a Cairo cabaret, and he fell in love and brought her back to Hingham where she metamorphosed into a proper Boston Matron. If you have ever seen a belly dancer, it will be completely obvious that my mother was never a belly dancer and never could have been. She was slender. Very slender and largely curve-less. Her brother-in-law referred to her as an ambulatory hat-rack. (My mother deeply resented this sobriquet, but as we discover the multitude of hats she acquired over the decades, I am developing a new appreciation for its accuracy.) Belly dancers are not slender. A good belly dancer needs to have a belly which she is capable of undulating and shaking with a speed and precision that defies belief.
Victorians were fond of human hair, or so we might think given their fondness for mourning jewelry filled with a loved one’s hair. I saw an exhibit of such Victoriana once, and had to leave when I began to have trouble breathing; it felt as if my throat was lined with hair. So I can only be grateful that my sister found my mother’s famous hair pieces in the attic, where they have been since the 1960’s, that heyday of beehive hairdos and ‘real hair’ hairpieces.
Oddly, my sister refuses to tell me what she plans to do with the hair. The imagination boggles.