Tuesday, January 25, 2011

My napery and chandlery

I thought we “downsized” (and I was pretty darn pleased about it), but last week we purchased an “entertainment center” (translation: oversized slabs of shelving configured in the shape of a bookcase) on which to perch TV and Comcast’s mandatory “box,” as well as DVD player and stereo. What were we thinking!

By introducing a new unit of furniture into a room with limited space, we have succeeded in overcrowding it. Thus far, the only nominee for elimination is “the mahogany chest”—a four-drawer chest purchased by my mother early in her homemaking career. Because I can’t remember life without it, I am momentarily traumatized by the idea of giving up this piece.

In the ‘40s and ‘50s, the chest housed candles, wrapping paper, and a stash of activities for when the children were sick. If either my sister or I stayed home from school because of illness, Mother would fish around in one of the mahogany chest’s drawers until she came up with a “could-you-please-amuse-yourself-for-a-little-while” item: a new coloring book, a book of paper dolls, or a creative activity box of some sort. One time it produced a ‘make your own jewelry’ kit chock full of seashells, pin-clasps, wire and glue. In the length of a two-day bout of asthma, I produced a variety of jewelry resembling the stuff sold in Hawaiian drugstores. I threw away the last of those seashell pins before I started college.

Since 1969 when the mahogany chest came into my possession, it has been my main repository for table linens and candles. In nineteenth century British terms—per Bill Bryson’s recent book, At Home—it serves as my napery and chandlery. I am not sure I can bear to part with such an essential piece of furniture.

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