Monday, February 29, 2016


Harriet commented on the previous post that she has treasures that came to her from our mother in a mended state. Both my mother and dad mended things that broke and went on as if it were just the same. And that reminded me . . .

On visits to Portland, Mother and I would call on Aunt Neill Fohl at her apartment in Lake Oswego. Aunt Neill was the widow of my grandfather’s younger brother. We enjoyed getting to know her.

Aunt Neill had a pair of beautiful antique electric table lamps. The base included a red glass bowl hung with prisms. As we admired them, Aunt Neill mentioned that one of them was cracked. It made no difference to their decorative effect in her living room.

Aunt Neill passed away, and in the summer of 1974, Mother received a phone call from Aunt Neill’s niece. She asked if Mother wanted the antique lamps -- and would she buy them? (Can’t quite remember the price – probably $75 each.) I had some thoughts on the matter, which I kept to myself, but Mother said yes. Obviously, she could see the lamps gracing her living room, and Daddy loved old glass. So – there you have it. We were on our way to Lake Oswego to buy the lamps.

I don’t remember anything about the trip or taking possession of the lamps – just that we did it. Daddy wrapped them carefully in old blankets to protect them. Mother and Daddy were always careful in the handling of things. Well, mostly always . . .

But – when we got home, there was a boat parked in our driveway, and Daddy erroneously concluded that brother Chuck had bought it. In his excitement, he forgot what he was about and as he carried one of the lamps to the house, he squeezed it a bit too hard and the bowl broke into a myriad of little pieces. He was devastated. It was then that Mother remembered that one of the bowls was cracked.

In my opinion – then as well as now – we should have let it go. C’est la vie. However, Mother had a vision for how she would use the lamps and Daddy wanted to make it right. He found someone in Clarkston who advertised to mend broken antiques. I remember taking the lamp to this individual in a jillion pieces. She said it was important to get right on the mending process because glass will change shape a bit over time, making it difficult to fit the pieces together. As I stood there with my parents, I continued to think it was a lot of money to pay for nothing. What would we have in the end but a broken lamp, now compromised and even more susceptible to breakage? I don’t remember exactly what it cost – at least $100 – for this individual to painstakingly glue the pieces together, compounding the rather exorbitant purchase price. Seemed crazy to me.

Well, those lamps graced my parents’ living room for the rest of their days in the old family home, and they were proud of them. But I told my mother that I wanted nothing more to do with them – ever. I didn't want the responsibility of owning them. Frankly, I consider myself truly blessed that one of my children didn’t break those lamps right where they sat -- because, you know, as Mother used to say, "The house of too much trouble was not meant for little boys. . ." KW

[I was lucky to find a couple of snapshots good enough to show the two lamps.]


Chris said...

I can't even imagine the work involved in putting that lamp back together! They're not my style, but I do know that family things were very important to people of your and my parents' generation.

Kathy said...

The lady that mended that lamp was true to her word. She and her husband set to work and she had it ready in a week or two. It was like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. In fact, she reported how many pieces there were, but I don't remember the figure.

Yes, things were important to folks out of the Depression and before. No one had much, so anything of value was treasured and also became a status symbol. I don't mean this negatively. It's just the way it was. And, at least in my experience, it was expected that children would treasure family heirlooms in the same way as their parents, and that just can't happen. We're all shaped by our own world.

The lamps DID fit Mother's style. As I thought it through yesterday, I came to see that she wanted those lamps.

Chris said...

Yes, the lamps fit in well with your mother's decorating style and look perfectly at home in the pictures. I'm glad she bought them and enjoyed them--and obviously with your father's blessing.