Washing Gertie's Dishes
By grannysu on August 27, 2012
Thursday was auction day, and as usual I returned home with a load of stuff for my booths. As I was unpacking one box I came upon a pile of family photos. These weren't old-time pictures; they were mostly from the 70's through the late 90's, with a couple from the 50's in the mix. They weren't professionally done and there was not much in them to keep the attention of anyone except the family captured on film. Apparently the family didn't think these important enough to keep, or perhaps they had duplicates and didn't need these extra ones.
It was the ordinariness of the people and activities that stuck in my mind as I sorted the pictures. These were just everyday people living in a standard ranch-style home that was furnished in the style of the day--70's furnishings, brown, orange, gold and avocado green colors. They weren't dressed up or posed. There was one from the 50's of a young man holding a baby, probably his first son, at Christmas. There was one of perhaps the same man years later, asleep on the couch with his two dogs. There were two men posed beside a large blooming magnolia and one of a family potluck dinner that looked like it was set up in a home's unfinished basement.
Simple, everyday activities. But looking at the photos and sorting through the rest of the boxes gave me clues to who these people were, even their names. I googled them and learned that Gertie and Gus lived in northern Ohio, and were a little older than my parents. She passed away before him at the good age of 86; he died just this past December. I think they liked music. There were photos of musicians, one with an accordion, and one of a band at the WWVA Jamboree. One auction lot that didn't sell was given to me by the auctioneer--a stack of 78 records with lots of dance music, especially polkas. Maybe they danced?I liked the idea of them as young people, maybe just after WWII, dancing together to the lively tunes on their Victrola. Tonight I sorted through more boxes of glassware (Larry is earning sainthood carrying heavy boxes of glass for me). There was nothing outstanding in the boxes: some good stemware, some Homer Laughlin bowls, a chipped Jadeite bowl and so on. Some will go to a donation center; some I will sell. A few things I will keep (like that chipped bowl). I never knew Gus and Gertie but I know a lot about them by what I found in the boxes.
Tonight as I stood at my sink on this very rural land in West Virginia, I thought about the lady who collected the amber-stemmed glasses, the Popeye tumblers and the pretty flowered plates in a northern Ohio suburb. I washed Gertie's dishes carefully and set them out to drain, enjoying the sparkle of the glass as dust and packing-away washed off into the dishwater.
I am sure that when I am gone my sons will be sending a lot of my stuff to auction or to a donation center. After all, I am the one who loves glassware and old things; they do not share that passion and I don't expect them to. I hope they will take what is special to them and let the rest go. And I hope that someday a woman will be unpacking her auction finds and wonder who it was that liked so many creamers and had so much red glass. Maybe there will be something in the box with my name and she will go searching online to see who I was. I hope she will enjoy the shine of just-washed glass as much as I do.
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