A Mid Century Send Off

housewife welcome to mid century home

My mid-century home is fading fast.

Right now strangers and bottom feeders are traipsing thru my parent’s suburban house picking over the remains of a family’s long life hoping to score a deal at a tag sale.

It is  the final indignity as we close down my childhood house. It is surreal and sad for me and the symbolism of it all is crushing. An intensely private person, it feels invasive, as though my mother  herself was laying on an autopsy table splayed open for all to view. The multiple dumpsters lie in wait on the driveway, patiently waiting their turn to be greedily filled with once cherished items not sold. The prospect of donating large furniture is dim.

No one, it seems wants them. I know this

There are countless items large and small, but the hardest for me has been the fate of the dining room table the heart and soul of my home. It remains standing at the tag sale, not fetching an adequate price at the auction we held and may well end up being thrown in a dumpster along with other beautifully crafted mid-century furniture. These pieces though technically are considered “mid century,” they are  the dowdier, older sisters of the current, sexier,  trendier “mid century modern” furnishings.

They are the ones no one is taking to the dance. Or taking home.

Not unlike their furniture, my parents weren’t trendy they were traditionalists who at the outset purchased  solid, well made furniture from the best manufacturers in Manhattan showrooms courtesy of Tootsie, Mom’s decorator. To their generation the Henkle Harris walnut polished wood dining  table  was a solid good name.

Money in the bank.

Brown Wood

To today’s Millennial’s, that furniture is “Brown Wood” a feature making it near radioactive in the marketplace.

Brown is not the new black when it comes to furniture. “Brown Wood” in fact is furniture non gratis, it is the new catchall term for all dark  furniture indistinguishable from one another whether mahogany, walnut or cherry rendering it decidedly unsellable.

Along with bone china, sterling silver, and crystal,  all once signifiers of good taste, this generation has no taste for it.

Homage to a Table.

Personla photso of a dining room table

All my sentiments are distilled in this dining room table that was the center of my family life for 60 years. Nearly every person of note in my life has sat at that table at some point, and ever marker in my life had a meal served in its honor.

It’s  where I blew out my childhood birthday candles from a home-made cake made by my mother from a Duncan Hines mix and where she lit Shabbos candles every Friday night. It was the site of countless Passover’s, Thanksgivings  and fancy dinner parties my parents held where I would create elaborate hand drawn menus just for the occasion.

Eating at the dining room table signified an occasion but it was also the table that we as a family boisterously played Bingo and traded real estate on Monopoly on, and it was the table my mother sat at late into the night fretting over bills, enveloped in a plume of smoke.

For 55 years Mom protected the table with heavy, custom-made  table pads and damask and linen  table cloths so that now the bare wood surface belies its age with nary a scratch nor blemish.

Seeing the gleaming wooden top for the first time  in ages was a  revelation at the care my mother bestowed on this piece of furniture but made it all the more painful thinking it might well be casually tossed in a metal dumpster, scratched and marred and mistreated. So undignified.

So I  find myself stuck in my dining room and it’s fate.

For someone who counts on continuity this hits to the core. I am crushed.

Copyright (©) 20018 Sally Edelstein Envisioning the American Dream All Rights Reserved

 

 

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18 comments

  1. This must be so hard on so many levels- hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this lovely elegy for a way of life that has disappeared.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s about the continuity of your life. I don’t know your current circumstances, but I would endeavour to keep it, and use it. I feel for you…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Really painful events can be cathartic. I feel like they give us that opportunity to feel an extreme emotion, and we don’t get very many. I’m so sorry you’re going through this, but mourning is a gift we give to the past and all the people and love we had there. I think you should feel that pain, and then say goodbye. It’s how we pay for love. (and I’m sending you some, via the interwebs)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your beautifully articulated thoughts. This has been a journey of a lifetime and over this past 8 months project it has been an opportunity to truly honor my parents, generations of family and my past. Deep feelings no matter how painful do bring us to greater truths and insight and love

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  5. Laura B.

    This must be so painful for you and your brother to deal with, Sally 😦 It is certainly true that furniture and homes can store so many memories for us – particularly the ones that have been there for years, and that we perhaps rarely paid attention to.

    My husband went through this over a protracted period of time – he and his brother purchased their childhood home from their two sisters after their father passed away. He watched his sisters eagerly toss away “their share” of their father’s belongings (people grieve in different ways, I guess); then saw his brother allow the home to deteriorate and become filled with garbage. Just before we were married 6 months ago, my husband approached his brother about selling the home, which ultimately led to a court application and many bitter words. A few times my husband broke down and cried, wondering what his father would have thought of all this and wishing his father’s home would have had a happier send off from his children. The good thing about this process was that my husband took to heart that his memories of his father are not attached to the bricks and mortar, rather the bricks and mortar are attached to the memories. Its a lot easier to take your love and memories with you and leave the bricks behind, than the other way around.

    I hope very much that when this awful process of emptying your parents’ home is over, you and your memories will continue on to happier times. From all I have read of your blog, it sounds like you have a lot of happiness to take with you. 🙂

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    • Thank you Laura for your thoughts and for sharing that painful story of your husbands experience with his childhood home.I am so sorry that it was such a complicated situation and i can see why it would bring him to tears. I am grateful that my experience has been filled with love, laughter and tears and a great deal of honor and dignity. My home became the repository of my extended families final belongings so there was a great deal of history to sort through and each and every object and paper was handled by me and given its due respect. A tiresome project, but it leaves me at peace that this was all done with deep respect. I moved into this house at a few months old and my parents died while still living in this same house they loved so I have never known a time when this house was not a part of my life. Many items will now find a new loving home in my house and I welcome them here. But this house has been my Tara, and for someone like myself who trucks in nostalgia it is painful indeed.

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  6. Beth

    I hope you can take comfort in that some of those who are picking through your family’s possessions are delighted to find well-loved treasures to take home and make their own. Most of my household items are of mid-century vintage (as am I) and having these things makes me very happy. As for the dining room table, please consider giving it to a family that needs a place to gather for meals, holidays, game-playing — the stuff of life — but doesn’t have the funds to buy one of their own. ❤

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    • This is at the very tale end of nearly year of sorting sifting, saving, selling and donating more items than i can begin to to document. Selling or donating to people who have enjoyed the objects has been of enormous satisfaction and very gratifying. A major collector myself I have indeed brought more than my share home with me, but alas there just came the time that things had to be disposed of and it was heart wrenching. I gave my best effort to have everything find a new home but sadly it wasn’t as successful as I’d wished for.

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  7. Sally, this is so touching and I know I speak for so many of us who have been invited into your family at mid-century when I say we share an ache in our hearts this morning. Closing my family home from age 10 to college was not nearly as emotionally difficult as we were moving my dad to assisted living with a small collection of cherished family possessions. It was sad for me to see them in a one-bedroom apartment so institutional and terribly confining for my once-active dad. You have made me recall the sad sorting and how many things simply had to go. But as others note, memories will always remain. And you are the ultimate keeper of memories, so these are in a safe and sacred place…

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    • Closing down a childhood home no matter the length of time spent there is primal and very significant.I was fortunate to be part of a rarefied group of folk whose parents never moved from their home and aged in place.This house imbued with so many memories has been a part of my life from the time I was a few months old. That is pretty unique. Which does make it that much more painful in the letting go.But it has been a noble and truly sacred task and one I took seriously and diligently and I remain the keeper of my families memories, if not also all their things.

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  8. Your description of your family’s dining room table is so indicative of your feelings toward the family unit your parents helped to create: a long term investment, built to last, protected, and finally, cherished. Such qualities are beyond any evaluation by strangers. It’s like trying to imagine the taste of fine wine from an empty bottle.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Sorting out the things of our parents when closing down the home is painful. I still get teary thinking of the trivial amounts of money the high quality items in their home went for in their home when crap did pretty much as well. All of it was sold or relocated, though, nothing went in the trash that wasn’t trash.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Henry Joseph

    Unfortunately, today, if it is spelled…IKEA…and can be thrown away … one has the gold standard.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Embracing My Roots | Envisioning The American Dream

  12. Frank Bray

    As a craftsman who builds new furniture, mostly rocking chairs, I would see that old table as a treasure trove of old wood, ready to be recylcled into something new and beautiful. Over the years I’ve salvaged lots of old dressers, chest of drawers and tables that contained real old wood, which is far denser and harder than most newly milled stuff. And one of those old tables became a beautiful Mission-style rocker for my partner’s grandfather. Gramps needed a comfortable chair as he was nearing 90 and needed something with lots of padding for his joints. He used his new chair for the last 18 months of his life, often falling asleep in it, and today that chair sits proudly at his daughter’s home (my MIL) where it still gets used daily after more than 10 yrs. It has more meaning to the family than almost any other piece they own.

    Sally if I lived closer to you I’d take that table and recycle it into something beautiful for you to remember your life growing up in that house. Many hugs.

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