Monday, December 15, 2014

A Gift that Keeps on Giving

Last month I was offered a gift...a Christmas gift... 

...from a cousin I only knew from a once-upon-a-time family reunion and Facebook. She and my mother are first cousins...twice. Oma's mother (a Crochet) married a Miller, and this cousin's father (the Crochet brother) married that Miller's sister. This was common in Cajun country as they married into fledging communities of large families.

And so began a major first world dilemma: sorting through three generations of china hutches and fine china to go out to five children in my frantic attempt to declutter while eagerly accepting the new-to-me gift.

Yesterday my husband drove me and my parents to Lafayette to load this family heirloom. She also sent me home with a complete bed set, frame...even curtains...that belonged to her mother who was my grandfather's sister, so my great-aunt. And she shared with us a near-death experience she had and how family members were able to be reached via...what-of-course...FB.

FB is a beautiful working tool when used amongst family members, for family members.

I want to share her gifted offering here so I and my children and grandchildren will remember where this gift comes from.

A gift complete with tongue and groove carpenter-ship and wooden pegs even. Estimated to have been built in 1916, it will be 99 years old next year and 100 the following year.

Her first message: "Cay, I am offering this piece to you or anyone in your family... I am downsizing and my girls have no room as they have taken other pieces. This is from Grandma and Pa Crochet's home... Phillip and Eugenia Crochet... Ila's (my grandmother) Mother and Father... Grandpa made this for Grandma when they first married... It is hand-hued Cypress... It was painted grey when I took it when the house was dismantled when Grandpa went into the nursing home... I had it dipped to strip and then I stained it and have used it all these years as a bookcase... I still love it a lot but time to pass it down.. I will have no room for all my treasures... If anyone one like it because of the family history they are welcome to come get it... I hope someone does..."
My reply: "Oh wow!!! I would love to have it..."

My cousin's response: "Oh Cay, I could cry... I was so hoping... I didn't want someone out of the family to have it and my girls had not room..."

My response: "I've been wanting something like it and had been looking but hadn't found what I wanted. To know the history and meaning behind this piece makes me want to cry too!"

 My cousin's reply: "You didn't find it because it was coming you way... So excited for both of us! I just passed Grandma Millers dresser to Deanna Aunt Martha's Daughter...she is so excited also... I feel both of these pieces have the right homes... Makes me so happy...I want nothing for it... I am just so thrilled it will be Loved as I loved it."
Both she and my mother remembered going to grandma's house and what... I've been calling 'the hutch' and what she and my mother called the 'dish/food cabinet'...had to offer.
It was so neat to hear her and my mother talk of their remembrances of it...of the bowl of sweet potatoes kept on it, of pies cooling on it, of syrup pies oozing and eggs being beaten upon it. We visited another cousin before heading back west and he and my mother shared mutual stories of Grandma Miller's pie safe. He remembered syrup cakes. Oma remembered syrup pies.
Yesterday, my cousin shared more information about 'the hutch'. Once upon a time, it had doors on the bottom front and one had to line them up just-so in order to get them to close and how there was a wooden latch at the top of those doors to seal it. Those doors are long gone but the hinge markings remain.
Especially notable was my cousin telling us how Grandpa shared how the cabinet originally had a boxed in screen front at the top to keep cakes and pies safe from flies and gnats and chubby wistful little fingertips. But when times began to change and the new became old and Grandma being a woman and women being...well...who we are and how we are...she insisted on a cabinet remake.
The very thought of this day of HGTV and This Old House and Property Brothers or Flip or Flop or Rehab Addict or (my personal favorite) House Hunters, plus fruitful binges of several bloggers who share wonderlands of remodeling...where women, because of who we are and how we are, change countertops simply because of color schemes to charm our womanly hearts and husbands do it to serve us and bask in our contented state, made me laugh at the sight of my tiny great-grandmother demanding that her husband dismantle the boxed screened-in top of this small hand-hued cabinet in order to give her kitchen a modernized look.
And today it sits...old, complete, and my old kitchen.
Which is funnier yet. My cousin's home is lovely...straight out of Better Homes and Garden or Southern Living whereas my home is strictly functional. I wonder a bit if she realizes just how functioning my home hyper-functioning...and, if she did, would she have still given it to me. My cousin used it as a bookcase and it sat in a guest room of her home. When I picked it up from her, she was in the process of moving so everything was being cleared out.
Now it sits in my house, once again, the object of functionality.
Part of me denies I've placed this piece in the most highly functional room of my house...the kitchen. The traffic area and gathering area are insane in the least of times, crazy madness in the best of time. I'm sure my parents are clearly worried. I'm a pretty laid-back MayMay but I've already knelt in humility at a toddler's level, looked at it with the wondering eyes of my three little grandsons, and wondered if the little gingerbread man and the cookie jar need to scoot a step backwards.
I've placed lovingly things that have meaning and functionality on its shelves.
St. Lucia, during the month of December, heralds a Catholic faith that has lovingly been passed down from one generation to the next amidst a set of white jars my husband gifted me with... 
 Small plates for quick serving of things a food cabinet/pie safe would be expected to serve...
Such as:
Cookies, of course!
Hot cocoa
Ginger/coffee treats (made by my artistic daughter)

And I've placed legacy pieces such as this needlework given to me on my wedding day by my aunt/godmother who passed away last year...
And a cute little egg basket I picked up at a flea show a couple years ago and two sweet little wicker baskets to hold fun secret items for the boys... 
And Memama's old stone bowl...The Old Stone my husband's contribution upon these family shelves, representative of the *mixing bowl* of family, if you don't mind the stretch...which will probably have to move high from little fingers after the holiday stuff gets put away.
But this pie safe/food cabinet/hutch is an antique. Lovingly refurbished by my cousin's hands. Treasured and kept safe by her all these years.
Only to end up in my kitchen, a kitchen that is in a state of constant flux, a kitchen in the dawning of a second generation of little people...
Who, pray tell me, puts things like that in a center obstacle course to be used!?! with the intent to serve family members in a crazy 21st century kitchen?
I almost worry my cousin might come to my house and reclaim this old vintage piece. As long as she remembers that a Crochet/Miller connection, twice made, is full of Cajun craziness, I might be ok. ;-)
It's almost like a Mary/Martha analogy.
Which is the better part?
MayMay's madness has begun!  
{Handmade ginger treats made by my artistic daughter Chelsea}
 Yet isn't madness at all. It's a well-thought out process...if only in my mind.
I want my grandchildren to feel the love, not only see it from a safe distance. I want them to see it and hear it and feel it and smell it and taste it.  The work of my great grandfather's hands, saved by my cousin's hands, continues to serve the family.
It's definitely a God-thing, as my cousin says.
And so, if you visit or my cousin visits, know that this hutch, while loving salvaged and saved at her hands (for which I'm forever grateful) is a very living, breathing work of functionality that continues to serve family with dished heaps of love.
It's knowing that my little boys and their future cousins will peer up at those shelves with the same childlike wonder generations did before them and they'll remember the old hutch and will one day debate whether it was syrup cakes or syrup pies that cooled upon it's shelves. And they'll know that...whether cakes, pies, cookies...MayMay made those treats for them amidst loving functionality that resides within this old kitchen.
There's a meaning behind my madness. It's embracing the Mary while being the Martha.
{Photo credit to Chelsea}
* * * * *
Speaking of which...I'm willing to pay someone to come clean out my pantry which is *hands-down* my boys' most favorite playroom. Any Martha's out there with a Mary's heart????



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