The Grandmother Project

June 22, 2009

As some of you might recall, my 99 year old grandmother passed away at the beginning of May. I was very close to her and although her passing was not unexpected given her age, it was still hard.

My grandmother was a collector, but a selective and tasteful collector. In the past month or so I have been involved in sorting through her belongings and dividing them up. My grandmother had 2 children, 2 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren, so it’s not a huge family. She had a LOT of things (almost 100 years worth of belongings) and so everyone is bringing home a lot.

blueglass2Since Martha is a collector, I have been greatly influenced by her as I’ve gone through this process. I’ve inherited some beautiful Depression glass (and some much older) and have been relying on Martha’s principles when it comes to displaying it. The first thing I had to do was be selective. I ended up with boxes and boxes of glass, so I’ve chosen to display only those that are sets, similar in some way or which create pretty color combinations in ways I imagine Martha might do. I put away some amber colored pieces to display with my fall decorations. I would love to some day install some lit glass shelves to better display all of the items.

I’ve also hauled home boxes of very old household items – stoneware crocks, some interesting cake pans that have a bar that you spin to get the cake to come out, and an old hand held egg beater. I also have a set of round wooden crates that are called dry measure crates. My great grandfather used them at the market where he sold produce – they have his last name and initials on them. I also brought home a very old two-handled hinged picnic basket which unfortunately was painted yellow at some point. I may end up repainting it another color (tips on that are welcome!). In my mind’s eye I can just see Martha doing a segment on things like these. Each piece is unusual and beautiful.

buttonsI’ve got a big tin of old buttons as well. I haven’t gone through it yet, but I’m thinking there must be a Martha craft that involves buttons I could do. Any suggestions?

My grandmother had lots and lots of costume jewelry, some of it so gaudy it iscostume jewelry beautiful. I once heard Barbara Walters say she wears her mother’s old costume jewelry brooches and people think they are real and I might use some of the brooches in that way. Mostly, I was unable to imagine it all going to charity. I don’t quite know what to do with the many beaded necklaces and clip earrings though. Any suggestions are welcome for this as well!

Then there is the furniture. I brought home two end tables which desperately need refinishing. I know Martha would enthusiastically pop some gloves on and get to work, but I’m afraid to ruin them, so they will have to wait until we can pay someone to do it.

I also brought home two lamps which I am not sure what to do with. Neither one quite fits the style of my house. One is a reconditioned oil lamp and the other is milk glass. I couldn’t walk away from those either.

I am now the proud owner of many doilies and dresser scarves. I have no idea doilieswhat to do with them. Displaying them on tables is not my style. I am thinking some might be beautiful framed (another Martha inspired idea). We think my grandmother may have made some of them – unfortunately there is no way to know. I also now own two pretty aprons – again, I have no idea what to do with them.

I’ve discovered that my grandmother kept every note, card or postcard I ever wrote for her. Going through those brought back many memories.¬† She also had many mementoes from her travels. My grandparents traveled to every continent, except Antartica, and brought home many interesting items.¬† I have the world map that shows all of their trips (and am trying to figure out where to put that!).

One thing she collected on trips was dolls. I inherited the entire collection which looks like a little United Nations¬† – each doll in native dress. Many are in need of repair, so I’m going to have to find a doll hospital. Then I will need to determine how to display them (and where!).

One thing I have learned from all of this is that I need to take the time to document the things I own that are meaningful to me. A friend suggested I take photos and paste them into a Word doc and write a brief description. That way my children (or hopefully grandchildren) will know what it all is, where it came from and why I cared about it. So many of my grandmother’s things are beautiful and interesting, but no one knows where they came from.

As I work through the boxes of things and find ways to use them that are Martha-inspired I will post them.

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