Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Nana's china cabinet

In the corner of my grandparents’ living room was an oak, lead glass china cabinet. It had been there as long as I could remember. It was always a fascination and held all sorts of treasures. There was the obligatory china – cups, saucer and cake plate sets, little knickknacks, vases and figurines collected over the years. Pretty much everything in there had a story attached to it – sadly I don’t remember them all.

There was a figurine of a lady that had been broken and carefully glued back together a couple of times. This was something my mother (as a girl) had bought as a present for my grandmother at some point.

There were mementos from Mum's wedding - her bouquet, garter and the wee figures off the cake.

There was a tiny wee elephant in a bean. My grandfather and one of his friends had a thing going where they would try and outdo each other finding the smallest gifts… I have a feeling this might have won. I remember, if we’d been really good, my grandfather showing it to us. He’d take the wee box out of the cabinet, carefully removed the cotton wool wadding and reveal a little wee bean with an ivory cap. We’d sit very still while he would fumble with his big fingers to remove the cap and then very carefully shake out the contents… a tiny carved ivory elephant. We would look at it, dwarfed in his big hands, sitting as still as we could and holding our breath in case we caused it to be dropped. Getting it back into the bean and the lid back on was always a more precarious procedure than removing it. I used to love it when we were allowed to have a look and wonder at such a tiny wee thing.

There was a weekend, before the farm was sold, that I was up for a visit. Nana was getting a new lounge suite and was in the process of moving out the old furniture out, having a spring clean and getting rid of the china cabinet…… WHAT?!?!?!?

She said it had been there for years and she was sick of it, she’d take it to the dump or a second hand shop….. WHAT?!?!?!?
All the memories… all the history… it had been there as long as I could remember!! How could she just biff it out?? I was horrified!
“Nana, I’ll buy it off you! Don’t take just throw it out! We’ll get it valued and find out what it’s worth and I’ll buy it off you.”
Nana wasn’t having any of that…. But she said I could have it. She wasn’t interested in the money… she just wanted to make room for her new couch.

She had taken a few things out that she wanted to keep, including a few tea-cup sets that she was putting aside to give to nieces on their 21st, and then she told me to pick out what I wanted and she’d pack up what was left so my sister could look at it and pick things out. Being the eldest I often had first pick at things and having already been given the cabinet I didn’t feel right about taking first dibs on the contents. I asked Nana if we could pack it up and store it under the spare bed until my sister was visiting and could have first choice on what was there. Nana agreed and so we started wrapping the bit’s and pieces and packing them into boxes.
My grandfather (Tom) came in to see how we were getting on, he sat in his chair while we packed and told me where the china cabinet had come from. Before Tom was balloted the farm my Grandparents and Mum lived between Waima and Taheke (South Hokianga). When they were going to move the locals organised a farewell party for them and had a whip-around which was used to pay for the beer. According to Tom, Nana’s brother (who didn’t drink) reckoned they’d bought too much beer but Tom reckoned it was a pretty good party and they had enough…. Anyways, they were presented with the balance of the money from the whip-around and with it they paid for the china cabinet.
While Tom was telling us this Mum had come into the room. She was about seven when they moved to Omamari and had been given a cup, saucer and cake plate with a kingfisher design by the ladies in the CWI as a farewell gift. She said that it should stay with the china cabinet so she would dig it out of the cupboard for me.
And so… I now have the china-cabinet and some of the original contents. As it turned out when my sister had her pick of the contents she chose things that I had not been so keen on so that worked out well. For a long time it had a place in my lounge or dining area of the various homes I’ve lived in since then. Sadly now we are short of space and it now lives in Libby’s room. I feel a bit mean relegating it to a little place where it is not often seen although I do occasionally go and peer through the glass or pick out something to look at… it acts as a prompt to memories and although it seems lonely I can’t bear to part with it altogether.

One day I will have another home where it can once again have pride of place… but until then I will just have to live with the occasional visits to the spare room.

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