My Grandparents' Parlor
Growing up in the 1950's and 1960's, my grandparents' parlor held a particular fascination for me. On entering the room, I would be greeted by two stately pictures on the facing wall. The one on the left was taken in 1912 of my grandparents, shortly after they were married. My grandmother had a pleasant expression on her beautiful oval face, with soft brown eyes and high cheekbones. Her dark hair was piled on top of her head, and she was wearing a white lace dress. My grandfather was handsome, with coal-black, wavy hair and blue eyes. The picture on the right was very different. My great-grandparents, dressed in dark, plain clothing, looked at me with a sober expression on their faces.
Beneath the pictures sat a grass green wicker settee, flanked by a matching chair and rocker. My mother once told me that Granny's niece, who had been staying there, had a young suitor who slicked his hair back with strong-smelling tonic. For several weeks, he had come courting, always sitting on the settee. After he left one day, Granny noticed a grease spot on the wall where he had been leaning his head. She tried to remove it, but it wouldn't come off, no matter how hard she scrubbed!
Moving from the wicker set, along the left wall was a cherry hope chest, lined with fragrant cedar, that Papa had gotten a neighbor to make for me. Each time I visited, it was like opening a treasure chest to see what Granny had added. By the time I married, Granny had filled it with an iron skillet, handmade pot holders, melamine dishes, delicate glasses, an orange scatter rug, and two handsewn aprons, with dust caps to match. I felt like a blessed bride, indeed!
In the corner to the left of the hope chest was an RCA Victor Victrola. Sometimes, Papa would lift the lid, place a 78 rpm record on top, and let me crank the handle on the side. Out would come scratchy music, either going a little too fast or a little too slow. As a young child, I was delighted by the sound of those old recordings, including The Titanic and The Tennessee Waltz.
In the corner to the right of the door, a cedar-lined wardrobe held Granny's clothes, neatly lined up. In it, there were printed princess-style dresses, some in soft cotton and some in silky fabrics. On the bottom of the wardrobe, there were lace-up leather shoes with two-inch heels. Sunday-go-to-meeting hats were in boxes on the top shelf. She was ready for any occasion, and I loved to see her put her outfits together.
Beyond the wardrobe, to the right of the wicker set, was a maple vanity. It had a tall, narrow mirror, with a set of drawers on either side. Beneath the mirror was a pitcher and glasses made of fragile, dark greenish-blue carnival glass. Sitting on top of the left drawer was an intricately etched glass honey dish.
We never sat in the parlor unless there was special company, such as when the preacher came to call. Sometimes Granny would serve her spicy apple pie, for which she was famous. Other times she might serve her delicious pound cake, made with fresh eggs and hand-churned butter. Most of the time, though, my family sat with Papa and Granny in their kitchen, but my favorite place to go by myself was the parlor. Sometimes I would take the Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog and cut out my own paper dolls. Other times, I might read the newest issue of Farm Journal or The Progressive Farmer.
Today, the wicker set, Victrola, and vanity sit in my parents' home. The carnival glass pitcher set and the honey dish sit in my china cabinet. The cedar hope chest sits in my bedroom. Even so, sometimes I like to visit the old parlor, in my mind, and feel the love and security I felt there as a child.