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View From Grandma's Window: The Junk Collector

grandma-pic.jpgGrandma’s apartment building housed five families and we all interacted in one way or another. One special tenant was Milly Morrow, a perky elderly widow with an eye for ‘stuff’. Never a day passed that Milly wasn’t hauling a treasure home (good ‘fixer-upper’ she would say, proud as punch with her latest find).

At spring cleaning time Milly was in her glory. While the neighbourhood was discarding, Milly was acquiring. Her apartment was like a wondrous flea market. She was always scraping and refinishing, hammering and dragging discarded furniture up to her third floor apartment. Milly was our queen of recycling – nothing went to waste.

The old three-car barn next to Grandma’s was a real catchall. Grandma discarded pieces of furniture there; well-worn stairs led to a dark attic, and as a child I discovered grandma’s legacy therein. Trunks filled with old clothes from the 1800’s, hatboxes concealing huge feathered hats. Old letters tied with ribbons; antique rockers and tiny wash stands.

I loved rummaging through everything in that attic. An antique dealer today would hit the jackpot, but back then it was all just ‘stuff.’ Not to be thrown out, but out of sight as things may be needed in the future…boy, where have I heard that before!

There was another space in Grandma’s life that was a treasure to explore. It was a room in the basement – right out of ‘ma and pa kettle.’

The center of this room was occupied by a huge iron roller, a terrifying contraption when viewed through the eyes of a young child. In constant use, I think it was Grandma’s most prized possession, next to her treadle sewing machine.

But it was the mountainous piles of wondrous things that attracted me. Grand and Mom both sewed and every snip of a leftover was in a heap that touched the ceiling in a few places. They made their own hats and gloves too – there was so much in this room that to find something one literally had to tunnel. I loved this room, and was allowed to create great Halloween costumes from its contents. Piles of discarded linens, blankets quilts, and best of all feather ticks.

Here at the B & B in New Brunswick, I display an extensive thimble collection that actually originated from that room. Numerous Alka-Seltzer bottles filled with thimbles, each with a story to tell. They were from Grand’s grandmother, aunts and sisters. Yes, they did come in handy in time, to be displayed lovingly in my home.

So in retrospect, spring cleaning at Grand’s was just moving out the old to make room for the new. Only to become what I call clutter. I would love to have some of those pieces of discarded furniture now – I know a lot went to Grand’s cottage at Epping Forest, but that’s another story. More great times to remember.



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