Heirlooms

"2 : something of special value handed on from one generation to another " – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

The hall tree

on June 16, 2013

Standing in my foyer when you come into my home is a hall tree. It is a beautiful antique and I suspect that many of our visitors think we bought it at an antique store or antique fair. But most of our visitors barely notice it, I think. And that’s okay. For my entire childhood, I barely noted its existence beyond its utility.

The hall tree has a mirror with hooks for hats and coats on either side of the mirror. And there is a bench seat with a lid that lifts for storing gloves and mittens, scarves and hats. It is a very useful piece of furniture, really. Memories of family gatherings include trying to locate my coat under a massive pile of coats hanging on those hooks so I could go outside to play in the snow or to catch some fresh air and escape the heat of the masses and the cigarette smoke of the chain-smoking adults (it was the early 70s, after all!). Imagine being 8 years old and trying to lift up the weight of a dozen other heavy wool coats when you probably weighed less than the pile you were trying to lift!

My other memory of that hall tree includes many images of grandma, sitting on the bench with her coffee cup sitting on the arm, ashtray next to her on the bench and the small telephone stand next to her with the phone in her hand, held to her ear. Before cordless and cell, grandma was anchored to that spot if she wanted to talk to a neighbor, a friend, a loved one.

When I was three or four years old, grandma was standing in front of the mirror, fixing her hair and adjusting her hat. She was dressed beautifully and I think we are all getting ready for church. She told me to get my umbrella because it was raining and, as Terri and I begin wrestling over the favorite umbrella, Terri released her grip and the hooked handle of the umbrella made a beeline for my eye. In Halloween photos from that year, I have on a clown costume with an eye patch. Probably should’ve gone with the pirate motif.

Falling through my pensieve, I can see grandpa walk past grandma from the front living room, passing through their foyer into the kitchen. Grandpa is mad that grandma has been on the phone for so long, so he holds up his hand and motions like a quacking duck and says, in his most annoyed and nasally voice, “Yak, yak, yak!”

I asked grandma once where they got the hall tree. She told me that during the depression, she and grandpa barely had two nickels to rub together and nothing on the walls of their home. They did not even have a mirror in the house. One day while walking home from work, grandpa saw this hall tree for sale out in someone’s front yard. He bought the hall tree for a quarter, tied it to his back with a piece of rope and carried it the rest of the way home.

Grandma was pretty pleased when grandpa showed up from work that day. He set down the hall tree and untied the rope from around his waist. Grandma admired it and before she knew it, grandpa had returned with some tools in hand to remove the mirror to hang it on the wall. She told him, “oh, no, you won’t. You will leave it just as it is.” And the hall tree took its place just inside the foyer of their home.

And this hall tree stood in grandma’s and grandpa’s foyer for decades. Today, it stands in mine. It is just a piece of furniture but this hall tree tethers me to my grandparents, my memories and my sense of home.

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One response to “The hall tree

  1. Cathy Schaefer says:

    Another awesome entry, Patty! I vividly remember that piece of furniture that sat for so many years right inside the front door at grandma and grandpa’s house…. Remembering your unfortunate encounter with the umbrella still makes my stomach turn and reminds me of my accident with the hooked end of a coat hanger just a few years ago!

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