She has always been a collector, as well as a trader, as well as a ceramicist who became a nationally known doll artist when she began sculpting all of the First Ladies, followed by sculpting all of the presidents. Belle's Dolls is the name of her business, and she'd still be working at it, at age 89, if her vision would allow it.
Now here's the thing. It's gloomy and empty at Mother's house; and it's warm and bright at my brother's cottage, so I'm taking trips to the house and hauling stuff to Charlie's to (at this point -- sorting papers will have to come later) scrub. I just picked up a small box, and this is what it contained:
Your Golden Opportunity
to start your tableware service
The pale yellow brochure shows a distinguished gentleman standing behind the dining room chair in which is seated a chic blonde woman with a slight smile and a hairstyle that looked better on her than me back in the day. In the forefront are three beautiful tableware designs. You can choose between Camelot (elegant silverplate), Golden Scroll (luxurious goldenware, a metal with which I am not precisely what you'd call familiar), or Nassau (gleaming stainless). If you put $25 into a new or existing account, you got a place setting free. But only one place setting. If you wanted more, you had to pay for it. Each 4-piece place setting after the first was $2.99, except for the gleaming stainless, which came in a 5-piece place setting.
As is that weren't fascinating enough, tucked inside the brochure is the negative to a lovely photo of my parents. They are in the ceramics studio. He's wearing his huge high puppeteer's hat for presentation of a Punch and Judy show; and Mother is leaning into him, smiling.
I don't know where you people keep your negatives, but my parents' filing system outdoes any you've ever run across before. In the same pile as the Golden Opportunity brochure is a small black plastic wallet that contains a photo of a beautiful woman I think was my mother in her late teens, a card showing Mother to be a member in good standing on the Madame Alexander Doll Club, a mermbership card confirming her place in The Genealogical Society of Southwestern Pennsylvania (expires Dec. 31, 1996); a card showing she's a member of the Fostoria Glass Society of America (expires Sept. 1990); another Genealogical membership card, this one expiring in 1995; a piece of card stock with the address of an institution on the front and, on the back, a phone number for someone clearly not in that institution. Finally, there's a very fine, large card from Royal Doulton declaring this piece a Dunkirk Tankard, featuring a painting by leading marine artist Geoff Hunt to mark the 50th anniversary of the evacuation of Dunkirk. Mother has tankard 632 of a limited edition of 14,000. The tankard itself is not to hand, but I'll go look at the Royal Doulton pieces I scrubbed clean last night and see if perhaps one of the them belongs to the Official Placard.
Next to those amazing treasures is a Winston Churchill jug by Royal Doulton. He's sitting down, black suit, brown overcoat, white shirt, blue bow tie with white polka dots, black hat, and a cigar clenched between his teeth. I was about to plunge him into the sink when I remembered that anything Mother owns has something inside it. I can't explain it; I'm merely reporting. I wiggled the jug upside down, and an envelope of stamps fell out. The accompanying paper is titled UMM Al QIWAIN 1966 and goes on to reveal that Mother has a complete set of ten values honoring Sir Winston Churchill. The stamps have been glued together by island humidity into a group of two, two groups of three, and two singles. Also in the jug is Something Else. Worst of all, it's a Something Else that wants to stay where it is. I tried using my long fingers to pull it out. No luck. Then I tried the needlenose pliers I brought from Mother's yesterday. No good. I have a pair of scissors on the table but suspect they will contribute not so much a solution as more work for me to do.
Oh, wait. They're pinking shears. Those things never cut anything after the first ten or twenty years of use, so I've just used them to wriggle out the enclosure: a postcard showing Spectre Column at Luray Caverns, Virginia. Dated November, 1980, our new friend Jean writes that the box arrived in record time, and that her offer is $40.00, which leaves Mother a $10.00 balance on her W. C. We can let her know if it's not satisfactory.
But how are we to tell? The only W. C. I know about is the British water closet, a. k. a. toilet, and I can't see how Mother has a $10.00 balance there. I'm also a little slow in understanding the relationship between Sir Winston and the postcard -- but such is life at the moment. And now that he's empty, I shall go wash his dusty old hat and shoes and overcoat, sprucing him up into the fine porcelain figure he's been since the beginning.
Maybe a photo later? I'd have to take it with my cell phone, text it to myself, download it, and then upload it, which is at least two steps more than seem likely. Winston is not my only gentleman caller this afternoon. Much remains to be done before nightfall. But we'll see. Check back.
P. S. I feel honor-bound to disclose that somewhere in a little book not currently evident, Mother wrote the date and the amount she paid for the Churchill mug. Also, I just piled the ephemera together and noticed a tiny bag of white and silver round and bugle beads. That's less than one handful of Mother's things, and there are hundreds and hundreds of hands full. I think I've just learned the definition of infinity - and beyond.