We live in a big old farmhouse – a home that my dear husband’s family moved into many years ago. Before we met, my husband renovated the house, enlarging rooms and switching things up quite a bit. The area that had formerly been a summer kitchen and cistern was converted into a garage and the second story above that was left unfinished. That has become a very useful storage area and houses everything from our shop’s bookkeeping archives to odd chairs and stray pieces of furniture. Occasionally, I pop into that area looking for something specific and get lost in the paraphernalia of bygone years.
I never got to meet my parents-in-law as they both passed on long before I met my husband. Because the living part of our house has been totally renovated since they have been gone, there are really no clues to their personalities in that part of our home. But the storage area is filled with all kinds of memorabilia! There are old fashioned copper kettles that my mother-in-law used for canning, an old scrub board that she used to do the wash. There are funny old toiletry items that belonged to my father-in-law, like the straight razor that he used to shave everyday since apparently he never trusted the “new-fangled” razors to give him a close shave.
Since we got married, I’ve been on a hunt to find something more personal – like maybe a letter my mother-in-law might have written and hidden somewhere with a big bold heading on the envelope: “TO MY FUTURE DAUGHTER-IN-LAW” – a letter in which she will tell me how sad she is that she never met me, but assure me that she is delighted that her only son has finally found such a wonderful partner. Thus far I have found nothing quite so romantic, but a girl can dream!
There is an old trunk of my mother-in-law's that I like to open once and while. Today I went up and rummaged around in that trunk hoping to find a remnant of material that might work for a chair I’m making over. I’ve found some different pieces, one of which I think might work:
And some funny old sewing notions, like this strange “cover your own buckle” kit:
And this great pattern for smocked curtains, a pattern that apparently only cost 35 cents!
There is this lovely jumble of old embroidery floss, yarn and crochet work housed in what looks to be a shaving kit:
And then I found this great gem – an old newspaper from 1962 lining the bottom of the trunk! What a wealth of humourous information this has proven to be. Almost, but not quite, as great as finding a letter directed to my dear self from my deceased but none-the-less appreciative mother-in-law.
Some of the highlights were in the advertisements, like this one advertising a dry cleaner. Only 88 cents to dry clean a dress or 39 cents for a pair of trousers!
Apparently apples were only $1 a bushel ....
And you could buy a "bouffant crinoline" at Simpson Sears for a mere $2.44.
And who knew that Ann Landers was so good-looking when she was young?!
Some of the articles were absolutely hilarious. The section of the newspaper is called "Women's Pages" and includes this article:
Sorry it's so fuzzy but basically it explains that the school board had almost made the "mistake" of ordering teachers' desks without ashtrays! Fortunately, one of the trustees caught the mistake before the order was placed. Can't imagine teachers ever being allowed to smoke in a classroom, can you? They can't even smoke anywhere near school property now!
This article really made me chuckle:
"The age of chivalry is not dead in Hamilton courts. During a divorce action in the Supreme Court of Ontario, a woman broke down on the stand. While answering questions, she desperately searched for a handkerchief in her handbag. Not finding one, she wiped away tears with her hand. Her counsel, Donald Cooper, strode to the witness box proffering an immaculately folded white handkerchief. Proceedings continued, with the woman dabbing at her eyes with her gratefully-accepted gift. Her divorce was granted."
Isn't that too funny? I just can't believe that made it into the newspaper!
But back to the subject of my mother-in-law, I haven't found any secret letters from her yet. In fact, there are very little of what you could call "personal items" anywhere to be found ... a few post cards from friends (but mostly written in Hungarian), an old well-worn Bible, and her wire-rimmed eyeglasses are pretty much all there is. But going through her belongings does give me some clues about her personality. She was obviously a woman who loved her family and did everything she could to make ends meet. She saved little scraps of material to patch clothing or to make rag rugs (some of which we still have). She tried very hard to make "special" dresses for my husband's sisters, saving little bits of fancy trim to be reused and recycled. And she didn't spend a lot of money on things for herself, so perhaps that's why her personal items are so limited.
Here's a picture of my in-laws on their wedding day. Don't they look lovely?
So I guess I'll keep hunting just in case there is a special letter that my mother-in-law has left for me somewhere mixed in with all those "attic treasures," but part of me realizes that the real message is an unwritten and unspoken one from a woman who lived simply and loved her family.