Family

Family Heirlooms

Heirlooms are an important thing in my family.  We like to hold onto our family legacies and pass items down from one generation to another, along with the stories that go with these items.  After Grandma passed away a year and a half ago, my relatives quickly began discussing who would inherit which items from Grandma’s home.  Some items had already been delegated to specific family members while Grandma was still alive.  Grandma’s house contained many, many family heirlooms that had been passed down through multiple generations, and we wanted to make sure that these valuable old items stayed in the family.

It had been decided several years ago that I would keep the big antique iron bed that I had slept in for many years.  But when the time came for it to be passed down to me, I couldn’t take it since I already had a large bed at my new home in Florida and my spare bedroom wasn’t big enough to accommodate the old iron bed along with the other furniture already in the room.  So my father agreed to take the iron bed.  Instead, I opted to receive the 100+ year old wooden vanity table that had belonged to my Great-Great-Aunt Leta and sat in my bedroom at home for many years after she died along with the chest of drawers that had belonged to my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather Richard.

Since I did not have the funds nor the time to make another trip back to my home state to take these items and drive them back down to Florida, we had to figure out another way to get them to me.  My father kept them in a storage unit until he could figure out how to safely get them to me in one piece.  After much research, he finally decided to ship these two furniture items to me via UPS.

He shipped Richard’s antique chest of drawers first, since it was the smallest and sturdiest of the items.  Using his ingenuity, my father packed the dresser into a large cardboard box and then tightly secured it to a sturdy handmade wooden pallet that he had fashioned specifically for this shipment.  He even screwed metal handles into the pallet in order to make it easier for the UPS employees to handle the large package.  He shipped it off and then we both held our breath and waited to see how the antique dresser would fare on the 1,400 mile journey.  Nearly a week later, the dresser arrived on my doorstep in perfect condition.  And it took half an hour for me to completely extract it from all the packaging, rope, and the wooden pallet.

dresser

It’s now on display in my spare bedroom, and I do keep clothing and other items inside of it.  This chest of drawers was handmade by my great-great-great grandmother sometime during the 1850’s, which would make it somewhere around 160 years old!!!  Legend has it that she was a very skilled carpenter.  She and her husband Richard immigrated here from Wales, England.  They spoke with heavy Welsh accents, which lasted through a few generations.  My own grandparents spoke with a lot of old English vocabulary.  Each drawer has a key hole and could be locked and unlocked with a key, but the key has long since been lost.  I am now the sixth generation in my family to own this item, and I’m very proud of it.  I can’t believe it has held out in good condition for as long as it has!!  And if you think this is shocking, then you’ll be even more shocked to know that this wasn’t even the oldest item in Grandma’s house.  She had an antique tea set in her china cupboard that had been passed down through the generations from the 1830’s, making that tea set somewhere around 180 years old!!!  If there’s one definitive thing I can say about my family, it’s that we hold onto items for a long time!

After the dresser made it safely to my house in one piece, the next challenge was to ship the vanity table, which was a lot larger and far more fragile than the dresser.  Dad rightfully decided that it would be best to remove the heavy mirror and ship it separately.  So he sent the mirror through UPS in a large fitted box packed tight with blankets and insulation.  We held our breaths, and the mirror arrived safely and undamaged.

Finally it was time to ship the final piece: the vanity table itself.  Although not nearly as old as the 160 year old dresser, this item wasn’t nearly in as good a condition.  But once again Dad fashioned a strong handmade wooden crate, put the table into a large cardboard box, attached beams of wood inside of the box to prevent it from being crushed, and very tightly secured it into the wooden crate with rope and metal screws.  Then once again, we held our breath and waited.

When that package arrived, I have no idea how the UPS man was able to get it up the stairs to my front porch.  That was without a doubt THE largest package I have ever received through the mail.  This time, it took me close to a full hour with the help of a large Phillips screwdriver and a crowbar to open this package.  But when I finally unearthed the vanity table, I was heartbroken to see that it had sustained major damage during the journey to Florida.  One of the front legs had completely broken off.  The top of the table had been halfway jarred out of place from the rest of the table, leaving a large open gap on both sides.  A large piece of ancient wood had also broken off from somewhere underneath the table, making it impossible to open one of the drawers.  But we knew this table was very old and fragile, and this was the risk we took by shipping it through the mail.

All I could do in the meantime was fit the broken leg back into place and tie it secure with a piece of cording.  I had to do something in order to keep the leg in place and stabilize it so that it could stand up until I found a way to get it repaired.  Dad suggested that I search around and find a professional furniture repairman to see about fixing the broken table.  After asking around, I was referred to a man named Larry who specializes in restoring antique furniture.  It was said that he was the best in the area.  So I called him up and had him make a house call to inspect the damage and see what he could do.

To my relief, Larry said the table was easily fixable and recommended that we do a complete restoration of it.  He said it would cost a few hundred dollars and take at least a week, but that it would be well worth it.  Not only would the table be perfectly repaired, but a full restoration would breathe new life into the deteriorating wood and make it almost like brand new again.  I agreed to this, and he took the table away with him back to his shop that same day.  While he was in my home, Larry marveled at my other antique furniture items and photos.  He could not believe that I had a dresser that predated the Civil War and was still in very good condition.

Larry texted me a week later to tell me that the table was finished and ready to be delivered.  When Larry arrived at my front door with the finished table sitting on my porch, I looked at it in complete shock and then looked up at him and said, “You must be some kind of wizard!!”

leg

There was literally NO evidence whatsoever that the vanity table had ever been damaged.  It was in perfect condition again.  Even after sticking my face right up next to the leg that had broken off, I could not even see so much as a crack to show that it had ever been broken….and it was definitely the same original leg!!  Even the wood looked stronger and younger!!  How in the world he was able to reattach that broken leg so perfectly and smoothly, I have no idea.  According to the receipt he gave me, he had taken the entire thing apart in several pieces, put each wooden piece into a chemical soak to moisturize and strengthen the old wood, put all new joints into each section of the table, reattached the broken leg, and put new braces and screws into the back to securely hold the heavy mirror in place.  All of the drawers now open and close easily, and the table is sturdy as a rock.  He said it will now probably last for another hundred years.  That was well worth the $400 he charged for the job, and I would recommend Larry to anyone!!!

After doing some major rearranging in my master bedroom, the vanity table that I used in my old bedroom in my family home up in the Midwest for many years is now with me again in my bedroom in southern Florida (with Lexi’s bed underneath it, of course).  I plan to use it as a hair and makeup table since I don’t have much counter space in either of my bathrooms.  I’m going to buy a little antique stool to sit in front of it when I’m doing my hair and makeup on it.

vanitytable

All of the items I have displayed on top of it are also old antiques, except for the pewter mermaid bowl.  That was a gift from Dad that he found in a novelty magazine.

vanitytable3

 

Although I’ll have to remove it and place a protective covering down whenever I use the table for hair and makeup, I keep a delicate antique lace runner displayed on the vanity.  This was also handed down through my family, as well as the lamp and other items displayed.  I believe the lace runner belonged to my great-great-aunt Alberta and is from the 1930’s or possibly the 1920’s….maybe even a little older than that.  It’s going to be a challenge keeping Lexi off of this vanity table, because she loves to jump up and sit on top of it and I’m afraid her claws might tear holes in this delicate lace runner.

lace

All in all, it cost my dad a total of $600 to ship these very old heirlooms halfway across the country to my home.  I’m very proud to have these antique family treasures from my old family home now gracing my own home here in Florida.  It’s nice to have more items from my beloved home that is now gone.  It’s a way for me to hold onto the memories, keep my family legacies alive, and recreate the look and feel of my beloved former home.  There were actually A LOT of items from our house that I wanted to have, but there was just no way to store and ship all of those large items down to me without paying a fortune.  This was the one time when I regretted living so far away from home.  If I had still lived near my hometown when Grandma died, I could have easily kept half the stuff in that house.

I also get a huge kick out of showing these ancient items to friends and other guests who visit my home.  Oddly enough, few Floridians have ever seen a lot of antiques or any that are this old.  My father thinks it’s because there was just never any interest in these types of things among the people in Florida and because old wooden items don’t last long in the extreme humid climate here.  That’s why you don’t see very many wooden houses around here that are older than a few decades, because the humid climate and hurricanes destroyed them.  Either way, it makes me proud to own such very old items and to see the look of shock and awe on the faces of people when they see them.

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