Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Certifiable Duchess

Oh, wait, I think maybe the title should have been the "certified" Duchess. Or maybe not even that. It's just that I gave my mother the title of Dowager Duchess only in the last couple of years, and now I've found proof that she held the title of "Duchess" at least 50 years ago.

The Dowager Duchess and I were cleaning out a couple of kitchen cabinets this morning. My mother had a set of "movie dishes" that she and her mother collected in the 1940s. Every time you went to the movies, you got a dish. They amassed five services for 8 and my mother kept two, one of which she gave to me for my first apartment. The Duchess's everyday dishes have been depleted over the years, and she won't use her fine china for everday use — not because she's saving her fine china for posterity, but because she has never liked her fine china. So she thought perhaps she could start filling in with some of the movie dishes — specifically large soup/cereal bowls. The dishes were stacked up in the back of an upper cabinet (above the broom closet) and the Kid Brother has never been in the mood to climb up and empty the cabinet for her. Every time she asks, he says, "Some other time." Even I at my "elevation" needed to use the step stool. The Kid Brother is about 6 inches shorter (although, even at that, he towers by that same amount over our Mother The Dowager Duchess).

Among the miscellaneous things — like a stovetop percolator from the year of the flood (and I'm not talking last year's Hurricane Sandy), and a first aid kit containing salves and ointments that expired in 1980 — there was a musty shipping box and a couple of thermoses. One thermos was last used in 1987 when my mother brought pea soup to the hospital for my father. It was his favorite, but by that time, he could only manage one sip. Still, it made him happy. The other thermos apparently belonged to The Duchess — although I can't imagine The Duchess drinking from a plastic thermos cup. But I know for certain it was her thermos because it's got her name on it — just like Queen Elizabeth's things are personalized with "HRH," this one is inscribed, "The Duchess."

THE PERSONALIZED THERMOS. (MY MOTHER IS EVEN TRADEMARKED.)

The musty shipping box was a mail order package to The Duchess from the Kraft Foods Company. The address label was for my parents' first home on Van Siclen Avenue in Brooklyn, which we left behind for suburban Long Island in 1956. I thought the age of the box was novel enough but then I noticed that I had doodled a bit on the box.


I said, "Oh, God. Look, I doodled on the box." The Duchess said, "You doodled on everything!" She's right, of course. She used to take pens out of my hands when we sat at the dinner table. I couldn't help myself. This was clearly one of my lesser works. There were very few sketches and there was still considerable surface area remaining to be covered. Inside the box was a set of stacking cake pans for making a layer cake. Along with the percolator, thermoses, and extra movie dishes, we have a load to be delivered to the charity shop down the street.

THE DUCHESS MUST HAVE TAKEN THIS AWAY FROM ME
BEFORE I COULD COVER THE ENTIRE BOX WITH DOODLES. 

THE DUCHESS AND THE SPANIARDS AT LUNCH FRIDAY.
(CLICK TO FEEL THE LOVE.)

23 comments:

  1. What a 'treasure' to find!! Love rooting through stuff like this!
    Hey Mitchell, Sophie and you would get along just fine....she's a 'doodler' of sorts!!
    The photo of you three is precious....can really feel the warmth. Nice.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jim:
      If you love rooting through stuff like this, you'd never get bored here... OMG

      Delete
    2. OK then we are on our way since you are on this side of the Atlantic now ~~~ Sophie perks up when we say your name and Jerry's and of course The Duchess. Love the Booth Trio photo ~~ so special!!

      Ron

      Delete
  2. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh, what a lovely photo of the three of you!
    Very interesting story, Mitchell. Amazing, these old things we run across in the back of a cabinet... but, really... those are some SERIOUSLY old things. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Judeet:
      Who are you calling a seriously old thing? Oh... I also found a bottle of Chivas Regal. The label says it's 12 years old, which makes it about 60 now.

      Delete
  3. It sounds like you were having a bit of fun going through old stuff. The last photo is nice and I note that The Duchess managed to get her finger nails in shot.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Andrew;
      Can't believe you noticed the nails! There'll be a better shot of those.

      Delete
  4. I would assume The Dowager duchess had everything monogrammed and trademarked, and set aside for her own personal use!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bob:
      And now that's she's The Dowager, I guess it will all have to be redone. Time to get a new thermos.

      Delete
  5. Brilliant and you all look wonderful!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Nubian:
      Thanks! San Geraldo and the Duchess look great. I'm just thrown in for color contrast.

      Delete
  6. I did click on the picture but it wasn't necessary to feel all the love oozing from that picture.

    ReplyDelete
  7. That is so charming! I just love stories like that.Your mom looks so happy and healthy and that is so nice to see. I'm kinda curious to see what the movie dishes vs china look like--I can't help it, I love dishes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ms. Sparrow:
      I'll take a picture of a movie dish bowl, so you an see the pattern. The whole thing is very dated/old-fashioned but kind of novel 70 years later. My set, which I brought to a thrift store years ago had a Victorian couple sitting under a tree. It was so bad, it was good (almost). My mother's dishes are a mix of flowers.

      Delete
  8. Terrific last picture, Mitch. Worthy of being framed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Raybeard:
      Thanks. I love that photo. I had taken two shots of San Geraldo and the Duchess. I loved them, but the waitress insisted on getting me in the picture.

      Delete
  9. Treasure hunting is so much fun! And even better when you actually find something.
    That's a wonderful photo of the three of you, and Jerri looks great!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kristi:
      Amid the "treasures" were about 40 pounds of dried-out tupperware (no longer burp-able) and disposable plastic party ware that should have been disposed of long ago! Glad my mother is able to use the bowls. Hope the stuff that survived the trash will make some money for charity and make someone else happy! Doesn't Jerry look amazing?!? A new man... or the one I used to know.

      Delete
  10. that last photo is my favorite !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Spo:
      Thanks. I love it too. My mother already framed it and has it displayed.

      Delete
  11. Love that last photo, so much LOVE xoxoxo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. YONKS:
      Just looking at that photo makes me smile... again and again. Thanks!

      Delete

Tell me what you're thinking...
Dime tus pensamientos...