Monday, February 26, 2007

Hidden treasure found in half-bath

When I was growing up, my parents had a TV in the corner of their room. It sat on top of a miniature chest of drawers. I remember sitting two feet away to watch, my back pressed against the side of a dresser and my bony butt growing numb from the hardwood floor. I never gave much thought to the little doll chest.

Two houses later, the chest ended up in the downstairs powder room, with an array of tchotchkes, soaps, and hand towels on top. One of the drawers still holds a stash of Barbie clothes that my sister and I inherited from our grandmother's second husband's daughter, who'd played with them in the late 60s. My parents entertain a lot and I always thought that anyone snooping in those drawers would be pretty surprised to find a collection of 6-inch-long minidresses and fur coats.

So this weekend we went to see my parents and Jo discovered the Barbies for the first time. The dolls themselves live in the toy bin near the kitchen, but someone remembered the clothes in the bathroom and brought them out for Jo to play with. It seemed easiest to bring the whole drawer over and dump its contents onto the table.

That's when we found the writing on the underside of the drawer.

Do not destroy

This doll clothes cabinet built prior to 1895 for Kelly family children who lived on a farm near Eau Galle, Wisconsin.

Catherine Ellen [that's me] C__'s great-grandmother Mrs. Anton (Kelly) W__ (of Durand, Wisconsin remembers it was used in her childhood and prior thereto by older children.

(Some repairs and paint made by Carl A. B__, Catherine's grandpa.)

Mice made this hole --->

I was amazed. I'd lived with this piece of furniture for 18 years, but I never knew this was there. There is a notation from this same grandfather on my dining room table, but it basically scolds anyone who comes across it that the table must remain in the possession of my mother or one of her children. This note on the doll chest was a real effort to pass along a piece of family history. I love that he decided the best way to do so was to write directly onto the wood (and of course, he was right).

Furthermore, the Barbie clothes rocked.

Ken wigs over the beautiful babes


Lady M said...

What an awesome treasure! I wish more family heirlooms came with the stories attached. We just received a quilt that was handmade by SwingDaddy's great-great, and I need to write down the story before we forget and it becomes just another item in storage. The stories are what make things special!

mothergoosemouse said...

Whoa. That is SO. COOL. Plus, the clothes are fab and Jo is so darned cute.

(When you mention bathrooms, I can't help but recall the one you once described in detail.)

Karianna said...

What a great story. These are the types of things were I don't mind a little history!

Magpie said...

I love that. My husband tends to put his name and the date somewhere whenever he does work around the house. And his grandfather (who I never knew) put his initials and the date and the price he paid on the bottom of every single item in his house. In Sharpie. It's the equivalent of pissing on your trees. It's so sweet, though, that you were able to discover that.

Mona said...

A doll clothes cabinet! That's impressive enough, let alone the wonderful history behind it.

mamatulip said...

That is AWESOME. What a great little hidden piece of family history just waiting to be unearthed. I love stuff like that!! Gives me chills -- in a good way.

And I love the word 'tchotchkes'. Isn't it just fab?

Elizabeth said...

That is great! It must be a really well-made piece of furniture to have lasted over a hundred years. And vintage Barbie clothes too! Excellent.

Nancy said...

We have an old spinning wheel with a note on it, saying it was made by my great great grandfather. Pretty cool.

We also have some old Barbies and clothes. It's so much fun to dress the dolls up with the old-style fashions, isn't it?

Jo is very cute.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

What a fantastic, fantastic story.

We have a little table in which my sister-in-law carved "TB -heart- EL." She wrote that when she was 12. And now she and EL have been married for 25 years.

Mrs. Chicken said...

What a wonderful story to share with your own kids.

And thanks for sharing it with us!

BlondeMom said...

That is incredible! What a treasure to find and share with your daughter. How very cool.

I have my childhood doll cradle and realized the other day that the baby doll blanket the girls were playing with was made for my dolls by my grandmother.

Jo is adorable!

tallulah said...

Makes me want to start writing on the underside of all my furniture! That's a great story!

Her Bad Mother said...

I LOVE that story. Everything about it. From the rockin' Barbie clothes to the hidden family testimonial. LOVE.

nonlineargirl said...

I love that someone thought to leave a note. That is the kind of thing I'd do, if I had things worth protecting!

TB said...

What amazing forethought on the part of your grandmother. Who would ever think to do that? So cool.

And the vintage barbie clothes are awesome, but what's up with Ken's hair? Is he wearing a 70s toupee? Jo looks like she's thoroughly enjoying them though.