The term “down-sizing” is like many other made-up words, such as “wind down,” neither of which can really be accomplished. We don’t “down-size” when losing weight, for instance. What we do is lose a size or two. And we don’t “wind down” a skein of yarn or a ball of twine; we unwind it. But for lack of a better term, I guess we are down-sizing.
The latest large item to go out the door was my mother’s corner cabinet. It was part of a dining room set consisting of a table (with two leaves!), six chairs, a bride’s chest and two of these corner cabinets. It is a gorgeous set.
When I moved to my last house before re-marrying, the dining room was small. It could easily accommodate the bride’s chest and the two corner cabinets, and there was room for the table, too. But the solid wood of the table made the dining room feel and appear much smaller. So I replaced the table with a glass-top one, and the chairs with a lighter-colored, fabric-covered set. One of my nieces, Julie, had expressed an interest in the dining room set and it just so happened that she was getting married about that time. I gave her the set for a wedding present, with the caveat that they would receive it in a rather piecemeal fashion.
The next installment — the bride’s chest and one of the corner cabinets — went to her and her spouse when we moved from Nebraska back to Minnesota. In this house, we ended up with an unexpected corner and the last corner cabinet fit perfectly in that spot. But now, in anticipation of another planned move, it was time for that one to move too.
When we delivered the cabinet, Julie and I were talking about how my mom had happened to acquire this beautiful set of furniture. Julie had evidently not heard the story, so I recounted it for her. One part of my mom and dad’s business was a car dealership, both new and used. When buying and selling cars, of course, the signatures on car titles had to be notarized. It was a big help if, every time they needed a notary public, they did not have to go somewhere else. So my mom completed all the paperwork and got the seal, insurance and stamp, becoming certified to notarize all of those documents.
It is an interesting side note that the original purpose of a notary was to witness signatures of people who could not read or write. They signed with an “X” and the notary swore that he or she personally knew the person signing to be the person named in the document. I — and my mother — wondered, since virtually everyone can now sign their own name, why this ancient practice was still in existence. But, she had no complaints because she was paid for each time she witnessed a signature and officially sealed and stamped it as valid.
She got a whopping 25 cents each time and frugally saved every quarter she received. That was the source of the money for the dining room set. It was also the source for her sterling silver, a complete set for 12 place settings. Unlike the dining room set, which she bought all together, the sterling came piece-by-piece, as she accumulated enough quarters to order more.
Those treasures remained just that: treasures. Using both the silverware and the furniture, especially the table, were a ritual. When my mother got the table, she also purchased table pads so it would always be protected. The joke in the family was that we would see the tabletop only once a year, when all the protective coverings would come off and we would polish that beautiful —unmarred — cherry wood. It was a time for much oohing and ahhing, and of course teasing my mother about her protective stance. We did see it a few more times than just once each year, but it was fun to exaggerate her concern that it would get a burn mark, or a water ring, or a scratch.
We showed the same concern for that last piece to be moved out of our house. We wrapped it in a very large comforter and then in a tarp. We had tried to make this trip on a day when we were fairly sure it was not going to rain. It did not rain on us and had rained at Julie and Leo’s before we got there, but by the time we arrived that was over.
Julie and Leo were ready for it: they had accumulated a lot of serving pieces and other things that, with no other place for them, were sitting on the counter top. They needed the new space, and had the corner in their dining room waiting for it.
After dinner — eaten on that table — Julie commented, “The dining room set is really happy to be all together again!”
We’ll keep on down-sizing, but also trying to find a better word to mean we are shedding “stuff.”