Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A Fuzzy Post: Things, Images, Time, and what to do with Love?

Animal Crackers are not what they used to be, but I do still have a rose bush, given me by a student (who didn't know what chord it might strike when she bought it at the open-air market about two years ago), similar to a Cecil Brunner except that only the centers are pale pink. Imported Mexican tiles are not what they were in the first first quarter of the 20th century, when in 1918 (in my mother's 4th year) my grandfather made a oak coffee table inlaid with four of them for my grandmother, who very much later confessed to me that she never had liked it, because it was an inch or two higher than it wanted to be in front of a sofa. She didn't refuse it, but marriage being marriage, my grandfather knew what she felt and eventually replaced it with a very nice walnut moderne coffee table of the requisite height, made with equal love and craftsmanship. Well, there were magazines with patterns for weekend cabinetmakers then as now, and many hundreds of plain saw-cut tables, with typical orange and blue Mexican tiles, made of pine or ash and finished with varnish stain, survive to this day. Perhaps Nana did not quite grasp the difference between those and hers. I did. It is something innate, for better or worse, to see and 'read' style. The oak was carefully chosen. The turned legs were carefully designed. The tiles were exceptional even then. This was not a patio table. As so often happens, probably neither he nor she understood what bothered the other. "You praise my eyes, but not for what they see," he wrote half a century later in a verse for her. She could not, and would not, tell him what the table that she hoped, and so assumed, he was building would look like.
Be that as it may, when I moved to Eugene, Oregon, and my brother drove up, bringing me some things from California to help furnish my new post-doctoral life, the Cribbage Table was one of the pieces. I think it came at the same time as the Aegipan chair (my name for it, but I had my own name for the table, too). This is the table where my grandfather had taught me cribbage and tirelessly had played it with me, he sitting on the sofa, I on the footstool opposite. My grandmother had made the 1935 cake and wreathed it with pink Cecil Brunner rosebuds. For my 21st birthday, though she had suffered serious heart attacks, she made me another cake with seven-minute icing and carefully, when I wasn't looking, walked down to the neighbor's where the Cecil Brunners were still blooming. I did not yet drive, but I took the Greyhound bus straight down US 101 through all the orchards; leaving Berkeley shortly after Finals were done, I could be in San Luis Obispo sometime in June. I wept when I saw my cake; the grandparents did not know that I was not then their 'innocent' granddaughter; my grandfather's picture (on the last post) gives no hint of the facts. As soon as I could when I came back from New York City (1981), my first thoughts were to recover the Cribbage Table and the Aegipan chair, not that nothing else was important. By then, however, I had lost both grandparents. I have both that chair and the table, and other things, here now.
My grandfather was teaching school in Chico, CA, when he made the table in 1918. At 91, it is almost officially an antique, but it is simply mine (and theirs), since it qualifies neither as folk art nor as fine furniture.
The other day I took the digital picture. Like the first one it is a deliberate still life and a memento, with my beloved mid-century Artzberg for coffee, a student's china beaker for my friend's wine, and an air letter from Vienna from a dear friend nearly my own age. I took it when the air letter turned up under a stack of CDs to send to him, since he's been ill, but I had in mind also to celebrate the Table for this blog. The housepainter unknowingly cut down the rambling rose bush, so I post at the end of this the last roses of early summer (the bush is growing back, from being cut to the ground, very rapidly, though the graft of the pink to the white may have been lost, but for the time being the previous pictures will do).
Some people do not value things and images, as neither alive nor real, respectively. What, though, is love, what is human in our consciousness, if associations made of a fabric of living memories are not kept alive by images and objects?