New Adventures, Old Heirlooms

About eight or nine years ago, my dad’s cousin’s widow called out of the blue to berate me (in her high-toned British accent) because I didn’t let her know about my mom’s passing. I didn’t want to explain that I didn’t even know this relative was still alive or that she was still in touch with my mother after my parents’ bitter divorce, so I accepted the rebuke.

Several years of intermittent correspondence followed. I learned to enjoy her pithy comments on different aspects of life in the U.S. and her various travels back to the UK, as well as learning information about my dad’s family. Just before the pandemic, she announced she had been keeping some of my great-grandmother’s things for me and that she wanted me to come to Seattle, to pick them up before she sold her home in Seattle and moved to Arizona.

Then the pandemic hit. We’d check in with each other, every couple of months, to see if a visit would be possible. At some point she revealed that it was my great-grandmother’s tea table, tea set and assorted items that she had for me—and that I would need my aging Subaru Outback to pick them up and take them home. I sighed, as my only memory of a tea table was a rather horrid brass-and-glass thing that in no way would be classified as any kind of heirloom. She was very insistent and I was worried she wouldn’t move unless we picked up the items.

I had visions of re-cluttering rather than decluttering the house. I finally accepted the inevitable and we headed out this past May, with trepidation if not downright fear.

Why? Well, firstly, I suffer from bathmophobia. No, it has nothing to do with a fear of water; I do not like steep slopes, particularly when combined with cliff edges. As the only driver in the household, the drive was a major challenge. My solution was to take the ferry down and drive back up where, supposedly, we’d mostly be on the inside lane. Still, the path from Vancouver to Whitehorse is paved with cliff edges, unless the road is just gravel.

The author's bounty from her great-grandmother
The author’s bounty from her great-grandmother

Secondly, my husband and I have never done an extended road trip in our 35 years of marriage. We’ve travelled a bit, but never in a car for long hours over several days. Would the tension of me driving and the boredom of him “passengering” lead to a fateful end? I didn’t know and I was a bit nervous about finding out.

Finally, I don’t recall ever having met this relative. My dad said she was way too good for his cousin, of whom he had the reasonable dislike of the untidy for the tidy. But that’s all—that and the aforementioned high-toned British accent. What would she think? And why did I care? Family, I guess.

We left Skagway in mid-May on a relaxing, if soggy, ferry trip to Seattle. Google got us through the freeway system quite well. Knocking on the door of a rather imposing and lovely home, we were greeted by a beautiful pixie with long hair and piercing blue eyes. We were absolutely enchanted and got along just fine.

And the tea table? A nice piece of wooden furniture (Circa the 1930s), not the monstrosity I had feared. And it all fit in the car rather reasonably.

The trip home was rather more harrowing than I had hoped, due to road repair in the Fraser Canyon. Nevertheless, we made it without incident and whittled away many hours listening to the BBC News World History podcast on The Great Plague(s), which was interspersed by music. We both enjoyed ourselves immensely.

As I unpacked the items, I found a lovely photo of my great-grandmother, as a young girl, with her doll in 1898. And there, nestled in tissue, was the doll. Amazing. Worth it.

Now all I need is a place to keep them!

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