Monday, October 20, 2008

The O.P. Mother-in-law phenomenon

O.P. stands for "Other People's" because this is about lovely things that have come to me in part because they once belonged to someone's mother-in-law. Saturday the mail brought a package from a penpal, who I've never met in person, but a correspondence compadre who sent me this silk scarf and another beautiful one that I was less successful photographing. They, along with others, had belonged to her mother-in-law, deceased for some time. We've been writing long enough that she intuited that I like scarves - I have a whole bureau drawer full, all divided by color into plastic bags so I can find what I want. I was surprised and delighted and began thinking of other O.P. mother-in-law possessions.

These two bracelets belonged to women who had died before I ever heard of them. The art deco bracelet with a filigree bell which I think is the wonderful, walked into my house over 40 years ago. A friend had been with her husband cleaning out the husband's mother's home. "Do you like this?" she asked. "I hate it." It really wasn't her style. "I love it," I said. "It's yours," she said. I've loved it all these years.

The other bracelet was a trade. I had a few quilt hanging on a clothes line when I was having a moving sale before coming to NYC. A couple in a very loaded van stopped. The wife wanted one of the quilts. "But we've just spend our cash on gas," the husband said. They explained they'd cleaned out his mother's house in Michigan and were taking all their van would hold home. "I know," said the wife. She disappeared into the van and came back after a while with this bracelet. "It's good silver. Would you trade the quilt for the bracelet?" I did. And I've worn it with pleasure for about 25 years.
junkjunkjunl This last silver bracelet I add although it never belonged to a mother-in-law; it was a bit of the spoils when I was helping clean out another deceased woman's belongings. It is Mexican from the era -- art deco again -- when William Spratling was reviving the Mexican silver industry in Taxco. It is not his design, it has a different name stamped on the back. I do not wear it as often, only because it just fits my wrist and has a clasp I cannot explain but which is difficult to undo because of how snugly it fits. I think it's an amazing bit of silversmithing.

When Helen Squires spoke at the Empire Quilt Guild she showed a very beautiful quilt and told the story of acquiring it: She had a quilt shop in northern New Jersey. One day a man came in and said, "I have a quilt I want you to buy." He produced this astonishing quilt. "How much do you want for it?" she asked. He said something incredibly low. She bought it. Why was he so willing to part with it? He was married to a second wife and, said Helen, "Did you ever hear someone say, 'If she made it, it goes out'?" So it's not only mothers-in-laws, loved or not.

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