Tuesday, April 11, 2006

A Precious Relic

When I made my trip back in February to California for Ma's memorial and internment one of my primary tasks was to retrieve the family mementos. Photos and items that meant something to me or held some historical value, stuff that Ma wanted to be passed along.
I had my short list of things I absolutely had to find. On that mental list was one of Ma's painted ties. She did that sort of thing to earn pin money as a young single gal and continued her craft after marrying Dad. She was quite proud of her work. Handpainted ties have always had a fad-ish aura about them, waxing and waning in popularity through the 20', 30's and 40's. She had mentioned to me once that she had consigned with a shop in her hometown to do custom work for them. If someone bought ties or blouses there, she could add whatever design they wanted. She did everything freehand, some right out of her imagination or working with a photo or graphic that the customer provided.

Anyway, as a child I can recall her showing me an example of her work. It was in a worn long, narrow box like one would use when presenting a necktie from a fancy store. It was a tie she had done for Dad. Whether he ever actually wore it was another question.
This recent trip yielded everything thing but the tie. I knew it had to be in the house somewhere. My brother was wracked with guilt, fearing that it might have got inadvertantly tossed out. I assured him that it would turn up. Due to time constraints I couldn't search through every cabinet, closet and junk drawer. Honing in rather on places where I knew stuff was for a certainity. But the tie eluded us. It wasn't where I had recalled it being stashed, but I was using a memory that was nearly 30 years old by then. Stuff gets moved around, stuff gets thrown away...but I knew that was one bit of family history that wouldn't. It had to be somewhere in the house.

Yesterday, my brother called with wonderful news! The tie had been found! He described the box to me over the phone. It had the stores' name and tagline printed in gold on the top: "The New York Hat Company, Muncie's International Center of Fashion"
(That just cracks me up, the bold hyperbole of their slogan. Muncie then was an even dinkier podunk of an Indiana town than it is now!)
As an unexpected bonus, inside with the precious tie I had recalled from my childhood was an old photo of Mom, displaying some samples of her work! This might have been displayed at the store counter with a sign telling customers that custom work was available. She was wearing a blouse she had painted with a design of a Japanese rooster, the long tail feathers swirling about, she was holding up another blouse, done with some floral motif and a tie with a detailed, but ridiculous series of dog heads was draped over her lap. My brother scanned the photo and emailed it to me. It's the photo below.
The tie box and contents is now on it's way to me. And I can't tell you how happy I am!


Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

Lovely story. Now I can go to work with a smile on my face. Your mom sure was creative.

4/12/2006 10:51 AM  
Blogger white trash republican said...

Thanks, Pat. I always envied her talent, entirely self taught. She was always doodling. I have a scrap of paper here at the house of a sketch she did of Desmond Tutu while he was giving a speech on TV. He was addressing the UN or something. I can't recall, but it was done during one of my parents last visits with me-had to have been in the early '90's. She even dated and signed it, which was odd. Almost like she knew it would be the last time she'd be at my house.
I've been appointed the family historian by default. My brother has no real interest in that sort of thing. So all these little bits of her life are very important to me.

4/12/2006 11:31 AM  
Blogger Patrick Joubert Conlon said...

You're lucky you have relics. Unfortunately my mom used to throw everything away.

4/12/2006 6:37 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

More wonderful memories. I'm so glad you were able to get ahold of this photo.

4/12/2006 10:49 PM  
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12/08/2006 12:30 AM  
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