One of the (very few) pleasures of moving is the chance to unpack and rearrange all the things in my curio and china cabinets. The collection started with a shadow box I kept as a child and has moved with me ever since. Now it is a cabinet of wonders, filled with items that seem to me beautiful or interesting or the product of human wit. There are china dogs, dried flowers, a cloisonne teapot, a metal raven from the Tower of London, a doll-sized lunchbox (with thermos and banana), and a tiny pair of wooden shoes. There is a ceramic giraffe my mother made in art class and a wind-up tin airplane from around WWI that belonged to my husband’s uncle. There are gifts and remembrances–and all of them were simply known as “Mommy’s precious things” when my children were small.
In one corner of the china cupboard is a painted mug given to my mother and to me by a dear family friend sometime in the 1980s. Tucked inside the mug are two index cards held together by a paperclip with a red heart fixed to the top. The ink is red and the handwriting is full of the loops and curls you often see in older women’s penmenship. Here is the message from Mrs. Lynn (with a few of my mother’s annotations):
This mug was painted by Mary Brown Anderson of Rockbridge Baths, Va. The mug is approximately 90 years old. I have a picture she painted of the Natural Bridge. In the corner she initialed (sp?) M.B.A. 1908. So, I think a conservative estimate of the age of the mug would be 84 years. [? –notes my mother] I have no way of knowing whether [or not–adds mom] she did the mug prior to the Bridge paintings–She devoted her life to her parents, friends, Bethesda Presbyterian Church. Altho’ she had tuberculosis she refused to go to a sanitorium; she outlived her parents. She did a lot of art work, including painting china scenes. The Andersons were beloved by their neighbors there in Rockbridge. [Rockbridge County in which Lexington is located.]
The first time I ever saw a willow tree was one afternoon I had ridden with an aunt in a buggy drawn by a favorite [“]Lucy[“] who stepped along in a lively manner as we went to see Mary Brown!!–While my aunt chatted with Mr. & Mrs. Anderson, Mary Brown and I walked down by the creek. There by the water was my first willow!! Evelyn Lynn
Mary Brown is now long gone, and Mrs. Lynn has passed on too. But in my cabinet, inside a painted mug, held by a paperclip and a heart, is a memory of the two of them walking together.