Moments of Discovery # 9: Keys to the Riddle

A Riddle

I have no head, and a tail I lack,

But oft have arms, and legs, and a back;

I inhabit the palace, the tavern, the cot-

‘Tis a beggarly residence where I am not.

If a monarch were present (I tell you no fable),

I still should be placed at the head of the table.

What am I?

You have probably already guessed the answer, a piece of furniture often passed down through the generations. Yet sorting through what is bequeathed us, we often handle family heirlooms whose origins are a riddle.

Some Artifacts

Our mother’s adjustable high chair, for example. It’s for sure from the Metzler/Landis side of the family, but we are not sure exactly where it came from. Did parents Abram and Sadie Metzler buy it new? Did the Landis grandparents present it as a gift because it was their very first grand-daughter? It looks well preserved, but its origin still a puzzle.

MomChairHigh

This gorgeous, glazed floral dish . . . of its vintage we are sure.

Dish given to my mother from her parents, Abram and Sadie Metzler on her wedding day
Dish given to my mother from her parents, Abram and Sadie Metzler on her wedding day

It’s no mystery where this Japanese teacup came from either. Mother, pretending to be me, wrote legibly in black that it’s from my maternal Grandma, Annie Metzler. It once survived an explosion in my curio cabinet. You can read about that here.

Japanese cup

 

The German Bible has been in our family for centuries. The signatures signify it belongs in the Longenecker line. No mystery there.

Henry Risser Longenecker, my Grandfather, son of Levi Longenecker, listed in the family Bible.
Henry Risser Longenecker, my Grandfather, son of Levi Longenecker, listed in the family Bible.

 

A Special Chair

This chair below has sat in our bedroom for years. And it’s no enigma where it came from.

ChairMartinFront

ChairMartinUnderneath

The provenance of the chair was taped to the bottom of this chair. Did I say chair? Yes, of course, this is the answer to the riddle above.

Since 1975, I have transcribed the names of generations of Martins and Longeneckers that have used this chair to host dinners. It’s called the Joseph Martin chair because it was handed down to us from Fannie Martin Longenecker, our grandmother.

ChairMartinLineage

Teacups, dishes, and chairs are inanimate. Unlike the personable “characters” in the Be Our Guest song from Beauty and the Beast, they come to life only when friends and family gather ‘round the table hospitably.

A Memorable Dinner

TableRuthieChrist2004

This photo was snapped just before bodies of all ages – the wiggly young, the pregnant great grand-daughters, the middle-aged, the elderly – gathered around the table at Grandma Longenecker’s house ready to dig in to Christmas dinner in 2004.

This was the last time Aunt Ruthie was able to host the dinner. She was 86 then. Of course she had lots of help, but this was the last time she sat as hostess at the head of the table, probably on an antique chair.

Aunt Ruthie (approx. age 75) busy in the kitchen, 1990s
Aunt Ruthie (approx. age 75) busy in the kitchen, 1990s

* * *

What antiques do you regularly use at home? Have stored in the attic? Do you know a reliable website or service for valuing antiques?

 

Coming next: Sastruga, Snowy Winter Blankets

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Note to Vote + Grandma’s Pork & Sauerkraut Dinner

New year, new opportunity: Vote for My Gutsy Story @

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Grandma’s Pork and Sauerkraut Dinner

GmaSauerkrautArticleAs the article in the Elizabethtown Chronicle explains, my Grandma Fannie stomped cabbage by using “her old potato masher to draw moisture from cabbage in the process of making stone crock sauerkraut.” The Longenecker family always had pork and sauerkraut, along with mashed potatoes and apple sauce, for New Year’s Day as well as other times during the year.

Just like many Pennsylvania Dutch families in 2013, we observed this New Year ritual with a menu of pork & sauerkraut and mashed potatoes.

Pork basted with mixture of meat juices, minced garlic, fresh dill, onion salt and dry mustard Sauerkraut with caraway seeds; baked apples
Pork basted with mixture of meat juices, minced garlic, fresh dill, onion salt, dry mustard
Sauerkraut with caraway seeds; baked apples

Around the table, counting our blessings: “. . . . Hitherto hath the Lord helped us.” I Samuel 7:12

New Year's Table

Your comments and mine make a conversation.

I will always reply!

Grandma’s Victorian Greeting: Happy New Year!

Here is a postcard from precisely 100 years ago: Grandma Fannie Martin Longenecker’s New Year’s greeting passed down to me and then to our daughter Crista who now displays it in a frame with her holiday decorations:

NewYearPostcard

They were called penny postcards for a reason!

back of postcard

Yes, it’s 100 years old, postmarked December 30, 1913. Notice there is no street address in a town of thousands and certainly no zip code, not instituted until the 1960s. “R.R.” means Rural Route. Dauphin County adjoins Lancaster County to the west.

Have you held on to old postcards or letters? Where do you keep them?

Inquiring minds want to know! Please join the conversation.

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VOTING BEGINS THURSDAY for My Gutsy Story on author Sonia Marsh’s website: To read the story: http://soniamarsh.com/2013/12/rising-above-the-pettiness-to-focus-on-the-positive-by-marian-beaman.html

Voting for My Gutsy December 2013 Story begins Jan. 2 and ends Jan. 15, 2014.