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.


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.



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.


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


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

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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


Purple Passages and Fine China


La Lectura es el viaje de los que no pueden tomar el tren.        – F. Croisset

(Reading is the journey of those who cannot take the train.)

Marian Reading_14mos._2x4_300

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested . . . .           Sir Francis Bacon  “Of Studies”

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.     Groucho Marx

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.    Oscar Wilde


When we laugh, a sort of temporary anesthesia is released within us that blocks the pain as our attention is diverted.      Chuck Swindoll in Five Meaningful Minutes a Day

I love people who make me laugh. I honestly think it’s the thing I like most, to laugh. It cures a multitude of ills. It’s probably the most important thing in a person.    Audrey Hepburn


Friendship is delicate as [china], once broken it can be fixed but there will always be cracks.    Waqar Ahmed

Pitcher Broken

It’s a wise husband who will buy his wife such fine china that she won’t trust him to wash the dishes.    – Honoré de Balzac


I’ll love you, dear, I’ll love you till China and Africa meet and the river jumps over the mountain and salmon sing in the street.      – W. H. Auden

We have a week and a half left of work and we are like delicate china speeding toward a brick wall. Sounds fun, huh?     – Jennifer Anniston

Start living now. Stop saving the good china for that special occasion. Stop withholding your love until that special person materializes. Every day you are alive is a special occasion. Every minute, every breath, is a gift from God.     

                   Mary Manin Morrissey

A comment? Another quotation? Both are welcome here!

The Beach at Sunset: Crossing the Bar

Sunsets, especially sunsets on the beach are # 1 on the list of clichés to avoid in photography. Yet beach sunsets persist on Instagram and Facebook because they are breath-taking, evocative.

Photo credit: Jackie Gassett
Photo credit: Jackie Gassett


. . . the gauzy hinge between sea and sky, the limitless horizon dividing the elements, the disappearing point where we were headed.”

                   Patricia Hampl  The Florist’s Daughter

My mother had a placid and accepting attitude toward life and death. At her funeral the hymns sung by the congregation were full of hope, “I Stand Amazed” and “The Love of God” among them. Another song in the Mennonite Church Hymnal entitled “Sunset and Evening Star” (which was not sung) pulls out the first four words of Tennyson’s poem “Crossing the Bar” written in 1889 just three years before he died.

Crossing the Bar

Tennyson, also appearing to accept death as part of life, uses the metaphor of the sandbar on the beach to paint a picture of the tide of life pushing out to the “boundless deep” to which we return. The poet hopes that though he may be carried beyond the limits of time and space as we know them “he will look upon the face of his ‘Pilot’ when he has crossed the sand bar.”

This past July Mother crossed the bar into eternal glory and there she has beheld the face of her Pilot. Oh, how we miss her.

But now I must cross the bar of challenge and opportunity ever looking for new horizons. How about you?

What bar of challenge and opportunity confronts you now?



The Wonda-Chair and the Heirloom

Did you as a baby sit in one of these?

Did you buy one for your child?

Image: eBay
Image: eBay

Produced by Babyhood Industries of Shrewsbury, MA, the Wonda Chair was “a do-it-all, all-in-one, convertible wonder. As the seller mentions, the multi-piece furniture/stroller kit mixes and matches to create the following: Hi-chair, youth chair, chair and table, dressing table, desk set, rocking chair, stroller, baby carriage, basinette, and cradle.”

As expectant parents, we fell prey to this marvel and sunk hundreds of dollars into this magnificent wonder, the Wonda Chair. We used it mostly as a high chair and stroller for our children. Later, Crista and Joel pushed each other around on the sidewalk with the stroller base. Here they are improvising their own version of a horse and buggy with a dog and Wonda Chair carriage wheels.


Recently, we have been going through Mother’s things in her attic and came upon this 19th century marvel—a high chair that converts into a baby carriage—hand-made and still serviceable.



Mother was the first daughter in the family after four brothers, so she is the fifth in her family to use the chair. It is vintage, however, and probably handed down to the family from the previous generation, frugal Mennonites who valued quality and heritage.

Mother in high chair, 1918
Mother in the Metzler high chair, 1918

Two wonderful chairs – the Wonda Chair and the heirloom . . .

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Your turn: Take your pick – The Wonda Chair or the Vintage chair?

Or tell your tale of special pieces handed down in your family.