14 July 2007

My Paper Heart

Yesterday, when I dropped off my daughter at my in-laws’, my mother-in-law invited me in. She’s a teacher, and she has to take continuing ed courses for a few weeks in the summer. One of her projects is organization, so she’s going through 20+ years’ worth of school material that has been piled up in her workroom. Did I have any use for the pile of cookbooks she found?

I love it when people get organized because they find stuff they can’t use, but I can.

I inherited two great books: The New Home Economics Omnibus by Florence LaGanke Harris and Hazel H, Huston, 1941 edition, and The Winston Cook Book by Helen Cramp, 1913. The Omnibus belonged to my husband’s grandmother and contained torn-out bits of magazines, grocery lists with prices included, and so on.

One of the magazine sheets was of what I imagined to be her dream home. Why else would a young woman pull out a full tabloid page of a tiny cottage, its floor plans included? I examined the page more and realized the photo of the living room is laid out exactly like the living room in their log cabin. Gone are the mid-60s decorations and instead are more timeless things, like shotguns (they found a shotgun hidden in the logs when they were moving the cabin—I imagine there’s a full story there, eh?) and cuckoo clocks and other antiques. But the fireplace is similar, the chairs are laid out in the same fashion, and the “feel” of the room matches that of the photograph.

I feel a little closer to Grandma Betty now, because I do the same things. I keep my Pottery Barn and Victorian Trading Company catalogs for inspiration, just like she did with this advertisement. My vision of her has deepened, and I’m grateful for that.

In your research, have you ever come across a little piece of someone else’s dreams? Have you ever been inspired by it—not so much the scrap of paper you found in an old book, but by the idea of the person who put it there?