Monthly Archives: June 2017

Endless Doilies…and Antimacassars…and Teacups…and Velvet Boxes…

Posted June 23, 2017 by Kerry McFall

News flash, Baby Boomers: nobody wants your stuff.  Or your parents stuff.  Nobody, we are told by an estate sales agent, wants solid maple Colonial-reproduction furniture produced in the 1960s.  It’s too big, it’s too heavy, and it’s ugly as spit.

sweet peas on doily background

“Endless Doily”, mixed media and digital by Kerry McFall

I know I certainly don’t want it.  I spent years dusting it every Saturday morning, Shaking out the doilies.  Washing and starching and ironing the doilies.  Polishing the gleaming table  tops and curlique carved legs once a month, being scolded for setting anything on it without benefit of a doily or coaster.  The last thing I want to do is pay to have it moved only to pay to store it somewhere until my kids decide they need it, even if it’s ugly, because they can’t afford to go to Ikea…

I’m cleaning out my mother’s house.  My brother and his wife want to buy the house, but like us, they don’t want the Stuff.  Not the Big Furniture Stuff, and not the Little Fussy Stuff.  Not the 60’s maple and not the 80’s hideous overstuffed couches and chairs.  In the (maple) Hope Chest, there are bushels of Pendleton skirts and slacks, chiffon bridesmaid dresses, embroidered hankies, baby booties, and the ubiquitous crocheted doilies.  My mother and aunts spent endless hours fussing with crochet hooks and miles of thread, creating acres of intricate lace, until their arthritic fingers finally rebelled and froze into painful claws.  They were just following the family crafting tradition, but took it to new production levels.  Where Grandma and her Cousin Edna created a small box of doll clothes for my bride doll, Mom and her generation created Victorian doilies by the hundreds, enough to cover an acre of table tops.  And therein lies the rub: the Greatest Generation created and bought and collected stuff in a way that no humans have ever collected before.

They came out of the deprivations of the 1920’s and 30’s with a hunger and thirst for “stuff” unrivaled in history.  And they hung on to all of it, for their entire lives.  My mother hasn’t worn regular bras for 30 years, since she had a mastectomy.  But there were a dozen regular bras, elastic brittle to the crackling point, carefully tucked into a drawer in the guest bedroom.  She kept every velvet jewelry box from every pair of earrings my Dad bought for her when he was in the Dog House, and he was in the Dog House a lot.  She kept every post card, every Christmas card, every bank statement, every hotel note pad that ever crossed her desktop.  For 70 years.

She came by it naturally.  “Waste not, want not, ” my Grandma would say as she carefully wrapped her new Christmas nightie in tissue paper and forced it into the bottom dresser drawer.  Every year, my uncle would send her one from New Jersey, cherry-colored satin or golden butterscotch ruffled nylon confections.  When she died, there were at least 30 never-worn nighties in that drawer.  Her raggedy old flannel was all she needed, she said… “Use it up, wear it out, or do without.”  A mantra, although she wouldn’t have known that word.

I inherited some of my Grandma’s stuff when I was in my teens.  It was amazing because it was So Old, and there wasn’t much of it.  Letters from young men at war in Europe to their mothers.  Some photo negatives, taken by a talented  uncle. A few quilts, still usable and works of art in their own right.  My husband inherited his Grandma’s stuff.  Love letters between Scotland and Tennessee in the 1800’s.  But their stuff was limited to one small box.  One steamer trunk with lots of empty space.  Because that’s all there was back then.  A bit of paper, a bit of film, scraps of fabric, a couple of tiny boxes.

Fast forward 50 years.  The photos tucked in to Mom’s window seat fill literally dozens of albums.  Kodak made a LOT of money developing images of big-eared skinny kids with crewcuts running through sprinklers.

Almost everyone I know has been saddled with cleaning out a lifetime of stuff for their elders. Most of them are not hoarders in the current definition of that word, but they kept everything.  Every.  Thing.  Stuff that you can’t even give away at garage sales or to  St. Vinnie’s or Good Will.

We have concluded that my Mom has been disguising dementia for years, by carefully keeping and documenting all of the stuff that she has acquired, stuff that might someday be needed, or inquired about, or referenced.  She had a rubber band, sticky with age, neatly wrapped around a stack of Hallmark Pocket Calendars dating back at least 40 years, her tiny crabbed handwriting detailing every conceivable event, appointment, visit, storm, purchase…  It wasn’t so much a journal as it was a reference ledger.  No thoughts or emotions recorded, just times and places and names.

History is important beyond our understanding.  But this much stuff is not history, it’s a fire hazard.  Doilies have been amply documented.  Each stitch was looped with love,  but doilies “protected” stuff that didn’t need protecting.  Solid maple would last for decades on its own, centuries perhaps.  Doilies are just fuss and bother for no apparent reason.  Although doilies did leave interesting patterns in the dust atop the maple tables when they were picked up…

The point of this rant is to encourage you, no matter how old you are, to weed through your stuff now, and jettison most of it.  If you’re young, don’t buy the stuff and don’t keep the stuff to begin with!  Recycle if you can.  Repurpose if there’s any good stuff.  But don’t saddle your friends and relations with days and months of sorting through it.  Just get over it and get rid of it and get on with your life!

It isn’t easy to let go.  But do it.  You’ll be glad.  And your family and friends will be grateful.


The Cattle Are Back! (On Bald Hill)

Posted on June 14, 2017 by Kerry McFall

painting of curious calf

“Who Are You?”, mixed media by Kerry McFall

I was delighted to see last week that the Bald Hill Farm cattle have returned to their pastures.  It just hadn’t been right without them.  They take the experience of walking the meadow trails back into a pastoral tradition somehow, giving us and our children yet another living layer of our natural and rural history.  Nothing says contentment like the sound of a calf suckling sweet warm milk, or the munch-munch-munch as cattle graze in the sun.

When the Symphony on the Land began with a cello quartet (last Sunday, see what you missed at GreenBelt Land Trust) a large group of calves and their mama’s crowded up to the fence to check it out!  Ears forward, eyes curious, it was a magical moment!

I so appreciate having the Bald Hill area to wander.  It soothes my soul, it quiets the squirrels in my head.  Thank you, GreenBelt Land Trust and all who put so much of themselves into that organization.

Beware of Eclipse Rash

Posted by Kerry McFall, June 6, 2017

painting of wild iris, moss, and poison oak

“Leaves of Three”, mixed media by Kerry McFall, prints available

The Willamette Valley is gearing up for hordes of ecllipse watchers, due August 21, 2017.  We’ve put our house up for an AirBnB gig that weekend, planning to stay with friends and share the proceeds.  It’s all very exciting, unless you’re a worry wart like me.  Why worry?  Human nature, of course!

Everybody knows by now that you mustn’t look directly at the sun as it slowly darkens.  Use your special eclipse glasses.  Duh.  But what are the chances that any of these out-of-towners will have sense enough to stay on the trail when they go tromping up Bald Hill or Mary’s Peak or Fitton Green to get the Very Best View on the planet of this total solar eclipse?  Slim.  What are the chances that they have a clue what poison oak looks like?  Or that they have an inkling what the potential is for a very Itchy Weekend?  Oh, dear.  So in the spirit of civic-mindedness and being a good hostess, I’m posting my warnings early:

  • Even if you know the old rhyme, “Leaves of three, beware of me!”, stay on the trail!  Poison Oak is difficult to identify, and it’s everywhere – climbing up trees, hiding in the blackberry vines, crawling on the ground, slinking along under the grass, pretending to be a shrub.  It has an eerie ability to blend in to whatever it’s near, so you’ll see it in various shades of greens with leaves sized and shaped to match its neighbors.  Even the bare stems can cause the rash – sorry, kids, don’t pick up sticks.
  • Keep your dog on a leash, and give him a bath as soon as you get home.  The oils from the leaves will get on his fur, and transfer to you the minute you touch him.  Don’t be hugging him in the car on the way home!
  • If you’re silly enough to wear shorts, take a bath the minute you can get to a tub.  Use strong, old-fashioned soap and lots of it.  And put your socks in the laundry right away.
  • Don’t even think about a Commemorative Eclipse Roll in the Hay!  Keep your clothes on and stay upright – there will be too  many spectators for hijinks anyway.  I know of one young lady who spent nearly a week swollen and itching ALL OVER after such a fling up at Bald Hill…

So have a good eclipse, and behave yourself!

PS – if you start to feel itchy, go talk to a pharmacist, ASAP!