The Dining Room/It’s All about Mary #a-to-zchallenge

DOur white Victorian home at 601 Sycamore Street seemed much larger when I was young. Not that that’s unusual. Objects always appear bigger than they are when you’re a kid and you are the one responsible for cleaning them on Saturdays.

Upstairs held three bedrooms. Mom and dad’s which was off limits except for me to clean. The other two bedrooms were mine. I floated between them, depending on my mood. Larger and lighter was the front room. Smaller, quieter and a bit more formal the side room. By the time I was ninth grade, all the other siblings were out and about and I felt I held free reign of the second floor.


Not exactly like our window, but close enough!

Downstairs,  the music room  with its large front window and beveled trim overlooked the front yard. As the sun set, beams of the afternoon sun reflected off the prisms, transforming the pale green walls into a display of shimmering rainbows.

Once my cleaning was done, it was here I sat and rocked in dad’s nubby swivel rocking chair. To enjoy the quiet in a freshly cleaned home felt therapeutic for me. The ultimate delight was having taken a bath and put on clean pajamas, I would watch the light and color dance across the room as I  listened to mama play.

Even then I knew I loved being alone more than just about anything else.

For me, the most difficult room to clean was the dining room. It was not a big space by any means. It held a small coal fireplace.  A plate rail around the room displayed mom’s favorite platters and things. All required dusting.

The family table could be extended to seat 12 or more, depending on how close everyone wanted to be. In the bay window stood a small, marble-topped walnut table. Intricately carved, it caught all the dust from the drive way when windows were open. A slightly stuffed side chair, claimed by our basset hound, Higgins, showed wear. When guests arrived, a clean throw hid the worst of the damage.


In one corner, next to the built-in cupboard that held mom’s good dishes and serving bowls, stood an 4-drawer metal file cabinet. Sheets of music and piano books overflowed. Saved articles, pictures torn out from magazines, a few choice books, various papers and spiral bound scrapbooks covered the top.

This was mama’s domain. Her office during the week; her table for entertaining on Sundays and holidays.

As a piano teacher, she stockpiled exercise books for early beginners to advanced level students. Over the years she had accumulated countless pieces of sheet music. Classical works by Chopin, Beethoven, and Mozart, contemporary favorites like Rhapsody in Blue, Christmas music, choir music, hymnals and hard to find sheets from the early 1900’s.  A total mess to the untrained eye, but mama knew what she had and where to find it.


Mama was into scrapbooks before scrapbooking was cool. But she didn’t have any order in the way she saved things. Slap dash was her form of organizing. She stuck anything she found interesting onto the pages of myriad paper scrapbooks. Illustrations of sad dogs, cartoons from The Family Circle strip, obituaries of neighbors long past. She added cards from friends, photos from grandchildren, Bible verses that spoke to her. A recipe for peach ice cream was positioned next to an article about fine pottery in Japan. A grandson’s first grade photo appeared adjacent to handwritten stanzas to a favorite song.

These books of memories had absolutely no rhyme or reason. Anything her brilliant mind found funny or touching, uplifting or insightful was glued to a page. Lots of pages.

She kept her visual journals in their earliest days in Japan, raising the first pack of kids in the Ozarks and the second half of the family in Greenfield, Illinois. Their life back in Japan in the 70{s provided a lot of fodder for my mother. She kept scrapbooking until her final days in Cartersville, Illinois.

After mama died the five sisters (Alice, Ruth, Elsie, Martha, Cathy and I) and one sister-in-law (Marcia) spent hours sifting through the stacks of scrapbooks, determining what to keep and what to toss. The first ten years after her death, we kept the books intact. We stored the volumes in large cardboard boxes and each spring when we would gather for a week at our cousin’s lake house, one of the sisters would deliver the trove of memories. We spend many days and evenings pouring over the pages, reliving mom’s life through her memorabilia.  Only a few years ago (almost three decades later) were the scrapbooks disassembled.

These compilations of information said a lot about who mom was and what she loved. Every page was interspersed with newspaper articles, lyrics to songs, recipes, photographs, cartoons, Bible verses, pretty pictures, silly pictures, birthday cards and anecdotes she wanted to remember.

Her entries  yellowed and grew brittle. Pages fell apart. But over the decades, her collections revealed her lifelong passions:  Family, faith, music, food and humor.



14 thoughts on “The Dining Room/It’s All about Mary #a-to-zchallenge

  1. The scrapbooks sound like such a treasure – what a great view into your mom and interests. And as for your dad’s rocking chair that sounds like heaven. I love relaxing by myself in the quiet – and in a newly cleaned home. It’s calming.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Are you still into cleaning? I’m afraid it is taking second place to the A to Z in my house. I clean up breakfast, hang the washing, make the bed and then I’m off to the study to read, write and research. What happened to the scrapbooks? Were they divided up?

    Liked by 1 person

    • yes, the scrapbooks were eventually disassembled and divided up among the girls. we felt it was the best way for all…as for cleaning. no. we have a housekeeper that comes in once a week! but i do the dishes (we have no dishwasher in Ecuador) and keep things picked up. Lovely Margarita does everything else. my focus is on writing and have a dear husband who supports it.


  3. Oh how precious!! Your mother and mine were similar in their later years, saving anything that piqued their fancy. Your Mom was, yes, more organized than mine!! So loved this!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

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