Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Home Place Brought Home

Memories of my grandfather's Sawyer brothers and sisters are fixed in one spot - the farm house near the Nolichucky River their parents, Gee & Catherine Conway Sawyer built. As a girl I would sit on the floor or the porch steps as they rocked and laughed and told stories of long ago frolics. As I grew up we gathered there for weddings, birthdays, reunions and funerals. My children slept upstairs in the rooms the aunts and uncles had occupied 90 years earlier - probably in the same beds.

That house in Warrensburg is my home place - the spot were I feel most connected with my Tennessee family and history.

The family sold the house and farm after the last aunt died. Since then I've carried the home place with us as we've moved. Catherine's milk pitcher (filled with sea glass from Cape Cod) is in the living room. Gee's powder horn and shoe forms sit on the family room bookshelves. Quilts the aunts made are in the guest room.

But my favorite piece of my Sawyer home is the pie safe Catherine's father, Porter Conway, made for her when she was married in 1886. Aunt Mary Kathryn gave it to me a couple years before she died. Bless station wagons. I piled the luggage on the car seats with the children and put the safe in the back, wrapped in blankets. We drove home to Michigan where it sat in our family room filled with cookbooks and table linens. Today it's in our kitchen in Missouri. Someday it will be in my daughter's home.

It's a primitive oak cupboard and more than well used. No original patina here. It was painted, stained, stripped and repainted more times than I could ever count. The hinges were replaced when the doors fell off (ten children raiding a pie safe will do that) and fake wood knobs were added at some point. I hate them and keep meaning to replace them with something fun or funky. Odds are my daughter, like her great great-aunts Selma and Mary Kathryn, will paint it when it becomes hers. As she should. She remembers Mary Kathryn and while her memories and feelings about the home place are far different from mine, she still hears the Tennessee voices in her head.


11 comments:

  1. What a treasure to have those old family pieces!

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  2. Oh my!!! What a wonderful family heirloom. I have always wondered where the Nolichucky Roots came from and now I know. I probably missed that blog way back ;-)

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  3. What a beautiful family artifact.

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  4. Touching story, and what a history. I had to have one, so we bought a handmade one in VA years ago. Long live pie safes. Sure enjoyed your line, "stories of long ago frolics," you sure have a way with words.

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  5. Wonderful indeed, what a wonderful treasure, the story told wonderfully.

    Thank you for sharing it.

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  6. I like the idea of carrying the home place with us, in both memories and objects. I have my father's rolltop desk, but nothing as old as your piesafe. I appreciate how the piesafe and its history is more important to you and your family than the finish on the piesafe.

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  7. What a sweet story, Susan, and told so well. I can just see your Tennessee home place in my mind. I have a feeling that pie safe is storing something a lot more precious than pies these days--it's filled with memories of days gone by. Beautiful post.

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  8. I can relate to this post! I have bits and pieces and big heavy chunks of memories throughout our home.

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  9. Beautiful. One of my prized possessions is an old oak rocker originally owned by my great-grandfather. It's hard for me to believe that when I rock a grandchild in it, they are in the same rocker owned by their ggg-grandfather! The seat is now covered in a traditional striped material. I have no idea what the original seat looked like, but I LOVE that rocker.

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  10. What a neat piece of family history to have! I'm glad you already have plans in place to pass it down through the family. I have a piece of furniture that has been passed down through a female line and sadly none of the women after me are interested in having it.

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  11. Thank you all for the kind comments. I suppose we all have those objects we keep as touchstones. One of my blogging goals is to share the history of those pieces with my family.

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