I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rattling Ice

In 1956, my grandmother must have used a book of green stamps to buy a drink caddy, with eight glasses and two glass snack dishes. I say 1956, because that's my best estimation of their date. I'm not usually that far off when estimating antiques' ages. As for Green Stamps, that's something that my mother interjected. I have no idea what a green stamp is. Okay, I sort of do; I guess in the 50s, when you bought certain products at the store, they'd give you stamps, that you'd put in a book, and collect, and turn in for FABULOUS PRIZES!

My grandmother may have used the set a few times during my mother's childhood, and then it was boxed, and forgotten, until 1975 when my parents got married. It has survived in mint condition.

My grandmother gave the caddy set to my mother. As the glasses were twenty years old at the time, they must have been dreadfully out of fashion, and beyond any saving kitch factor. My mother put the box in her various basements, and forgot all about it. My mother doesn't have the same reverence for my grandmother's crap as I have developed.

Some time ago, we discovered the set, and my mother offered them to me. I declined. Thereafter, my grandmother died, and everything she touched or owned became sacrosanct. I keep one of her watches in a wooden box in my room at home. I cook in her godawful Revereware, despite the fact that those fucking pots burn everything (including water.)

When I was home for my little brother's graduation, I decided it was finally time to take my glasses home. And miraculously, they survived the trip to Miami. (Thanks in no small part to the fact that I upgraded to First Class partly to ensure that no Coach carry-on luggage smashed into the 50 year old box and broke my glasses. I have problems.)

The glasses are an unfamiliar size - drink portions in the 50s must have been smaller. I don't think they're even 12 oz glasses. Maybe 10 oz. They're about 7" high, tapering slightly to the bottom, and have a gold edged rim. The glass itself is painted in a black rough-grid pattern, with some lines intentionally, and extremely crooked. The glasses are splotched with turquoise, pink, black and white dots.

I love them. I let company use them, even though I know some day someone is going to break one of my glasses, and then I'll have to kill that person.

The thing I love best about the glasses, besides the fact that they're a family heirloom, is the way liquids sound in the glass. Ice tinkles. Melodically. Like ice in Mrs. Dagle's glass in The Bad Seed or like ice in Elizabeth Taylor's glass in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

There's something about the sensory tickle of chattering ice as one imbibes that makes the act a full sensory experience; Sight, Smell, Taste, Sound, Touch.

And it's something I notice I don't get from other glasses of mine.

Maybe it's the glass' age; maybe it's the shape. Maybe it's a construct of my own mind, that if I scan through the hours of 8 mm film from my mother's childhood, I'll see these glasses in the background, being used by family members long dead and buried, smudged with their red lipstick and or sharing a gesturing hand with a smoldering Chesterfield. Maybe that's why I pay more attention to the act of drinking from these glasses. I know the history of these glasses. I know the corpses to whom they belonged. I know the houses they occupied, and the voices of those that drank from them. The cackles, the phrases, the freyde mit which their contents were consumed. On holidays, at barbecues, with Uncle Murray and Auntie Betty, Uncle Herbie and Auntie Casie, Uncle Solly, Uncle Louie and Auntie Marsha, with Bubbe Miskin und mit Bubbe Koopermann and Miltie and Sylvia Friedman.

Most of the people who handled those glasses have died. And as people go on "tears" and cart the contents of closets and sideboards and cupboards to Goodwill, this stupid detritus of life, upon which we cast a stink eye once it becomes unfashionable or has worn out its welcome in favor of some newer replacement, more often than not ends up in a landfill, or at Faith Farms.

These glasses weren't supposed to survive. Not intact. Not as a set, and they definitely weren't meant to be around 50 years later. They're cheap, mass-produced, and chinsy. (For the era.)

But they did survive, in damp moldy basements, in mother-of-pearl decorated buffet tables, under stairs and in pink fiberglass insulation-wallpapered basements.

And they're stationed under the watchful eye of the hand-tinted photograph of my Grandmother, forever smiling in a Purdy-Boston picture of her from 1958; mildew from her damp Massachussetts basement having overtaken her hair, she hangs as the first thing anyone sees when entering my house.