Older than this country–Ladder back chair (rough draft)

 

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This ladder back chair, owned by Pierre Deyo in his lifetime and by the Deyo family until 1926, is thought to have been built between 1650 and 1700, making it older than the United States. Picture credit: Ashley Trainor

This is a heavy, large wooden chair in the ladder back style. The style was popular in the Middle Ages all the way through the eighteenth century. It has a tall back with four slats. It has a seat of rush, a common plant used in weaving, painted black. The seat is caving inwards, and is fraying towards the front of the seat. The right leg has some scratches on its finial. It is made of a pale wood, such as oak or pine, with a shellac finish.

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Picture credit: Ashley Trainor. Used with permission.

The chair’s craft is derived of the area. The piece would have been made out of wood that could be obtained easily and locally; pine, or oak, or perhaps maple. Additionally, it would most likely have been finished with linseed oil, which was the custom of the time, as well as shellac (which could be made with tree resin and alcohol). Tar could also be used, but this was mostly used for shipbuilding, and would not likely be used for crafting furniture.

This style reveals an important aspect of New Paltz life at this time: their Protestant religion. Protestants tended to favor simpler, less ornate pieces which were more functional than beautiful. Later on, the Deyos and other important families of New Paltz would obtain the more ostentatious and beautiful furniture of the Victorian era, but the desirability of the furniture shows that there is an enduring charm to this aesthetic.  Simple objects and simple homes speak to the fast held beliefs of these people—witnessed by the plain decoration of the rebuilt French Reform Church. It was less about beauty, more about God and community.

Pierre Deyo, one of the original patentees of New Paltz, was the first owner of this piece.  It is thought to have been built between 1650 and 1700. He most likely would have bought it from a local craftsperson. When Pierre died in 1708, his land and estate was split between his four sons, Abraham, Christian, Pierre, and Hendricus. This item was considered part of the Deyo household, included within Deyo’s grandson Peter’s will in 1791. The chair remained in the Deyo family up until it was purchased from the Andrew LeFevere Deyo estate shortly after his death in 1926.

The shellac on the chair shows that the craftsperson wanted to ensure that the natural beauty of the wood to come through. Shellac does have a shelf life (albeit of months or years), and requires skill to apply, so the reader can infer that Deyo was not the craftsperson, but rather some other local woodworker.

This piece would most likely have sat by the fireplace in one of the few rooms of the Deyo home. After a long day of work, it would have been a comfortable place to return to and to unwind. Possibly, it could have been sat or worked on by a slave—Pierre owned at least one, as evidenced by a receipt from 1694. A piece like this was quietly handed down from family member to family member, until it finally found its way back to Huguenot Street.

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War Dances part 2

I wanted to take on the challenge of writing this blog post not about something that is a family heirloom, but rather something that I only recently acquired and is manufactured by the thousands. What I know about the history of this book before it ends up in my hands is that it was owned by Inquiring Minds. Since there is a penciled-in price on the inside, I also know that it is a used book. So it belonged to someone else before it ended up at Inquiring Minds. But when I bought it, it was almost in perfect condition. I thought it might be new until I saw the reduced price. It obviously came from a family—or single person—who knows how to keep their books in order. Either that, or it was never read. It might have been a gift, received by someone who had no desire to read Alexie’s work (which is a real shame, considering I devoured it in less than a day). Perhaps it was a textbook that someone read once for class and then sold back for whatever money they could get back. Before it came to the person who sold it to Inquiring Minds, in all likelihood it probably came from Amazon. It seems like most people buy their books from Amazon now because Amazon offers price cuts on almost every single product in order to boost sales. So, let’s say this was purchased on Amazon; War Dances probably endured a rough ride through the postal service from Amazon to the purchaser’s doorstep. Amazon offers two-day shipping, but I have learned not to trust Amazon’s shipping. I once had to purchase a novel for my German class and, while it was in German, it was coming from Book Depository in the US. Yet it took almost a month for it to arrive. I didn’t order with two-day shipping, but it still shouldn’t have taken an entire month to arrive. I would hazard a guess that War Dances also endured a long ride to its owner’s doorstep. Maybe it sat out in the cold on their doorstep before they brought it in. Before the ride through the postal service, it most certainly sat in a Amazon warehouse.

Even though War Dances is a book and its purpose is to be read, I want to offer an interpretation that is based off slight guesswork, and I want to say that the purpose actually has changed throughout its lifetime. Because of it’s perfect condition, it probably was only read once by its previous owner. Maybe they didn’t like it. Inquiring Minds usually sells a lot of textbooks and previously textbooks. But for me, who devoured the book within one day, this book will stand on my favorites shelf for a long time. I will probably re-read it soon, and the second time, I won’t mind cracking the spine at all. I am very particular with my books. I like to buy books that are in decent shape, but I like to rough them up myself throughout my time with them. I like seeing all the pages dogeared from where I forced myself to stop reading. I like cracking the spine so I can fold the cover back and read with one hand. I know that’s almost blasphemy to say as an English major, but I imagine that War Dances will probably gather a lot of wear during its time with me. It has changed it’s utility from a common book with someone else to a special one with me.

War Dances by Sherman Alexie

When first purchased, the book was uniform. It was a solid 5 x 8 x 0.5 inches around and weighed 7.2 ounces. The book is 209 pages long. Inside the front cover, on the right side at the top right of the page is written $6.50 in pencil. Relativity light for a book, the bright robin’s-eye blue of the cover is enough to catch anyone’s eye from a distance. The cover depicts a pair of what looks like red and white Puma sneakers on right side of the cover, in the bottom half. White outlines of footprints extend behind the shoes. At the top of the book, Sherman Alexie’s name is written in big, white letters. The name of the novel, War Dances, is written on the bottom. Both lines are in all-caps. Inside the front cover, Alexie’s name and the name of the novel are indented from where they were pressed in on the front. Across from the red shoes, on the left side of the cover, bottom half, is a golden circle, indicating that the book wonder a literary prize. Under Sherman Alexie’s name is a centered yellow text with a quote from The Seattle Times that says “Alexie mixes up comedy and tragedy, shoots it through with tenderness, then delivers with a provocateur’s don’t-give-a-damn flourish.” Because the book has been read, the bottom right corner of the book, including most of its pages, is turned upward. At the back of the book, the back cover actually turns outward. Unread, it would have been a perfect rectangular prism. The book would be a uniform width, but it widens further away from the spine because of its being read. Inside the book, some of pages fall open quicker than others, where I spent more time on them. The corners of the book are white where the top layer of the cover wore away from its paper backing.  The spine, from top to bottom, says Alexie’s name, the image of the shoes, then War Dances, then a yellow Grove Press logo. The back of the book says “National Bestseller” at the top in black all-caps. The words are centered. Underneath, in the same yellow that matches the Seattle Times quote on the front, it says: “From one of the most original and celebrated writers working in America today, War Dances is a highly charged collection of stories and poems that deftly captures the myriad aspects of modern relationships.” Underneath that are quotes from PEN/Faulkner judge Al Young, The Miami Herald, and O, the Oprah Magazine. The quotes are in black lettering, but the names of the sources are in yellow. Underneath that, on the left is Sherman Alexie’s picture. Next to the picture is a biography of the author in yellow words. The barcode is on the bottom right. Next to the barcode, the following information is written in small, white font: “Cover design by Charles Rue Woods. Author photograph by Cahse Jarvis. GROVE PRESS / an imprint of Grove/Atlantic, Inc. Distributed by Publishers Group West. http://www.groveatlantic.com Printed in the U.S.A. 0810.”

 

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This last object I have chosen to focus on in this post seems, at least to me, like a funny choice. It’s not an heirloom, nor is it a piece of jewelry or some other object like that. In fact, it’s a very commercial item—one that was meant to be used and then thrown away, but which I’ve decided to keep and repurpose. I have a good enough sense of this object’s chain of ownership, though it’s been a bit tricky difficult to find evidence explaining exactly why it was designed as it was and where it was made. I assume a little when I encounter these unanswerable questions, but I think that my understanding of the object is good enough that my assumptions are quite reasonable. Overall, the story behind the object makes it quite appropriate, I think, for this post.

So, here’s this it I keep referring to, a now empty Chinese tin for mint-flavored Fisherman’s Friend lozenges:IMG_4036.JPG

I warned you it might seem silly, but trust me, there’s more than meets the eye. A friend of mine traveled to China last summer, bought the tin, and gave it to me as a little gag gift (I’m more prone to colds and allergies than most people). I had the lozenges, and I decided to keep the tin as a place to keep loose change. I never thought about the tin’s life before my friend purchased it, however. I didn’t realize that even before my friend gave it to me, it had, in fact, traveled more than I ever have! I didn’t even realize that the brand wasn’t Chinese. After doing some digging, here’s what I pieced together about this deceivingly unassuming lozenge tin.

The Fisherman’s Friend brand is headquartered in the port town of Fleetwood in Lancashire, England and manufactures all of its lozenges there. These lozenges are typically packaged in a paper bag, and in fact, prior to receiving this tin as a gift, I’d always assumed that that’s just how they were packaged. Upon receiving the tin, I of course noticed the difference, but I didn’t think too much of it. Research told me, however, that in recent years, the brand has gained a sizable international following, and that it is currently trying to enter the Chinese market, which I am guessing is the cause for the change in packaging. It seems likely to me that the brand had reason to believe that this choice of packaging, admittedly nicer than the standard bags we know in the US, would be more appealing for potential new customers in China. The tin itself was probably manufactured in China, as nearly all objects like it are these days, but all Fisherman’s Friend-brand lozenges are still made in Fleetwood, which means that the tin probably moved about the globe like this: first, it was created in China on October 22, 2014 (a stamp on the tin says so), then it was shipped off to be filled with lozenges in the factory in Fleetwood, and finally, it travelled all the way back to be placed on a store shelf in Hangzhou, where it was eventually purchased by my friend. Already by this point, the tin had traveled thousands of miles and changed hands—I would assume—several times, but it hadn’t reached the end of its voyage. Once in my friend’s possession, it traveled around China for a bit, and then continued its journey eastward to its final destination, New Paltz, NY, where I would receive it as a gift and would enjoy its contents, completely ignorant of the amazing journey it had to make for me to one day open it up and take out a lozenge to soothe my throat.

1894: It was a very good year for topical outlines

For this post I am going to discuss an odd little book that I own—an 1894 US History and Constitution topical outline written by J.K. Harley. I say that it is odd because, well, it isn’t really a book, even though it is technically a book, as it has a cover, back cover, and pages in between: but it is not a book insofar as a book presents information about the aspects of some subject or range of subjects; this one, rather, presents the aspects themselves. The book contains everything that there is to know about the history of the United States and its constitution, but tells the reader nothing about any of these things; and, in my opinion, it is this characteristic which makes the book so interesting. Never before have I encountered a book that is so immensely lacking in immediate discussion, but is, at the same time, so incredibly useful.

Imagine yourself as a poor young adult in America in the year 1900. You intend to become a teacher someday, and thus wish to undertake a full study of US history, but you cannot afford university. You go to the city library, and, after some searching, come face to face with a shelf about eight feet high and fifteen feet wide, filled completely with books about the history of the United States, hundreds and hundreds of them; and behind this shelf are ten more just like it. Where do you start? Intimidated, you pick one off of the shelf, open it, start reading, and the author is rambling about some random subject that literally couldn’t confuse you any more than it does. You have no internet to turn to for guidance, and the librarian may not have the slightest knowledge about US history; perhaps you could find a professor or scholar at a nearby university to point you in the right direction, but this is still an arduous route to take. Enter this topical outline, published in 1894, inside of which is delineated every single relevant term, historical event, important person, etc., that you could possibly need to know about in studying the history of the country and its constitution. This little book, not even 50 pages long, and not containing a single sentence of elaboration or detail, will now become the centerpiece of your study. It tells you exactly which random historical happening you need to look for on that packed shelf, and places it in the context of other events and pieces of information in a highly structured fashion.img_4395

img_4394img_4396img_4397On to the history of this book. I purchased it for a dollar at a massive book sale at our campus library last semester; before it was there, it had been in the possession of the Gardiner Library, as far as I am aware. I am pretty sure that Gardiner may have collected books from various local libraries for this sale. Before Gardiner had it, however, I have no idea, so we will need to jump back in time to find more information. It is likely that this book was owned by a single student (the handwriting is consistent throughout, which leads me to believe it was not owned by any other students). As can be seen in the above pictures, the book is littered with scribblings and notes and dates and such. However, at the beginning of the book, on the first page, is the name of a person, written in ornate script; what looks like the name of a place, perhaps a school; and a date below it—April 3rd, 1907. These names and the date are written differently and in much larger print than any other handwriting in the book, and their position at the front and the style in which they were written leads me to believe that this is the name of the owner, the place or school s/he lived or attended, and a date that, for some reason, was noteworthy to the owner; I will assume that this is correct, otherwise I won’t be able to proceed. So, 1907. A hundred and ten years ago. The owner of this book was to the Civil War as we are to Vietnam. The name is oddly written and a little hard to read, but I think it says “Otta S. Robley:”probably a female name. The place/school seems to read “Mapleton Depot,” but it is hard to make out. However, if my reading is correct, then it is possible that this Otta girl lived in Mapleton, PA, about five hours away.

Anyway, so Otta seems to have owned this book for a while, and given serious attention to it, as her writing is scattered all throughout the book (except, I may add, in the section dealing with the constitution; I guess she wasn’t interested). Now, having established the probable original owner of the book, and knowing the last few stops that it has made on its long journey, I think the most likely scenario is that, after Otta stopped using it, she kept it somewhere in her house – attic or basement along with other old school stuff, maybe – and, eventually, she either decided to clean house and donated the book to the local Mapleton Library, or she might never have done so, dying with the book still tucked away somewhere. Maybe her children or spouse or some other relative donated it after she died when they went through her stuff. As I said, this seems to me the most likely story of this book, but my speculation is by no means whatsoever authoritative. If I am right, however, then it is potentially possible that Mapleton was one of the libraries that contributed to the book sale on campus. I will talk to some of the library faculty and see if I can find out any more information.

The Dutch Gel Pen

(I don’t know why all my blog posts end up being about pens.)

For the longest time, my favorite pen has been the Pilot G2 pen series. And I’m not saying that suddenly its position has been challenged, but there is another pen that’s come startling close. It’s a ridiculously cheap-in-price pen from the Dutch stationary company, HEMA. Unfortunately, on further investigation, it is impossible to get products from this company in the US because they don’t ship here. I received mine in a Christmas present from my friend who lives in the Netherlands, along with a few notebooks and some sticky notes. For the type of person I am, it was the best gift.

I have been using this pen steadily for about two weeks and the logo is almost completely worn from the surface. There are only a few black specks left that hint at there being something there. I can trace the life and homes of this pen very simply and easily. Moving back from my house, the pen then inhabited hers, and further back from there, it resided in a physical shop at _____, picked up in its package and touched by who knows how many people who decided not to buy it. Or perhaps it lay in the back, stored in boxes until it was needed to fill an order. Before it came to the store, it was probably packaged and shipped from the one distribution warehouse I could find online, in Utrecht, Netherlands.

My friend either picked the pen up at a store, or ordered it online. It is interesting to think about this online shopping space as something that isn’t physical but isn’t quite not-physical either. We talked in one class about “the cloud” and the physical storage farms that exist somewhere we can’t see them, and that these farms give us the illusion that the information we store online is intangible, invisible until we call it up. But there is something physical about the spaces we inhabit online. Online shopping is particular is a liminal space like this. Shopping is such a physical sport, except when one is able to do it all online. So maybe my friend bought these online and then had them shipped to her. Maybe she touched them, transferred her fingerprints onto the surfaces, and then packaged them up for me.

Many people touched the pens on their way to my hands. I have been using the black one almost exclusively since I got it and the ink has almost run out. To me, the pen has been a faithful companion while drafting  my Honors thesis, while outlining the many research projects that I have to do for classes, while comparing graduate programs and mapping out my future. To me, the pen has been much more to me than it was to anyone to had touched it before. It was handled by people who wanted to sell it, touched and packaged by my friend to make me feel good, and then it ended up in my hands, helping me craft ideas and plan out my future.

Silver Earrings: Pt. 3

Having bought these earrings first-hand, the lineage of this item is undeniably direct. I bought them from the man who sold them to me, and the man himself was the silversmith who created them. But this story of lineage does not have to be so simple, and I wish that there were ways that I could investigate further into the background of the man who had sold them to me. How long has he (and presumably his family) been working in Taxco, and by extension, is silversmithing a familial trade? This could say a lot about heritage and work in Mexico, for in my experience it is not uncommon for children to follow in the career paths of their parents, especially when it has to do with a craft. My uncle owns a small taqueria in the town where he has lived his entire life, and although my uncle was an entrepreneur and started the restaurant himself, there is no doubt that one of his two sons will eventually take it over when he retires. Therefore, the earrings themselves may not have a lineage to them, but the craft of silver working is most likely one that has been passed down for at least a few generations in the family of the man I bought them from. There could perhaps be a certain way of making these earrings (and the design within them) that is specific to the way this family works with silver. But, unfortunately, I do not know  for sure. All I can say is that the family trade does not go back further than the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution, because silver in Taxco was not so heavily commercialized (and used as a tourist attraction) before then.

Wooden Bolivian Woman

This week I decided to write about something I have always seen in my house but knew little about: my mother’s Bolivian wooden sculpture. The only way to explain this object and its chain of ownership is through telling a brief part of my family history.

Both of my mother’s parents were teachers. After getting their degrees in education at SUNY New Paltz in the mid-1950s, they took on the real world and joined the workforce. My grandfather, William Gumm, eventually wanted to move up in the ranks and become a principal. However, in the 1960s, one could not become a principal without experience, but one also couldn’t get experience without the job. To get out of this catch-22 situation, he applied to work as a principal for schools affiliated with American companies in developing nations. Gulf Oil Company had offices in Bolivia and their own school for the American children of Gulf Oil’s employees: the Santa Cruz Cooperative School. It was this school in Bolivia that my grandfather became a principal of, and my grandmother taught there as well. Their three kids – my mom, my aunt and my uncle – naturally went with them.  They lived there comfortably for three years before heading back to the States, and my grandfather achieved his dream of becoming a principal.

The small wooden statue in the photos above was made especially for my grandfather. On the bottom of the statue, the carving reads, “To Mr. and Mrs. W. Gum, with all our heart Juan S[illegible] and family, SC 24-V-69.” I presume that “SC” stands for Santa Cruz, the city they lived in, and that the date means May 24, 1969. On the bottom left of the base of the statue, there are the initials “WBC,” of which I don’t know the meaning. I truly wish I could discern what Juan’s last name is, but it’s hard to read. Regardless, it was clearly a personal gift. When I asked my grandmother if she remembers who Juan was or how they got this statue, she said she thinks he might have been a gardener (not sure if he was the family gardener for the house or a gardener in the community). She told me that many of the locals there were extremely talented and great craftsmen, which would explain why we have so many wooden statues within the family.

This statue currently sits on our wall unit next to two Bolivian wooden heads (another set of wooden statues my mom inherited). Although these have not yet been passed down to me, they still sit in my house and I consider them half-mine. The Gumm family’s move to Bolivia was significant for so many reasons. It taught the family Spanish, which would be especially important in my mom’s and my uncle’s lives (my mom studied Spanish Literature in college and my uncle married into a Cuban family). Their experience with Bolivia, its culture and the Spanish language also led me to learn Spanish throughout my entire life, and while I am in no way fluent I do consider it my second language.  The experience created this story, connecting a relatively average, middle-class American family to a South American culture. It affected the entire family’s future up until the present. The carvings on the bottom of the statue by the person who made this wooden Bolivian woman shows how much the Santa Cruz community knew and loved my grandparents.

I think this story really relates to Edmund de Waal’s connection with the netsuke. Although he is certainly not Japanese, the netsuke are a huge piece of his family history and had a significant impact on the family’s future. Stories and history are totally related to objects. If my mom never went to Bolivia she may not have learned Spanish and therefore neither would I, and a huge piece of my life history would be missing. My family history is intertwined with this object. Its passage down from my grandparents to my mom to me demonstrate how history can also be passed down the same way. While I’m no descendant of the elite Ephrussi, I’m proud to be connected to the Gumms.

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Slightly awkward family photo, 1970s

A Dollar Coin

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This is a dollar coin my brother got me a couple years ago. It wasn’t given to me for any particular reason other than that my brother thought I’d like it. He has a tendency to do things like that; give odd but thoughtful gifts at random times.

The coin is round, heavy and made of silver. The front has a engraving of Lady Liberty and around the circle says “E. PLURIBUS. UNUM”, which is latin for out of many, one. This is a motto commonly used by the United States to represent the unity of the states and the federal government.  In between the phrase and the date on the bottom (1894) are thirteen stars to represent the thirteen original colonies. On the back of the coin is an engraved picture of the eagle standing on arrows and an olive branch (America’s “great seal”). Around the circle it says The United States of America, on the top “In God We Trust”, and on the bottom “One Dollar”.

I’m assuming the coin was made at The United States Mint, where coin currency is usually made. I don’t know much about coins or how currently is made in general and in this moment I’m wishing I remembered my 5th grade US History facts.I decided to then Google this specific coinage and year. Supposedly the year 1894 is relatively rare for this particular series of dollar coins, which are referred to as “The Morgan Silver Dollar Series”. Some coins this date are worth up to a couple thousand dollars, depending on where they were made. I was doubtful mine would be one of those since my brother, although a coin collector, does not have that kind of money. As I was reading on, the page discussed the different makes of this year and how to figure out what kind your coin was. On the back, there is a “mint mark” which tells you where the coin was made. In this series no mark represents Philadelphia (The most rare and expensive), “S” for San Francisco, and “O” for New Orleans. Mine contained the mark “O”, which meant this coin was worth about $40. The coin could actually be worth nothing for all I know cause there is a hole punched through it, which is why I use it as a keychain.

Besides the hole and some scratches on the side, the coin is in very good condition; there is practically no worn to the engraving.  It makes me wonder, like I do with most kinds of currency, who has used the coin? What did they buy with it? How many years after its making did it remain in circulation? Can I go out right now and even use this? There is a whole history to this coin that I want to, but never will know. Now, with modern day currency there are stamps and other unique things that are put onto money to allow you to track their whereabouts, but this is still limited to paper money. The only thing I know about it’s connection to people, is my brother. After it’s creation 123 years ago, it somehow landed in a shop and then my brothers hand. Now that I think about it, it’s kind of funny the differences in it’s exchange. Once being tossed away to buy other things and now it’s the thing being bought. Money for money, what a strange concept.

The Next Keeper of the Belt

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The last two objects I wrote about were pieces of jewelry that did not have much of a life to track. They both went from the factory, to the store, and then into my hand. This is why I decided to return to one of my original objects—my grandfather’s belt. I brought this belt with me on the first day of class because I have held onto it, and even brought it with me on campus, without being fully aware of the role it played in my life. I hold a strong connection to this belt because it reminds me of my mother and her side of the family, yet I didn’t think the belt had much meaning other than that. When I was younger, my gave me the belt. She told me in Russian that it belonged to her father and not to give it away. So I didn’t, and that was all it really meant to me.

This belt seems to be made out of material that feels plastic. It could be a form of rubber, but I am not so sure. It has a woven design, where different colored strands of brown and beige are braided into each other, resembling the stitch of a basket. It is a rather small belt.

All I know about this belt is that it supposedly belonged to my grandfather. I never met him because he died when my mother was very young. From its length I can assume that he either had a very small waist, or that it was his as a child’s.

My grandfather was born in Odessa, Ukraine (It’s funny to think that De Waal’s netsuke are connected to this location and so is my object.). II tried searching the history of belt production in the Ukraine on Google, but I couldn’t find much of anything. There were a lot of websites selling belts from the Ukraine presently, but this wasn’t what I was looking for. It was time to call in a family member for help.

I called my grandmother, and she remembered the belt almost immediately after I described it. She said that my grandfather already owned the belt when she met him. They way she spoke about it, it seemed like the belt was one of his favorites, or at least something he often wore. She told me it was hand-made, and that he most likely bought it at a flea market. This explained why I couldn’t find anything like it produced from a factory when I looked online. When I asked her about the size, she said my grandfather was very in shape and had a very small stomach, which explains the short length of the belt.

My grandparents settled in Kiev, and after my grandfather died the belt remained in their home. When my grandmother immigrated to America with her mother, my mother, and my aunt, she found the belt as they were settling in. She unpacked it, gave it to my mother, and in Russian, told her that it belonged to her father and not to give it away. Nothing else was spoken in relation to the belt after that, and my grandmother never saw it again. She had nearly forgotten about until I called her, asking about the belt’s history.

In summation, this belt most likely was made in Odessa, traveled to Kiev where my grandparents began their family, sailed to New York City upon my family’s immigration, and then found its way to the suburbs of Atlantic Beach, Long Island, where my mother moved with my father to start their family Now, the belt is sitting in my drawer in a SUNY New Paltz dorm room. I expect it to travel with me whereever else I go, until I pass it down one day to my children. I had no clue my mom told me the very same words my grandmother told her. I feel a deep sense of obligation to keep this chain going. Writing this post and uncovering the secrets woven into the belt has increased its meaning and value to me tenfold.I had no clue it was going to be such an important item in my family—nor did I know how important it already was.