I don't know where to begin with this post because it is about loss and suffering - tough subjects to write about at Christmas time. But the truth is, this season is difficult for many people. Sadness does not take a holiday.
And Genna, the lovely young woman in the vintage dress, knows this too well.
Genna posed for me in her family's dining room about a year ago. Genna and her mom have been closely affiliated with my business, both of them helping out from time to time. Genna's mom laughed with me a lot about her own delayed appreciation for vintage and how close she came to giving away the dining room furniture and dishes she inherited but didn't really like. I thought that with Genna's help as a model, this room was worth photographing to prove that sometimes family hand-me-downs can grow on you with time.
Then, not long after our photo shoot, Genna lost her twin brother Alex to a terrible disease. This room, with its sunny yellow dishes and its suite of pecan directoire furniture, will be empty this Christmas.
The furniture belonged to Genna's grandparents, Phyllis and Raymond. Sometime in the early 1960s, Raymond purchased the hutch for his wife from a store in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Later, he bought the table and cane-backed chairs, and then finally came the teacart. I imagine the young family, just starting out, scrimping and saving to buy a few nice pieces of furniture which probably became their pride and joy.
Which is why dining room furniture is so often handed down. It gets used so rarely, it's often in pristine condition. And that's exactly what happened.
Not long after Genna and Alex were born, Phyllis passed away. Raymond had already passed. So the furniture came to Wisconsin. And Genna's mom did not care much for the style. French empire just didn't fit in their country farmhouse. They tried to sell the furniture but got no takers. They thought about donating it but out of sentiment, they held onto it.
Then the family moved and their decorating style changed and presto, the furniture worked! The yellow depression glass dishes and goblets too! They also came from Phyllis and Raymond's Illinois home. Not much is known about where they were purchased, but they were manufactured in the 1930s by Anchor Hocking Glass. Yellow depression glass is highly collectible today, which would undoubtedly please Phyllis greatly.
Look at this gorgeous china hutch and this beautiful young woman in a vintage gown. Perhaps someday in a home of her own, she will pull out a yellow goblet and remember a Christmas dinner with her brother. He is gone but his presence is strongly felt. He sat at that table, the same table where his grandparents once sat. He drank from those glasses and washed those plates. The things in this room represent a connection between Genna's past, present and future. A future where most certainly the sun will shine again someday.
When I talked last week with Genna's mom about this post, she told me that she wished people would look at these photos and be inspired to use their fine china and crystal every day. To live life fully. To hug the ones you love and hold them close. May we all honor Alex's memory by striving to do just that.
Photos by Renn Kuhnen.
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