I have a quilted green robe.
It feels like silk, but the fabric is probably rayon.
It has hung on a bathroom hook for a long, long time.
It has a history
My mother-in-law gave me this robe as a Christmas gift before our children were born. It came from the Jantzen Company in Portland, Oregon, when American textiles were big business nationwide. In the 1930s, Jantzen was the seventh most recognized trademark.
* * *
Honey blonde-haired, blue-eyed Viola Helen Beaman was born a second-generation Koethe in Washington state, her father Albert, a German immigrant. A stay-at-home mother of four, Vi Beaman spiced her life with industry:
- She ironed sheets and pressed shirts on a wide-angle ironer, a “thing,” in the 1950s.
- She made appetizing cakes and pies, which were displayed with recipes on one of the local TV stations. (Her recipes for gumdrops, apple-orange brownies, maple praline cookies and cherry rolls remain in my files.)
- Later, she became astute at wheeling and dealing in real estate, flipping houses with Cliff’s dad Lee before it became a “thing” in recent years.
I met my husband’s mother just days before our wedding. She ooh-ed and aah-ed at the wedding gown I had fashioned by hand. I knew immediately she approved of me but cautioned, “You and Cliff may have quite a time adjusting to married life.” She used the direct approach and didn’t mince words about the huge difference obvious in our backgrounds: Her son was a westerner used to city life, and I, his bride, was an easterner with a rural Mennonite upbringing. I knew she cared about how we would fare.
The elder Beamans, Lee and Vi, visited our home after our daughter Crista was born. Then we flew to Washington with two children, ages 1 ½ and 3. Grandma Beaman loved giving gifts; she knitted caps and sweaters for Crista’s dolls.
We anticipated lots of inter-continental trips, back and forth from east to west. Even with many miles in between, we expected many family gatherings.
But suddenly, Mother Beaman was struck with a serious illness and died in 1975 when she was only fifty-five years old. The heart of the family was gone.
The Robe, a Reflection
Even doing imprecise math, you can tell that this is an old, old robe, but I still have it. I have held onto it for decades.
Why is that?
First of all, it’s in good shape, nearly floor-length and comfy warm when I dash from bedroom to kitchen on a cool morning. “Will it ever wear out?” I wonder.
It’s not in tatters, but I may have replaced it years ago simply because I’ve had it so long. But it came from a special person who no longer lives on this earth. There will be no more gifts from her.
And so I hang on to it.
Inquiring minds want to know . . .
What aged item have you kept because of its sentimental value? Will you pass it along to someone else in the next generation?