Thursday, August 7, 2014

Memories of Mama and Panama!

A couple of days ago, my wife started the long anticipated task of finally (after about 20 years of contemplation) getting hold of a “Call To Haul” company, to clear out almost 50 years of clutter from her Parent's basement.

Like most people, they had simply put things in the basement over a long period of time likely thinking they would sort it all out later!  Some of the kids had also left things behind, or stored things there “temporarily”....meaning virtually forever!

Well, the Call To Haul folks came and went, and Sandi certainly re-lived some moments as she worked through the years of memories.

She came home later with a few items that she could not bear to let go of, as they reminded her of her youth and of her Parents and family as they “used to be”.

I think we all have little things that remind us of days gone by...and days we wish we could experience again.  For me, it will always be the cuckoo clock that I watched my Mom pick out in Triberg, Germany...while visiting me when I was stationed In Berlin.   It hangs on our living room wall and is the single most powerful reminder of her in my daily life.

Well, Sandi takes out of the car, a rather large “centerpiece” (for lack of a better description) that appears to be made of hand carved wood.   It is a three tier affair, with individually crafted shallow bowls, and individual pieces of fruit, also hand carved and made of wood.  I see a Banana, Guava, Star Fruit, a Pear and even a Pineapple atop the whole thing!  The three tiers rotate “lazy Susan” style and it all appears to be mostly intact, though it is a bit dirty and covered in 40 plus years of dust!

I am told it came from Panama, where Sandi's Mom is from. (Sandi is half Panamanian and half Puerto Rican)  It is one of few items from Panama that has survived the trip from Panama and the 40 plus years of Tacoma living, (with 6 kids in a tiny house!) since her family settled here in Tacoma.

She is smiling and tells me how her Mom (whom she has always called "Mama") used to task her with rubbing linseed oil over ever crack and crevice of this wooden contraption!  She tells me how she was made to use a toothbrush to ensure that all of the intricately carved parts got their share of oil!  Now, she said this half smiling, and half recalling the tediousness of having to do this as a young child!  Even so, I could see that this piece meant a great deal to her and was a powerful connection to her Mom, who has been suffering with Dementia for the past several years and sometimes forgets who Sandi is. 

Knowing its value to Sandi, I take it from her, carefully disassemble the whole thing and begin to clean it up.   I used some steel wool to clean some of the decades old dirt and grime off the bowls.  I fired up the compressor and used some high pressure air to root out the gunk in the small cracks and crevices.   It took a bit longer than I thought to clean this thing up, but in the end, after breaking out the toothbrush like she had remembered all those years ago, and applying a cleaner/wood restorer all over the piece, it began to come back to life.

I spent a couple hours polishing the pieces of fruit, and making sure that everything fit and went back together properly.  There were a couple minor issues that I will have to attend to at another time, but it all went together, worked and looked very nice! I brought the whole thing upstairs and placed it in the center of our coincidentally, just purchased dining room table, (Dark Mango wood) and it looked fantastic!
 I brought Sandi upstairs and showed her the cleaner version of her memorable treasure, and she just beamed.  I could tell it reminded her of her Mom...her much younger Mom, and I told her it looked perfect and will remain on our dining room table as a treasured family heirloom.  She smiled and hugged me and thanked me for cleaning it all up. 

 An unexpected memory brought back to life, to be enjoyed by yet another generation...It was a good day:)

When my daughter came home later and saw it for the first time, she remarked, “that is so pretty”!  Hmmmm..I wonder how she would feel about putting some Linseed oil on it from time to time!!?