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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It's Not Just a Buffet

What's It Wednesday #133

As autumn approaches I find myself thinking about my amazing Great-grandmother Helen. Every day I go into my dining room and sit at the dining table that once belonged to her. I sip a cup of tea or coffee and think about all the secrets she and I use to share.

Helen (I was the only family member ever allowed to call her by her first name...she called me Polly) loved to travel. To me she was wonder woman because she was able to manage two homes. I struggle to manage one. Her life was at its strangest here in the United States, particularly in her residence in the south. She was a Jewish woman living in Jacksonville, Florida, who could not acknowledge her heritage publicly and had to blend into polite "white society". She could never speak to her black or mulatto grand-children when they passed each other on the streets of downtown. My Great-grand father traveled often so she was a very independent woman.


Apparently this was normal daily life for her. Despite this lifestyle she was a fabulous mother, a marvelous grand-mother and an amazing Great-grandmother. Inside this buffet she kept her silver in the top drawer and her finest Irish linen napkins and beautiful place mates in the bottom drawer. The right side of the buffet was very special. That's where she kept the goodies. This is where she kept delicious tea biscuits, animal crackers, and boxes of Cracker Jacks for us Great-grands. She kept some china on the left side.

For some reason, this buffet always brought about conversations, from her fascination with the roller derby to her most recent travel adventures.

It was around this buffet that Helen explained to me that when she was a young woman she was not allowed to stay on Miami Beach. I remember being so confused by this. I knew that once upon a time black folks weren't allowed on Miami Beach but what did that have to do with my Helen? When I was older my mother explained to me that Jews were not allowed on Miami Beach at one point. As an elderly woman she stayed on Miami Beach all the time...just because she could.

On the top of this buffet held all sorts of fabulous desserts that she would make or have made to serve at her charitable events that she would host at her home. It also held many lunches and dinners that she would serve generations of her diverse family. This buffet held a special lunch for me after my first ballet recital. When my mother recently gave this buffet and dining table to me I was so honored.  So I sit at Helen's dining table on many occasions and gaze lovingly upon the buffet and reminisce about her and the love she showered upon her family and the people all around her despite the strange time and circumstances in which she lived.  So you see, it's not just a buffet. It's a beautiful piece of my family history. It holds all of our secrets. 

Do you have any family secrets you can share?

xoxoxo
Paula

P.S. This was the most difficult post I have ever written. I miss Helen so much...but I am so grateful for the time I had with her. 

Thanks to all of you who partied with us last week. Please link-up and join us again. Remember, it's not a party without you!

Here Are This Week's Features:

Simply Fresh Dinners


Little House Living

Itsy Bits and Pieces

Lovely Livings

The Little Farm Diary

Locksley Lane


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Ivy and Elephants


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45 comments:

Karen said...

Your great grandmother sounds like a special woman.The buffet is so beautiful, how fortunate you are to have so many precious family heirlooms. Thanks for hosting!

Pinky at Designs by Pinky said...

Paula, I loved hearing the story of your dining table and buffet. The buffet reminds me so much of my Grandmother's. We lived with her while growing up. I can not imagine the life your great grandmother had to live. My son-in-law is 1/2 black and years ago he and my daughter would have been shunned or worse. Thank GOD we have come as far as we have, but not far enough. Have a beautiful week and thanks for hosting your party!!!!

xinex said...

Your grandma must have been a very interesting lady. Thanks for sharing her story. Beautiful buffet, BTW!...Christine

Shenita @ Embellishments by SLR said...

Wow, what a great post, Paula! The stories our ancestors could tell. I so enjoyed telling my girls wonderful stories of their grandmother and great-grandmother, as we were working on the vintage house. The treasures that we found brought back such fond memories; and now, my girls are using them again. It's beautiful to have the links to the past. Thanks so much for hosting!

Suzan Sweatman said...

Loved this story !
My Grandfather was a diaspora Jew of which I only found out after he died. He was too afraid to admit it to anyone because of world war 2.
Tragic.......just amazing, isn't it, the tapestry that makes up our heritage?
Thanks so much for the party !
xoxo

Rosemary@villabarnes said...

Such beautiful memories attached to your buffet. Thanks for the party.

Jennelise said...

What a beautiful post - thank you so much for sharing! It was so touching to sit and read this. Always a pleasure stopping by here. Take care!
Jennelise

Linda @ Itsy Bits And Pieces said...

What a wonderful post about your great-grandmother...so much history and family memories. The buffet is beautiful and how special to have family pieces like that. Thank you for sharing with us...and for the feature, too!

Amy at Ms. Toody Goo Shoes said...

This was such a beautiful story! It's wonderful that you can find so much joy and memories in her furniture!

FABBY'S LIVING said...

Oh, what a wonderful story about your g'grandmother behind the gorgeous buffet and what a great lady she was!
I am originally Spanish-Jew on my dad's side of the family.
I think we all humans have very interesting backgrounds and it's so lovely when families can pass on to the new generations.
Thank you for hosting.
FABBY

Deanies Stash said...

I loved this story about your great grandmother. What wonderful memories you have. How sweet that your mother gave you the buffet and table. Thanks for sharing and hosting this party!

Poppy said...

What an intriguing family history, Paula. So enjoyed reading this story of your great grandmother, who was such an inspiration to you. Thanks for the party and have a wonderful day!

Poppy

Julie Corbisiero said...

What an interesting story from your great grandmother! Enjoy using the dining too set it is beautiful. Thanks for the fun party and enjoy the rest of the week.
Julie

Magali@TheLittleWhiteHouse said...

The buffet is lovely but the story behind it is even better!

Highland Monkey's said...

Gosh, what a great story thanks for sharing it with us. It's a lovely buffet cabinet so many special memories.

Robyn said...

Oh, Paula, thank you for sharing some of your special family history! I can imagine that was a difficult post to write for many reasons. It had me riveted and touched my heart deeply. People before us have gone through so much to allow us to live more freely. And they did it with such grace and dignity.
My two special people in my life were named Helen and Polly - my great aunt and my great grandmother. :)
Thank you also for featuring my roasted corn today. That was such a surprise to see that!
Take good care, Paula, xoxo

Rita C. said...

Thank you for sharing part of your history, Paula. As shameful as the way your great grand Helen was treated, it sometimes doesn't seem like we've come very far when one views the bias among people, whether it Blacks, Hispanics, LGBT, Women (!) or any others discriminated against (all of whom are part of my family, btw). I love hearing stories of those who trumped all the odds. Your DR is beautiful as shown. Thank you for hosting us for conversation around your table!
Rita

Muscetta said...

Thank you for sharing a piece of your family's story. And for hosting. Have a nice day. Tina

Shannon said...

Oh my gosh your so lucky to have that buffet. I've been looking for one that isn't going to cost me an arm and a leg. That's on my want list! Thanks for hosting.

Shannon ~ bohemianjunktion.com

Gail said...

Love this story, Paula! My family had lots of "secrets" and my uncle wrote about some of them in his book, "We Were Always Free." I never knew my grandparents but always enjoyed hearing about them while growing up. You are so fortunate to have such wonderful memories.

Nancy Reinke said...

A touching memorial to your great grandmother. Her buffet is lovely, and you're blessed to own it. Thanks for hosting the party. ~ Nancy

Lynn @The Vintage Nest said...

such a poignant story....loved reading about her and the fact that she was so fascinated with roller derby tickled me. Have a wonderful day Paula.

Curtains in My Tree said...

Yes the history of this USA is very tarnished in years that we treated humans less than that. I always think God will take care of all the cruelty that others passed on to our ancestors.
Just think how the American Indian was treated less than an animal, my sisters ancestors cried on the Trail Of Tears

Helen's buffet is a treasure for sure.

Beverly said...

This is such a beautiful and love filled post. Thank you for sharing your treasures and your sweet memories.♥

Stephanie said...

Your story is simply beautiful and so full of love! And your pictures are absolutely stunning!

Thank you for the lovely party - have a great day :) Hugs!

Stephanie said...

Your story is simply beautiful and so full of love! And your pictures are absolutely stunning!

Thank you for the lovely party - have a great day :) Hugs!

Susan Freeman said...

Oh Paula, this was such a wonderful post. I love your memories o Helen. I am so sorry that she had to suffer in any way from the insensitive actions of others. That breaks my heart. It does sound however like she was a strong woman who rose above those who were unkind. I love that she stored animal crackers and Cracker Jack in the buffet for her grand babies. I too have many things in my home that belonged to my mom and grandmothers. The little reminders of them are so comforting, because like you, I miss them so very much. Thank you Paula. I hope you have a lovely Labor Day weekend!

Big Texas Hugs,
Susan and Bentley

Donna Wilkes said...

Helen would have been proud of the way you carefully preserve her memory. Thank you for sharing and for hosting.

Trisha said...

The buffet is so beautiful...I want one just like it!

~Trisha

Salmagundi said...

An absolutely beautiful post - a great tribute to your heritage! Sally

Tarnished Royalty said...

Oh Paula (Polly)! I so enjoyed reading this post. Beautiful buffet, beautiful memories. Thank you for sharing with all of us! ~Ann
Tarnished Royalty

Terra said...

Your buffet brings such sweet memories of your great grandmother and now you have it in your home and can cherish it and pass on the stories to your own children.

Francie...The Scented Cottage Studio said...

What a touching story, thank you for sharing with us. Love the memories and that you now have the buffet. My greatgrandfather married a black woman after my greatgrandmother died.This was Texas in the 1940's/50's and my family never spoke of it. I found a photograph and learned about Miss Emma from a 2nd cousin. I was so disappointed that I could not have gotten to know her because I didn't find out in time. (())

Trish Martin said...

I love that buffet. It is gorgeous. I know you must miss your great grandmother. It sounds like she was indeed a very special lady. I often wander what happen to an old china cabinet my grandmother owned. She use to always make jelly cake. And when I visited her she would go into and cut me a piece of cake. That was the most delicious cake. I think the piece would be called a cup board. Thanks so much for hosting this party and sharing a piece of your history. Have a lovely day.

Helen's Decor said...

I loved reading your story of your great grandmother Helen. She sounds like a terrific lady. I don't have any memories of great grandparents. My husband inherited his grandmother's china cabinet that had been a part of the matching buffet, table, chairs, and also a smaller cabinet. It rests in our family room filled with china and tablecloths. Thanks for reminding me of what memories her family has shared with me. She started the Lutheran church in her hometown on her front porch!

Georgie Lee said...

You have the best antiques. I'm always envious when I see what you post each week :-)

Alessandra said...

Hi! I'm back from my vacation and i'm so happy to be here. Yes, it's not just a buffet! It' s a great treasure rich of important memories of your family. Just gorgeous!
Kisses
Alessandra

sparklegem said...

What an interesting lady your Great Grandmother was! My Great grandmother was a very kind, sweet lady who passed away when I was 17. If she had any secrets she took them with her when she passed!

Kim

CraftyHope said...

Your Helen sounds like an amazingly inspiring and wonderful lady. You were lucky to have each other for sure.

White Lace and Promises said...

I have my mom's buffet. It reminds me of this one. I can not get rid of it and I won't but I have no where to put it. It is in an old warehouse and I'm afraid it's going to get damaged. Mama served every family meal and dinners on her buffet. We had hamburgers grilled with all the fixings on Sunday night. We had Sunday dinners (lunches) and she was a preacher's wife and served many from this buffet. I've got to find a place for it, for sure!

Liz@ Infuse With Liz said...

What a great story you shared! Isn't it something how many snobby rules used to exist! How wonderful too that you actually knew your great-grandmother. Not everyone can say that! The buffet is a lovely piece and I love how you have so many good memories that warm your heart from it.

Oliva Ohlson said...

Love your grandmother's story. It reminds me of my grandmother's. She lived in a small town and she was referred as "the Jewess" behind her back. I'm sure she was aware of it. As I got older, I understood the meaning of it, and I was very hurt by it. I never discussed this with her. So many unanswered questions...

Maria Brittis said...

Stopping by to link up my Shabby doors red-do.. Love all the great postss that have linked up.. Patty if you have a few minutes stop by Fabulous Friday to link up at my party
Hugs
Maria
http://www.simplenaturedecorblog.com/fabulous-friday-party-new-look/

Cheryl Lawson said...

One word for your buffet: Gorgeous! Thanks so much for hosting the party each week as well. Happy Labor Day weekend,
Cheryl

Betsy@My Salvaged Treasures said...

Thank you for sharing this very personal story. Your great grandmother sounds like such an interesting woman. You're so lucky to have such wonderful memories and also her beautiful buffet and table.

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