Old New England Glassware in the Home
"Cupboards Full... Boxes in the Attic"
Mrs. Randolph spoke with me at the antiques show several Sundays ago. She told me that they (she and her husband) are moving into their cottage in Boothbay and are selling their home. She wanted me to “advise” her .
About her “antiques”?
I... was slow and evasive. I wouldn’t even call it a ‘response’.
Mrs. Randolph is called ‘Eve’ by her ‘family’ since girlhood and through her life within her family. She is called Eve only by her family. Her family is her inner circle?
Mrs. Randolph is called ‘Winter’ by her community of friends. She has always been called Winter by these friends. I have no idea why. If, for example, Mrs. Randolph approaches me at the antiques show with two friends in tow... or... was it actually that the two friends had Mrs. Randolph in tow... these friends speak to me of “Winter” “needs your help” “Winter is moving to smaller quarters”.
“It has the most wonderful view of the harbor”.
“Winter needs you to look. She has all kinds of things you know. Mostly antiques”.
I doubted that.
When I arrived I was brought to the dining room first. Winter was there with her younger sister Caroline. This was commonly “Carol” and / or “Bing”. This day it was “Bing” and “Eve” until Sharon arrived and kept calling Mrs. Randolph ‘Winter’. In the dining room. We would go off and away from the dining room on a foray to ‘see’ a ‘something’ ‘like that’. Etc. We always came directly back to the dining room.
The dining room had a large and tall (“good height” for modern seating) dining room table with, that day, having its extra leaves ‘in’, so could easily seat eight in the set of twelve (two armchairs) ‘furniture factory’ grade 1960’s faux Chippendale ‘side chairs’. Twelve ‘including children’ were often ‘seated’ ‘at Thanksgiving’. This day the table had been ‘set up’ and was ‘covered’ with the ‘glassware’ from the ‘cupboards’. This display was qualified by Bing with the declaration that “There are more boxes of it in the (top floor) attic too”. Eve said “Yes, yes; boxes more of it”.
“Wedding glass” I said.
Both Eve and Bing looked at me.
“The world is filled with it; wedding glass.”
“Some of it is very good quality” said Eve.
“You use that of course.” I said.
“Oh no never I don’t want to break it.”
“Well someone is going to break it....
Both Eve and Bing looked at me.
“When you recycle it”.
If there was a starting point for a negative ‘turn’ to this ‘estate contents’, it might as well be the suggestion by me that all of the glassware on the dining room table be stacked into plastic crates and ‘recycled’. “We... put all this out (on the dining table) for you to see”.
“I see.” I said.
“There’s more of it in the kitchen we didn’t get out”.
“I don’t need to see it”.
“I don’t need to see it”.
“The... glasses are quite old. Some of them.” said Bing, looking hard a me.
“And some of them are not very old at all.” I said.
“All of it is older.”
“Yes... this here” I said gesturing to the table top display “is 1960’s wedding glassware. From someone’s wedding.”
“My wedding.” said Eve.
“And you’ve never used it.”
“No. I never use it.”
“No one ever does. It is always ‘kept’. In the cupboards. And the attic.
“Well I never really had any need to use it.”
“No one ever does. This” I continued with another hand gesture... “is how that glassware is used. People like you put it on tables like this and make me look at it. Did you wash it?”
“We did.” said Bing.
“I can tell.” I said.
The rest of the estate contents looked like this (the dining table top and its glassware) too. No one had purchased any art or antiques... or rare books... ever. The ‘things’ in the ‘estate’ had been ‘accumulated’. As opposed to having been ‘collected’. Very little object discrimination had been invoked. There, too, was very little suggestion of ‘taste’...: An ‘of any taste’ let alone the enigmas of ‘good taste’ and... ‘bad taste’. Why don’t I is say I noted ‘zero taste’ ‘in there’ and
Of the old New England glassware. Too. It was not old New England glassware on the dining table. It was junk wedding glass ‘never used’.
“If that makes you uncomfortable then donate it to the (strip mall grade box store) thrift store (with their easy drive up donation door). Their little girls will put all of it out for sale for a month and then clean off the shelf and recycle it (the glassware; all of it). What did think happens to the glassware in those places?”
“Oh.” said Eve. Bing said nothing.
“It’s quicker just to put it out on recycling day. If you want to give it a chance put it out a few days early with a sign saying ‘FREE’.”
“Oh... that’s not what I was expecting.”
“Well this is what I was expecting and I never wash any glassware like this ever.”
“How did you know?”
“Because you have never bought a piece of antique glass ever and you don’t even know what antique glass is (let alone old New England glass). When ever you’ve talked about glassware... in your life... you’ve used words like ‘juice glasses’ or ‘wine glass’.
“This” I continued, “display looks like the accumulation of someone who knows what a ‘juice glass’ is. And nothing more. Don’t get disturbed with me for telling you that. You invited me to advise you... I believe you said. I have done that. It has little to do with me that your glassware is no good. By no good I mean that it has no commercial value AND that it has no atheistic value. It is not antique and it is not art.
“I will be more specific. Having this sort of glassware, using this glassware pretentiously, storing it in attics and cupboards for eternity, fretting over its breakage is... in my (antiquarian) world... bad taste. A dead giveaway of bad taste. This behavior shows that one knows nothing about their glassware, cares nothing about their glassware, in most cases spent no money ever on their glassware and therefore may be summarized as having bad taste in ones glassware inclusive of ones... juice glasses. I don’t expect you to pay me for telling you this. But you should. If you live in a fine old New England in your mind’s eye... then, I tell you to your face, you should at least know of old New England glassware. Generations before you did and they applaud from their graves what I just said.”