Words of late artist Frank Howell...I totally relate!

"There are few days off and no retirement from this entanglement of knowledge, passion and vision that will be molded and converted into creative expression. There are no guarantees of acceptance, understanding or reward, but...the noise inside the mind never ceases. I will paint today, tonight and for as many tomorrows as I am given..." Words of the late artist Frank Howell...

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mama Smith's Chifferobe

Last week, I received an inheritance that was totally unexpected.  Don't you just love sudden happy surprises?  Here's a picture...

It's my grandmother's chifferobe.  I had no idea that I was supposed to get it, but as my dad explained, my mother's only sister acquired it and thought that Mama should get it.   Mama enjoyed it in their home for years, up until her death a few years ago.  My dad just recently asked me if I wanted it to be brought down from Birmingham to my house so that I could use it now...He said that I was supposed to inherit it, simply because I was the oldest...Although I'm not deserving, I am very grateful, and it's providing a lasting and meaningful connection to my grandmother, Mama Smith.

My grandmother didn't have a lot of worldly possessions, as I remember.  She was a very simple, practical lady with the sweetest heart.  While working as a telephone operator, this was one of the first things she bought for herself; it was a necessity. She had moved in with an aunt in the city so that she could be close to work, and this is where she kept her things. That idea alone is so thought provoking for me, standing here looking at the size of the piece.  Who among us today can fit all of our personal clothing into something this size? 

Photo "borrowed" from my sweet cousin, Sue's facebook pics.
Charlie and Irene Smith at the entrance to a mine in the
Bessemer, AL area in the early twenties.

Look at this great dress she is wearing in the photograph above.  It probably hung in this very chifferobe...I never saw her wearing anything this fancy...

After she met and married my grandfather (the one with the pistol pointed at her in the pic above- I'm sure (I hope!) it was a toy- he was always such a jokester!), this piece of furniture somehow ended up back at her family home with her mother where it stayed for decades. This is the reason the piece is still here today, because my grandparents lost their house to a fire in the early sixties.  It was a total loss, but this wasn't in the house, so it survived. Even after my grandparents rebuilt, it still remained in my great-grandmother's house. Knowing my grandmother, she probably thought her mother needed it more, or she didn't want to ask her to take her things out of it, so she let her continue to use it.  I think it ended up going to a great aunt's house when my great-grandmother passed away and her house was sold...and, eventually my aunt (Mama's sister) got it back to our family.  

I'm using it to hold my accessories...the things that I use frequently.  Purses, scarves, hats, wraps and costume jewelry.  In that bottom space under the drawers, I have a silver-plated bowl that holds things that will eventually go in my purse; and to the right, my bottles of cologne and perfume.

I've decorated the top with some of my things and it's just so pretty in my room.

I like to imagine that she's looking down on me and shaking her head with a slight little smile...wondering about that crazy hat.  (Yes, I actually wear it.)  If she were here and I were showing her what I had done with her chifferobe, she would be looking at it saying , "Uh- hum" (with mouth closed and sort of like a song that goes up at the end), because that's how she always responded when I showed her things.  Even if she didn't like something, she would never tell you, it was just "uh-hum."  I could never really tell whether she liked something or not...She was a lady of few words, and the closest thing to angel that ever lived here on earth.  

I will treasure this piece for the rest of my life.  It reminds me of Mama Smith every time I look at it, and I love that.


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  1. I have a chifferobe just like this with the exception that mine does not have the pretty additions to the front doors. When I acquired my piece I was told it was a child's armoire?? Its a nice size for a child. Maybe for one cutie in your future?

    1. Thanks for the comment and the new perspective on what it could have been used for...that's interesting. It would be the perfect size for a child's clothing. Maybe when I pass it on down the line, a great- grandchild will use it. I'm now in my fifties, and my grandchildren are already as tall as adults, but this gives me a new way to look at things for the future. Thank you!