Saturday, October 26, 2013


Whenever we visited my grandmother’s house in Boston, we’d spend time in the big living room. It was just inside the front door, off the entry hall to the right – a huge room that extended the width of the house.

There were lots of windows (tall ones that extended nearly floor to ceiling), so the light was lovely; there were two leather sofas on either side of a fireplace, bookshelves and end tables, a couple of wingback chairs; oriental carpets and, to our delight, a baby grand piano we were allowed to play!
My grandfather kept his violin in here (we were not allowed to play with that); there was a music stand and a wonderful cabinet with doors that opened up; inside were ten drawers for filing sheet music.

But, best of all, was this dish, always on the low coffee table between the sofas. It was always full of stuff – little trinkets and toys and coins and subway tokens, checkers, buttons and brass screws – all kinds of things to be sorted, divided up into piles, etc.

Spending time in that living room with Nana and the dish was magical.
          “Find all the round things,” she’d suggest...or the red things, or all the things made of metal, or all the things that rolled.
Well, the dish is now in my living room, and I, too, fill it with things – odds and ends of things I find and save – and whenever I have a group of people over, there are always a few people who can’t keep the hands out of the dish; they poke and stir, lift things out, rearrange, etc.

So take a look.

Today, you should be able to find: marbles, some polished stones, a few glass stoppers, some lamp finials, two clock keys, a brass curtain ring, a door knob plate, a glass Hershey’s Kiss, a few pieces of beach glass, my late mother’s key ring, a pulley, a medallion drawer pull...

There are at least two other things in there...

Saturday, October 12, 2013



What a wonderful’s always been one of my two favorite architectural terms (the other is fenestration, which I might tackle on a different day).

I’ve got several dictionaries:
The Concise Oxford American (2006) has two uses: “a shield or emblem bearing a coat of arms...” or “a flat piece of metal for protection and often ornamentation around a keyhole, door handle, or light switch.”
Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary (how can the ninth, in 1985, be “new?”) confirms the first two and adds a third: “the part of a ship’s stern on which the name is displayed.”
It also says the word is from the Middle English escohon.
Even my trusty 1770 Samuel Johnson dictionary defines it as “the shield of the family,” but there’s no reference to door knobs, plates or keyholes.

I focus on the hardware variety.
I have quite a few escutcheons – I buy them at flea markets and antique stores. I used to put them in houses I owned, but now I just collect them; there’s something about them that intrigues me, draws me – I think of doors that open into old houses, into other people’s living rooms and lives.

These are two of my favorite escutcheons. The one on the right is an Eastlake pattern, I think, or perhaps a Mission (makes me think of Frank Lloyd Wright, for some reason).
          The other – the one on the left – is a common pattern.I’ve seen several of these, and I actually found it in a 1902 Sears Roebuck catalog...

Here’s the copy:
“Electro Bronze Plated Front Door Lock Set, is furnished with knobs and escutcheons as shown – complete with screws. Lock is reversible for either right or left hand nickel plated steel key for lock bolt and two for night latch.”

Total cost?
Eighty-four cents.

An escutcheon is one of those things you never notice until you suddenly see one that grabs you; now that you know what to look for, I’ll bet you pay closer attention. Look in old libraries, town halls, grange halls, check out old houses and school buildings, historical society buildings, churches. Every time you reach out to grasp a knob, take a look...

...then open the door and go in.

Saturday, October 5, 2013


 Sepia Saturday presents its challenges, to be sure.

We’re often scurrying, scrambling for shots that qualify for the week’s call for submissions – and this week was no exception: “blurred, scratched, undefined, and plain boring...less than perfect.”

So here it is...and it certainly qualifies!

This is me.

This is me in the late 1960s: a long-haired hippy, young and lean and blonde and quite possibly a little stoned,’s definitely me, upside down – just about to do a headstand on the front lawn at the farm.

It was probably on a Sunday afternoon when we all had a few hours of free time: after morning chores and Sunday meeting, after dinner and dishes but before evening chores began at 4:00 or so.
I had been playing my guitar (you can see an open capo in the grass beneath me), wearing my favorite shirt – one of those open-collar shirts from India that were so popular back then; gray and maroon stripes, shapeless. It fell below my hip and was incredibly comfortable; a remnant of my Cambridge days.

I’m no more than 23 years old – that alone is astonishing to me.
And, my goodness, look at all that hair!

For some reason, I’ve saved this photo for nearly 45 years; a split second of time in my life captured on 35mm black and white film. I’m not the same person I was back then, of course, but I like to think that moment is part of me forever, that I’ve carried it within me for all these years.

Whenever I look at it, I smile; I guess that’s reason enough.