Decorating with Memories

Cowboy hat

My home decorating philosophy is simple — I surround myself with personal artifacts that evoke memories of people and times I cherish. These artifacts have little or no monetary value, but they are priceless to me. They connect me to my roots. Come on, I’ll show you a few of my treasures.

My Daddy

My dad passed away in August 2015. Since then, his cowboy hat has been hanging in my entry, as though he might walk in from the shop at any minute. I can’t tell you what sweetness that hat contributes to my day.

Daddy also had an amazing collection of the COOLEST vintage ties. Throughout my lifetime, I rarely saw him dressed up, but in his younger days, he must have been quite a snappy dresser at the Saturday night dances! Naturally, I could not part with these beautiful objects, but I certainly didn’t want to store them in the back of some closet. So I mounted some decorative knobs on my bedroom wall and hung three of the ties. Now I see them every day and imagine my handsome daddy posing next to his 1954 Mercury while The Beer Barrel Polka plays in the background.

My mom and I were looking through old photos this week, and I noticed for the first time that Daddy was wearing the tie on the left in their wedding pictures. It’s hand painted. Swoon.

Daddy's Ties

Daddy had a flea market booth the last many years of his life, and he always kept it supplied with wooden boxes that he’d carefully cleaned and polished. I kept several of these and have found creative uses for them.

Peace lily in wooden box 2

This Kansas City Baking Powder box is special because it still has Daddy’s flea market tag on the side. This box was originally shipped to one of Daddy’s relatives, John Bartosh, in Schulenburg, TX in the 1940s or early 1950s — quite remarkable that he would happen upon it so many years later! He had been working on this box just days before he died, and seeing his handwriting on the tag brings a lump to my throat.

My favorite use for these old boxes is as a side table that doubles as a bookshelf. A perfect sidekick to my reading chair!

Wooden box bookshelf

Daddy was also an avid gardener. Nothing made him happier than putzing around in his vegetable garden, and one of his galvanized watering cans graces my back porch every summer. It’s the closest I get to gardening!

Watering Can

My Mama

I’ve made peace with chickens. For years I resisted all chicken decor, probably because my mom’s house had a chicken in every corner. But alas, now that she lives with us, her collection of rooster china graces my kitchen windowsill and I’ve grown quite fond of the old birds! Mama’s love of roosters traces back to her childhood, because her daddy’s hobby was raising and fighting roosters. (I know! Cock fighting was just as illegal back then as it is now, and every bit as reprehensible. What can I say? Yikes.) It’s part of our history to wake every morning to a rooster’s crow, so naturally, we keep roosters on the windowsill.

Rooster China

The crown jewel of our keepsakes is this rosewood desk, hand carved by my great, great grandfather, Frederick Rosenquist. He was born on a farm in Stockholm, Sweden in the 1800s and became adept at carving. At one point, he did some carving on the king’s carriage. The king was so pleased he awarded him the “Order of the Rose.” Ultimately this desk will grace my oldest brother’s home, but in the meantime, I get to enjoy it.

Heirloom Desk

Roger’s Family

The old toys on the top of the desk belonged to my husband Roger’s uncle, sometime in the 1940s.

Old Toys

Because he’s a car guy to his bones, Roger also proudly displays old license plates that belonged to his grandfather and father. (The US Senate plate is a recent acquisition with a fascinating back story!)

License plates

Another treasure we display in this office is a wooden airplane propeller Roger found at age 11 when he was tromping the prairie near Torrington, WY with his trusty dog, Wolf. Can you imagine his excitement when he and Wolf came dragging this thing home?

Wooden airplane propeller

Roger’s parents lived in the little mountain town of Dubois, WY, about 70 miles from Jackson Hole. His dad was a rock hound, and they spent many hours walking remote wilderness areas, looking for petrified wood and other fun rocks (obviously, I’m not much of a rock hound…I’m sure there are more scientific names than “fun rocks!”) In the process, they often stumbled upon old bottles.

I loved our wilderness excursions with them, and I especially loved their collection of old bottles. When they passed away, the bottles came home with me! I adore the pretty colors and delicate shapes. So intriguing that these fragile artifacts survived many years after being discarded on the prairie or in the wilderness. I find lots of places to display them, and enjoy using them as vases.

Old Bottles
Tulips in old jar

My Granny

One of my most prized possessions is my grandmother’s baby portrait. Marjorie Bloom was born in 1908 in Pinedale, WY, and within 6 months of this photo, her father was killed in a haying accident. That set in motion a series of heartaches. Marjorie’s mother was of tenuous mental stability, and she could not maintain the ranch and four children alone.

Within a year of her father’s death, my grandmother’s older siblings were placed in the state children’s home. The two youngest, Otto and Marjorie, moved with their mother to Cheyenne, WY, under the care of a state-appointed guardian. Eventually, my great grandmother had a complete mental breakdown. She was committed to the state “Home for Defectives” (seriously!), and Otto (age 8) and Marjorie (age 5) were placed in the state children’s home.

Immediately after their mother’s breakdown, Otto had the presence of mind to take a little wagon back to their house. He climbed in a window and salvaged some of their belongings, including this photo. Miraculously, it managed to stay in my grandmother’s possession throughout her difficult childhood, and I proudly display it in my living room today. She was a remarkable, resilient woman and I loved her dearly.

Granny's baby portrait

My parents married in Anchorage, Alaska in 1959, and my grandmother bought these little fur seals as a memento of their trip to the wedding. (I think the seal fur is real….again, yikes!) These little seals feature prominently in my earliest memories of visiting my grandparents. Now I keep them on my dresser with my grandmother’s photo, and they delight the next generation of children.

Granny's seals

Aunt Cleo

Somehow I managed to get some old jars from my dad’s Aunt Cleo. I have fond memories of playing King of the Hill and catching lightning bugs with my cousins in her yard in Schulenburg, TX. She never had children, but she was the quintessential grandmother. She gardened and cooked, gave the best hugs, and had a voice that dripped honey. Her favorite saying was, “I do declare!” with the last syllable drawn out in true southern belle style. Her old coffee jar now holds my laundry soap and keeps her memory fresh on my mind.

Cleo's Coffee Jar

I’m a pretty simple gal. Everyday items, passed down from people I love, bring me pleasure and connect me to my roots. What special objects tell your story? Please share them in the comments!

ComeOnAileen

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2 Comments

  1. I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that I LOVED reading this! Beautiful memories preserved in the everyday- now that’s inspiring!

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