Saturday, March 31, 2018

Making Old Things New Again

I love that old New England adage, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without."  That sort of thinking has kind of gone by the wayside in our throwaway society, where shiny and new is always thought to be better and is just a short click away.  Which is too bad, because some things are worth keeping--not just because they can be fixed, but because they have priceless sentimental value.

When my grandmother (my father's mom) died, we went through her things, and this old broken frame is one of the items that I took.  In it were photos of my mother and her five children.  We five were Grandma's only grandchildren, because my dad's only sister married relatively late in life and we never had any first cousins on his side.
That's me top-left, in 6th grade--with an awful hair-do and a string of pearls.  And please check out
my older brother's 'do, top-right: Justin Beiber ain't got nothin' on him!
My grandma had SO MANY framed family photos in her house (I think I inherited her taste for home décor!).  She was such a lovely, soft-spoken, refined, almost regal lady, and because she was this way, I always assumed that everything she had in her home was top-quality.  It certainly always appeared that way to me, due to Grandma's high-class aura.

But the truth is that she was a survivor of the depression, whose well-to-do father lost everything in the big crash of 1929.  He never recovered financially and became a broken man.  Grandma's mother, a tough, no-nonsense matriarch and mother of six, got a nursing degree and became her family's primary bread-winner.  Grandma was the oldest of her siblings, her father's favorite.  She had been given a roadster of her own and was ready to start college at Bryn Mawr--she was just totally living the life of Riley--when her world came crashing down.  She, too, eventually went to nursing school.  And she, too, eventually became the primary bread-winner of her family, when her husband died and left her with two small children, a six-year-old boy (my dad) and a two-year-old girl.  For the rest of her life, money was always very tight.

So the truth was that everything Grandma owned was not the newest and the best.  This is what the back of that picture frame I inherited looked like.
The little oval on the bottom left had broken off completely and was being held to the rest of the frame by duct tape.

Just yesterday I was thinking about that frame, which I knew was hiding somewhere amidst all the precious mementos that had survived the culling process when we made the move from NH to VA about a year ago.  I have five children, too, just like my mom; and I thought it would be adorable to fill this frame with photos of them--my favorites from their toddler years, when they all posed wearing the same white sailor suit.

When I found the frame, which was in a trunk down in the basement storage area of our new house, I kind of laughed.  It probably should have gone into the dumpster when we moved, I thought.  But I never could have done that.  It was my grandma's.  We were everything to her, and that little broken frame was a symbol of her love for us.

It took a little bit of engineering to get the back of the frame in some kind of working order (truly, what it needs is a bit of soldering, but that's not going to happen--so duct tape it is!); to keep the broken piece from flopping, I added some cardboard strips for support.  (Hey, I was joking before, but perhaps I am an engineer!)
I am so pleased with the results--and so glad I decided to figure out how to give Grandma's frame new life.
Ahoy, cuteness!
We have very little space on the fireplace mantel in our new house, because we have a huge flat-screen TV hung on the wall right above it.  But this sweet little frame--an homage to both my grandmother and my boys--fits perfectly.
I am so pleased with how it looks.  It's like a whole new frame in the front.  No one needs to know what's going on in the back but me--and the great thing is that whenever I do look at all that duct tape, I'll think of my grandma and smile.


  1. Awww, it's great, but I'm sad our pictures are gone!

  2. Wow, what hardship your Grandmother faced!! What did you do with your sibs photos?

  3. What a beautiful way to combine her life and yours. Maybe you kept the original pictures under the new ones?

  4. Okay, friends, you're all making me feel very guilty. Because I'm usually an incurable pack-rat when it comes to photos or sentimental items--but these photos were cracked, discolored, curled up...and then some of them ripped apart when I removed them, because they'd been glued in. I took the photo beforehand thinking that would preserve the memory, and I threw away the originals. As I said, now I feel guilty about it!! I think that big move last year changed the way I feel about holding onto too many things.

    Maybe I'm getting payback for tossing them, though; because the frame already fell apart. The duct tape isn't really doing the trick. Now I wish I'd just kept it in the trunk with Grandma's photos in it and bought a brand new one for the pics of my boys...Oh, well! Live and learn!