OH's Godmother, Catherine, died at the age of 93 in 1968, and because she was my Mother in Law's aunt, we know her parents were married three years before she was born, their second of three children. Catherine arrived eleven months after her brother Peter was born, and two years before John, and their sister Margaret followed not long after that.
We know that Catherine's parents married in 1872 and that Michael made all the furniture for his and his new bride's home, including the LBD. In its day Catherine's mother kept a willow pattern bowl of eggs on the dresser, a jug of milk, and various ornaments. Plates, cups and saucers dwelt behind its doors. Her best pearl handled knives and forks resided in one side of the drawer, in the other side her everyday cutlery. Her proudest possession, the knives had been a wedding present from the brother and sister she had been housekeeper to.
The little brown dresser as she looks today in our house
Margaret was 38 when she married 42 year old Michael. No doubt she had been told that she was past her last prayers and that she was lucky to be employed as a housekeeper. Bachelor Michael met her when his father died, whose smallholding he inherited. Love struck and in 1874, 1975 and 1877 Peter, Catherine and John were born.
Peter married a lady from Longford named Bridget, and they became Catherine's neighbours. John married and moved into town. Catherine inherited the small holding, never married and enjoyed life to the full. She divided her time between entertaining her brother John's children and trying to work out why Peter's daughter Margaret was so spoiled. There was a lifetime of antipathy between them.
In the course of time, Margaret married a man from "up-the-country", they met at a Hallow e'en bonfire. They had two children, a boy and five years later, a girl, the image of her mother. "The Boy", as Catherine called him, was the apple of Catherine's eye. He took after her father, she proudly told everyone. He spent hours with her on long winter evenings, drawing pictures in the ashes he would pull out onto the hearthstone of the big inglenook fireplace. Before he went home at night, Catherine handed him a brush and a cup of milk. One to tidy the hearth, the other to give him strength to walk the quarter mile to his home.
He left home at 17 to work in Dublin, Catherine's caution ringing in his ears "eat well and buy a good black suit". He also bought a motor bike on which he would take Catherine, then aged 90, for a gentle spin on quiet country roads. She frequently bitterly complained that he "drove too slow".
Upon her death, her dresser was given to "The Boy" and his mother made room for it in her kitchen. Over the next 46 years it made a home for a multi-coloured plastic hen, two pictures of Our Lady of Knock, various hooks were screwed into its side to hold keys. In behind its doors bottles of Johnny Walker, Paddy, Guinness and Layers Pellets were housed. It bore all stoically.
"The Boy"s mother passed away a few years ago. His sister inherited the house and fulfilled her long held dream to do a makeover on it. Because the little brown dresser didn't come from Ikea, she moved it to an outhouse in January.
Last Friday the little brown dresser made the longest journey of its 142 year old life to Dublin; to the house we live in, built by my Grandfather who was, like Catherine, born in 1875.
The little brown dresser sits snugly against the dining room wall, the plastic chicken is but a memory. Once again she glows, willow pattern stands proudly on her enhancing her rich patina.
I like to think that Catherine's love shines through, after all she and her mother polished the LBD with beeswax every Saturday morning for many years.
Last night I watched "The Boy", now aged 66, lay a hand briefly on the dresser as he made his way to our kitchen. I know that a prayer went up for Catherine, along with that contented smile.