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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

It's Not Just a Buffet

What's It Wednesday #133

As autumn approaches I find myself thinking about my amazing Great-grandmother Helen. Every day I go into my dining room and sit at the dining table that once belonged to her. I sip a cup of tea or coffee and think about all the secrets she and I use to share.

Helen (I was the only family member ever allowed to call her by her first name...she called me Polly) loved to travel. To me she was wonder woman because she was able to manage two homes. I struggle to manage one. Her life was at its strangest here in the United States, particularly in her residence in the south. She was a Jewish woman living in Jacksonville, Florida, who could not acknowledge her heritage publicly and had to blend into polite "white society". She could never speak to her black or mulatto grand-children when they passed each other on the streets of downtown. My Great-grand father traveled often so she was a very independent woman.

Apparently this was normal daily life for her. Despite this lifestyle she was a fabulous mother, a marvelous grand-mother and an amazing Great-grandmother. Inside this buffet she kept her silver in the top drawer and her finest Irish linen napkins and beautiful place mates in the bottom drawer. The right side of the buffet was very special. That's where she kept the goodies. This is where she kept delicious tea biscuits, animal crackers, and boxes of Cracker Jacks for us Great-grands. She kept some china on the left side.

For some reason, this buffet always brought about conversations, from her fascination with the roller derby to her most recent travel adventures.

It was around this buffet that Helen explained to me that when she was a young woman she was not allowed to stay on Miami Beach. I remember being so confused by this. I knew that once upon a time black folks weren't allowed on Miami Beach but what did that have to do with my Helen? When I was older my mother explained to me that Jews were not allowed on Miami Beach at one point. As an elderly woman she stayed on Miami Beach all the time...just because she could.

On the top of this buffet held all sorts of fabulous desserts that she would make or have made to serve at her charitable events that she would host at her home. It also held many lunches and dinners that she would serve generations of her diverse family. This buffet held a special lunch for me after my first ballet recital. When my mother recently gave this buffet and dining table to me I was so honored.  So I sit at Helen's dining table on many occasions and gaze lovingly upon the buffet and reminisce about her and the love she showered upon her family and the people all around her despite the strange time and circumstances in which she lived.  So you see, it's not just a buffet. It's a beautiful piece of my family history. It holds all of our secrets. 

Do you have any family secrets you can share?


P.S. This was the most difficult post I have ever written. I miss Helen so much...but I am so grateful for the time I had with her. 

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