In my previous post I featured this photo:On top of the box you can see a serving tray, a Susie Cooper tea set and a copper vase. These items used to belong to my paternal grandmother. They are the small remnants, little leftovers, of a long and busy life; of good food and warm kitchens, delicious pikelets, cream sponges, roast dinners and much else besides. They are the tangible reminders of times I experienced with my grandmother, as well as reminders of times I only know through hearsay. One of the hearsay pieces is the serving/tea-tray. Like my grandmother was, it is simple, sturdy, good quality and without frills ! I am told that the wooden tray came from the tea rooms that my grandparents owned for many years in a small, rural town. The tea rooms were one part of their business. In its entirety it included a butchery and a bakery. It was advertised (in 1948) as the town’s Up-to-date Cash Meat and Bread Mart, where small goods were a specialty.
The business was sold long before I came in to existence but the building it was in (which included the family home) was a place of occasional family pilgrimage. It was not a beautiful building, in our family’s estimation, but it had enough status, having been part of the town’s life since 1910, to be registered as a Category 2 historic place (#5193) on the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Register. Category II status means a place is of ‘historical or cultural heritage significance or value’. So, imagine our mixed emotions, our consternation, when we saw our place of family history like this, following the earthquake of September 2010.
Just a few weeks after the earthquake, it was already in the process of deconstruction for safety reasons. Sadly, since then, most of the building has been demolished and it has, naturally, been deregistered as an historic place. However, a modified, and safer, building, respectful of the old design, has arisen in its place. And I believe it still remains a place of good food and hospitality.
When I look at the items on top of the box, and reach back in my mind to their underlying stories and foundations , I wonder if, what I see before me are truly remnants, or simple leftovers, or my own unique version of a palimpsest. ( I really would rather like one! But my grandmother would much prefer ‘leftovers’. We always had lovely ones for Sunday night tea 🙂 )