i don’t know many words in Arabic.
i can count to ten. no problem.
i can say, with a relatively good accent, “put your head on the bed.” (phonetically, it sounds something like “huty rah-sic ah lah farshi”). Mom said that to us every night before bed. I think she meant “pillow,” but i also think she forgot the word “pillow” in Arabic. it’s a hard one to remember, as you don’t really use it much. Unless, of course, you’re an Arabian pillow salesman. then you probably use it a lot.
I can sing a couple songs, taught to me by my mother, who usually sings them after a couple…ok…a few… or more…glasses of wine, and in a really, really, reallyreallyreally bad voice. She’s even known to take a couple of spoons and clack them together while singing in arabic before. it’s happened and it’s not pretty.
But Arabic, in our family, is important.
It’s a long story, and not for this post, but take my word for it.
There are two other words i know in Arabic. And they they are the most incredible, beautiful words i have ever known.
Tayta and Jiddu.
These words mean, in loose translation, Grandma & Grandpa. And it’s what we called our maternal grandparents our whole lives. And even though they have both died, we still, everyday, do.
Last week, my family moved into a new house that we built. And when i say new, i mean that in so many ways. Nothing is old. Nothing is antique. Nothing has dust or a scratch or a stain. It is modern. To the Nth degree. The audio/visual/wifi, i control from my IPad. It’s new.
It’s a dream 4 years in the making and i am humbled and thankful and so appreciative of creating this dream with a brilliant architect and amazing craftsmen and artists. I am humbled.
But tonight, something happened. i really, honestly, did NOT have this blog planned.
However, i found a box. Actually 2 boxes. On the side, they said “Bone China, VERY FRAGILE.” in my own writing.
These boxes have been stored since i inherited them a decade or so ago. Before the death of my grandmother, way before, she gifted her china to me, trusting i would use it and relish it and serve many a Thanksgiving dinner with it.
I have not. not once.
But tonight, things changed.
“A box at a time,” my husband said to me at the overwhelming, garage filled chaos that comes with every move.
So i brought up these 2 boxes.
And something happened.
I unwrapped the most beautiful & delicate bone China i have ever seen. And as i touched each plate, each teacup, each tiny dish, i felt as i were touching the paper thin skin of my Tayta’s hand. Skin that i last touched the minute she took her final breath on May 2, 2006.
I am overwhelmed with emotion. As i write this, i have tears streaming down my face. I miss her so much. And all this time i have kept her China wrapped in paper, in boxes, stored in my garage.
But no longer.
it is unpacked, it is in a special place in my new kitchen, and before i put it there, i photographed it so i could share it with you… whoever you are reading this blog at this very moment.
It is a celebration of black and white. Because i have never seen anything more beautiful in those two colors than this. And it’s a perfect example of how you can make black & white take on different dimension.
So i’ll take you through the photos, and do my best to reference the blog that shows how i edited it:
First, just a very simple photo of this set:
do you see the beauty? or is it just me? is your breath taken away, or is it me that is just breathless?
For this photo, i used the “fade color” edit effect, which you can find in my “blackbirds” post. It will get you there. If you need a refresher, this is the menu you’ll find on your Apple (sorry, PC users, i have no clue :):
you see the “antique” option… equally as beautiful:
And suppose i want to give it a bit of color… just a hint to change it around a bit. so easy. it’s called “tint & temperature” and to get there, just reference my “i will cause chaos” blog… it’s all right there. Watch, when i give it a bit of purple:
and finally, now, to may favorite… Camera Bag. Seriously, if you have not downloaded this app, you are missing out on some amazing amateur photography opportunities. Same photo as the first one, but using Camera Bag, “silver” option:
for more on this app, and all it does, it’s in my “ass-of the-bag” post.
Ok, so you get the gist. Two boxes, a full setting of Bone China from Austria. How do i know? Because in my head, full of wine and tears and a KD Lang version of Hallelujah, i imagine a proud family of Austrians who have made this China for generations. And on each piece, as in every piece in this collection, they proudly place this stamp:
My sister looked this up for me… did a little digging after my initial post, and here is what she found, quoted from another blog, entitled “Genealogy of Life at Sunnyslope Farm” (http://genealogyoflifeatsunnyslopefarm.blogspot.com/2008/07/more-about-vase-stamped-mz-austria-made.html):
“The MZ Austria(1891-1913) marked on the bottom shown to be Moritz Zdekauer. He [Moritz Zdekauer] in 1884 purchased a factory in Altrohlau, Bohemia. The letters MZ have been maintained in the logo ever since, and still to…day at factory building. By1909 the factory was sold to C.M. Hutschenreuter [ the Hohenberg, Germany porcelain manufacturer] became the owner, and named it Altrohlau Porcelain Factories … MZ Austria existed and depicts an era at the end of WWI. By 1918 the Paris Peace Committee had created a new country Bohemia became Czechoslovakia.”
Wow. Moritz, you are the MAN.
And at the bottom of the second box, by itself, was a lonely teacup. and just when i thought i couldn’t get anymore emotion out of these boxes, i unwrapped this:
oh, and it gets so much better. If ever editing a photograph had a purpose, then ever is now.
And the rest:
Tayta was 46 years old. 4 children. One of them my mother. and therefore i, by no choice, but complete and utter honor, became a granddaughter.
I cannot wait until Thanksgiving this year. I think that will be the perfect and best way to honor this China set. Have everyone who is family, or who can’t go home to their family, or simply just needs a family, to come to our home and allow me to bring out this family gift.
It is exactly what Tayta & Jiddu would have done, and would have wanted.
So of all the things new about this home, i am finding that my favorite is the oldest thing of all.
I love you and miss you to the moon, Tayta.
Marie Louise “Tayta” McMullen 6/21/1916 – 5/2/2006.
I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but if her grandchildren can serve as any indication I know that Tayta must have been one amazing woman! I hope that we’ll be sitting around the table with you come November. Matt will bring the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies 🙂
and thought she never had the honor of meeting you, but i know without a doubt she would have loved you so much, and been so proud that Matt had found his soul mate in you! it is ON this Thanksgiving… i have the perfect platter for those cookies :). xo.
Beautifully written-tears are streaming down my face as I read your beautiful and loving tribute. Not a minute goes by that I don’t miss her and Jiddu as well. What I wouldn’t give for one more day, one more conversation-to hear her glorious laugh and tell her one more time how much I love her; what a wonderful mother she was. My one regret is that I never truly realized until she was dying what a powerful, strong, amazing woman she was;how I wish I could tell her.And I regret not being with as she died.
Thank you. I love you.
thank you Laura. it was a very cleansing blog to write. i never saw it coming. Come thanksgiving, we will bring it out and toast our Tayta!!!
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I’m crying now Andrea. This was absolutely beautiful. The china is an incredible treasure. I still have my grandmother’s silverware in it’s locked box, in a box in my closet. I think I’ll bring it out. Once again, beautiful.
please take it out… see what happens to your emotions! chances are, you’ll be balling like a baby…hell, i was! crazy and wonderful! thank you so much for the kind comment TW.
Not sure i paid any attention to your photo tips, this story is captivating, inspirational and powerful. Made me realize i have my own “China” to treasure…Thank you …
wow. thank you. take out the China. and photograph and share!!!
It brought me to tears–there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of Mother (Tayta), and I miss her terribly. The photo of the two of you dancing at your wedding brings out the joy that Mother had in being with her family. You are an incredible writer–skip the photography lessons and just write your stories (with the pictures)!
That’s one fine post Nan.
Thank you Bert! I am so happy you enjoyed it.
Although I only know you through my lovely sis (and a few short visits), I feel like I can know you through the blog. We are waiting on a house right now and have so much STUFF. As the first granddaughter to get married, my grandfather gave me my deceased grandmother’s china. I have not opened it even though I received it almost 5 years ago. I really was feeling like I just wanted to give it away and declutter since we have a whole garage full of boxes. After reading your post, when the time is right, I might just take it out and remember my grandmother.
xoxo Brittany (Ashley’s sister)
Oh my. i am SO incredibly thankful for your comment Brittany. Promise me you will take at least one dish out of that box and hold it in your hands. Let me know, once that happens, if you feel it. I’m willing to bet you’ll feel her spirit just as i did. I really, really appreciate your words. Hugs, and smooches to those little gorgeous babes. Andrea.
Wonderful story and tribute. Touched a special place in my heart, and a reminder about the importance of celebrating family and its special lineage of love, honor and sacrifice.
Thank you KB! i am touched as well by how many people feel the same way and responded to this posting… especially as it came unexpectedly and quite spiritually… Hope you are doing well, it certainly looks like you are keeping busy but ARE finding balance with your sweet family. Best,