Dec 12, 2008

The Mantel

When I was growing up, I always loved to visit my grandparents' homes. They were always full of wonder and interesting and different things than were seen around our house.


My dad was raised by his grandparents. They were the sweetest people. Most knew them as Stewart and Eugenia (or "Eugie" for short). I knew them as Nana and Gimpa. (Yes, Me-Again, I know. If I said "Stewart and Eugenia," I should've said "Gimpa and Nana," putting both references to them in the same gender order. But we didn't call them "Gimpa and Nana;" we called them "Nana and Gimpa." Deal with it. Love you.)

Ahem.

They lived in this big ten room house at 1829 Belleville that they purchased in 1926. (Picture taken in 2007. Still looks good!)They raised my dad in it and still lived there by the time Me-Again and I came along. We loved to explore the attic (the two small paned and gabled windows at the top) and wander through Nana's pantry to see what goodies might be awaiting us if she hadn't just made a fresh batch of her famous custard. Oh, how I'd love to have some of that custard now!

Visiting Nana and Gimpa and PawDad (my dad's dad who lived with them in his later years) was especially fun at Christmastime. Everything sparkled and was so lovely... a fantasy land for a little girl. In Nana's huge dining room, there was a table in front of the tall window that held the most wonderful ice skating scene made with a mirror, rolls of white cotton and darling plastic "skating snowmen" whose knapsacks held real lollipops that good little girls were allowed to sample. It even had little green pine trees that stood in the snowy cotton to complete the outdoor scene.

Perhaps our favorite thing in the house was The Mantel. Its crowning glory was the nativity scene she placed in the center. Nana bought in 1908 for PawDad's first Christmas. Every year she put it up with care, and she even wrote out directions for placement of each figure in case someone else had to put everything up in her absence. They included such details as placing the camel with the broken nose facing a certain direction "as if he was wandering off" so the broken part didn't show so much. Dad still has those written instructions.

Eventually Nana gave Daddy that nativity and Santa's sleigh with white plastic reindeer that went on one end of the very long mantel. (The other end had a gorgeous white church with a rotating color wheel in front of it. We loved watching the colors change. I'm sure one of Dad's cousins has the church now.) The nativity has been displayed on the mantel at Mom and Dad's house all these years since, and this year, it is 100 years old. One hundred years old. A century has passed since these small figures where purchased by a loving mother for her firstborn. I didn't realize it until just recently, but that mantel manger scene was part of the faith legacy of my family that was being passed on to me, even before I was born.

Check out these pictures.
PawDad (my grandfather) is in the center, and Gimpa (my great-grandfather) is on the far right. The nativity is behind them.
Taken the same year, this picture cracks me up. So serious! I always remember Nana as jolly and happy and one who loved to laugh. Front row starting at left is my great aunt Ida Belle (PawDad's sister), my Nana who is holding Baby Gail (Ida Belle's daughter), and that cute little guy on the end is my dad at age ten. The back row left to right is my great uncle Stewart (PawDad and Ida Belle's brother), my PawDad, and my Gimpa. Again the nativity is behind them.

This picture was taken when my mom and dad had been married for just six months. Still newlyweds! Left to right, my Nana, Uncle Stewart, Uncle Buck (Ida Belle's husband), my PawDad, Aunt Ida Belle, my dad (seated on the arm of the chair), and my oh-so-serious mom. The little girl in front is one of my dad's cousins, but I'm not sure which one.

Here's the nativity as it looks at Mom and Dad's house in 2008. Dad put the reading lamp in front of it for photo lighting.




Here's Santa's sleigh with the reindeer. Never mind that the reindeer:
a) are of different species and sizes.
b) are 30 times larger than Santa himself.
c) have beady little red eyes.
Obviously Nana used her imagination in combining reindeer and Santa sleigh pieces she came across over the years. It makes me smile just to think about her and the many funny things like that she did over the years.

I'm glad this nativity came to reside with us. Nana died after we'd moved from Virginia to Texas. I was in my early teens. Gimpa and PawDad had both passed on by then, and I never went in that beautiful old house again. I hope the people who live in it now can somehow feel the warmth and love we always felt inside its walls.

Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas, you beautiful old nativity scene!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a lovely legacy that has been passed to you! I love items like that, what a blessing to have it passed down from generation to generation. Isn't it neat knowing one day it will pass down to you & Meegan.
Humm, does Meegan have a mantle? I know you do...I'm just saying!!
Oh how I love your sweet family.
You know how much I love the family heirlooms....I have tons of beautiful items passed down from Grandparents, Great Grandparents and Great Great Grandparents...The greatest thing they passed down was their Saviour Jesus Christ...I am so thankful that they proudly shared him with their, children and grandchildren and great grandchildren! Thank God for Godly families!
Ruby's Fairy Godmother

Anonymous said...

I'm grinning, remembering all the things YOU DID, plus some of my own, before you came along (like with my "newlywed bride.")

We have been blessed with loving parents and grandparents! And, how much fun it is to SHARE the things FROM THEM with each other and others!

We are still decorating!!!
Love ya,
Dad

Sheryl said...

Ok, what a great legacy to be passing down. I am amazed at the details memories you have - you are blessed indeed. It is a beautiful mantel scene, isn't it?

Then I come here to comment and see that your DAD has commented. I am in tears. How sweet is that!!

Thanks for being such a wonderful encourager to me. Merry Christmas, my friend.

Love to you,
~Sheryl

Suzanne said...

I always love reading your posts, but this one is especially beautiful. It brought a smile to my face and tears to my eyes.

What an amazing family you have! Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

The Fires said...

Thanks for sharing these wonderful Christmas memories and your precious family with us all. Your posts always bless my heart and inspire my spirit. You and Studly are so important to our family and we always pray for your continuing ministry. God bless you!

Anonymous said...

JEN; I ENJOYED THE MANTEL PICTURES, I REMEMBERED THAT CHRISTMAS SCENE EVEN THOUGH I HAD SEEN IT ONLY A FEW TIMES IN MY CHILDHOOD. I AM THE LITTLE BABY HELD BY GRANDMOTHER. AND THE LITTLE GIRL SITTING IN FOREGROUND IS MY SISTER JANICE LYLES GINSBERG. I WOULD LOVE TO HAVE A COPY OF THE 1953 PICTURE, AND THE ONE WITH YOUR MOM AND DAD IN IT, I HAVE THE OTHER ONE ,BEING HELD BY GRANDMOTHER. SO NICE TO HEAR FROM YOU, YOUR BLOG IS REALLY GREAT. THANKS FOR SHARING--------------
GAIL