Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Urn of Infamy



Among the assortment of part-time jobs I had as my children were growing up was the position of ward secretary on the neurological floor of the local hospital. 
I worked in the evening two times a week, which meant that I would arrive for my 3 pm – 11 pm shift and would sit with the weekend day secretary, Carol, to see what was in progress. She would fill me in on which patient had been sent to radiology, the blood tests that needed to be scheduled, any doctor's orders that still needed to be transcribed into a patient's records, or any of the endless tasks that made the job interesting.
          Like me, Carol was part-time, and she was also much friendlier - and much kinder - than the territorial and grumpy full-time day secretary who worked during the week. As time went by, we would chat briefly about our outside lives and became friends as people often do at work.
          My husband's sister, two years younger than I, was dating a local engineer and, we eventually realized, he was Carol's brother. Carol and I agreed that this was a fun twist of fate. As it turned out, this wasn’t the only coincidence.
          One day when I reported to work, Carol met me at the nurse's station with a large shopping bag, from which she pulled a large, blackened silver samovar. It seemed that her aunt had been a housekeeper to an elderly woman in the area who had recently died.  It fell to the aunt to sort through the woman's possessions and ready them for auction or disposal.  When she had pulled this urn from high up on an upper shelf in the pantry, where it must have sat for years, she became curious about it and cleaned a patch on the front. There appeared to be some engraved words. Several days later, she happened to tell Carol about her discovery and what her cleaning had revealed.
          Carol recognized the last name and told her aunt that she knew someone who probably had a claim to this find. The urn bore my husband's full name, but the date inscribed in the silver was 1913. I took it home that night and the next morning spent quite a bit of time removing the years and years of tarnish, exhausting my entire container of silver polish.
          When it was restored to legibility, we saw that it had been presented to the “Chairman of the Local Committee by the Delegates to the Springfield Convention of the National Association of Steam Engineers.” It had been given to my husband's great-grandfather, who was the first to bear the name that later would be seen in one version or another through several generations of the family.
After a little family detective work, we discovered that the urn was only part of a massive silver set, which had also included a silver coffee pot, tea pot, sugar bowl, creamer, and a silver tray large enough to use as a toboggan.  The other pieces were well-known in the family, but no one had been aware of the existence of the tall coffee urn.
          Several weeks later, my husband's grandparents arrived, joining the family gathered at our house for Thanksgiving. We proudly walked them into the dining room, certain that they would be as delighted as we were by this find. His grandfather stiffened at the sight of it and left the room. Later my husband questioned his dad and learned that while Grandfather may not have known about the urn itself, he did know about its previous owner, a forbidden subject in the family when he was growing up.
As it turned out, the woman who had died had received the gift because those many years ago she had been Great-Grandfather’s mistress.

15 comments:

  1. Oops! Hope you kept the urn despite its history. It is a beautiful piece.

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  2. Yep. Grandfather is no longer with us, so now it sits front and center in the living room!

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  3. Hi Marty, thanks for the follow to my blog and look forward to getting to know you and your blog. Have a nice Sunday. Julie at julieslifestyle.blogspot.com

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    1. Hi Julie. Let me return the thanks! I'm looking forward to your next post.

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  4. Hi Marty, what a fascinating story. I really enjoyed it and enjoyed visiting your blog. Thank you for stopping by mine and becoming a follower. I have done the same here and look forward to coming back often.

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    1. Hi Denise -
      It's great to hear from a fellow Virginian, even a transplant! Thanks for visiting.

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  5. Hey Marty, I enjoyed this post! The urn is beautiful. Thank you for following my blog. I am looking forward to reading much more of yours!

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  6. Hello Marty. What an interesting story, interesting and uncanny the way it was found. The urn is a real treasure and I'm so glad it is now in your possession. Thanks you so much for following my blog, I hope future posts will entertain you.

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    1. Yes, if I'd invented the story, someone would probably say that it was too coincidental to be believable. So glad you stopped by, Valerie!

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  7. Your blog is great! What an unusual story. The urn is beautiful! Thank you for looking at my blog! You have lots I look forward to reading.

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    1. And thanks for joining my friends list!

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  8. Ooops.

    You never know what’s hidden in the family undergrowth!

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    1. We were kind of impressed to have someone that racy in the family!

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  9. That is an amazing story!!! And yes, racy. :)

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