Friday, November 4, 2022

Light the Lamps

One of the odd things about time passing is that you end up with a lot of … things. Things that once belonged to other places and other people and that’s where your memories still keep them, but those places and people aren’t there anymore and now those things are yours.

In my grandparents’ dining room there was a lamp.

It was a mid-century modern tension pole lamp that they probably bought new when they moved out of the city and into the suburbs in the early 1960s It’s about nine feet high if you don’t have it squashed between the floor and the ceiling – it can keep tension comfortably in a standard eight-foot-high room – and it’s mostly made of hollow brass tubing, though the middle section is painted to look like wood and the little fins that stick out are in fact actual wood. It has two avocado-green glass globes and there are brass diffusers that clip onto the light bulbs inside. You can turn on either or both of the bulbs.

You can see it here in the background of these photos, Christmas Eves from the 1970s.

In this one there are a bunch of us – I’m the kid in the bright red shirt on the left. I’m sandwiched between my cousins, and my brother is across from me. On my side of the table, closer to the camera, are my great-aunts, and on the other side are my parents and my dad’s mother. We’re just sitting down to the “spaghetti and clam sauce” part of the Seven Kinds of Fish dinner that was a permanent fixture of Christmas Eve when I was growing up. My grandfather would have put the leaves in the table for the big family gathering and then turned the table diagonally so it would still fit into the dining room, which left the far end right under the lamp.

In this one you can see it in the background behind my grandparents. It’s a different Christmas Eve, maybe a year or two off from the last picture, but the people haven’t changed. Dinner’s over now, and it’s gift time.

We sold the house when my grandparents passed away in 2000, and I was the only one who wanted the lamp so my dad took it apart – the pole separates into four pieces of vastly differing sizes – and packed it into a box for me. I brought it back to Wisconsin where it sat on a shelf in my basement for more than two decades.

During the COVID lockdowns back in 2020 Oliver and Lauren cleared off a corner of the basement and converted it into a Gamer Lair. They put down those interlocking foam tiles to make the floor look good and feel warmer in the winter and they painted the concrete walls a nice shade of blue. We moved a television down there and hooked it up to the PS4 that my mother had given us as a group present for Christmas, and we set up a futon across from it. It’s gotten a lot of use as a hangout space since then, which is nice.

A couple of months ago I dragged out the old pole lamp and set it up in a random spot in the basement to see if it still worked, and rather to my surprise it did. And then it just sort of stood there, awkwardly, until we figured out where it should go. Last week I set it up in the Gamer Lair but this time the lower lamp wouldn’t work and I am not really qualified to figure out why. A friend of mine on the maintenance staff at work said he’d take a look at it, though, and yesterday he said it was ready to go.

I took it home today and set it up in the Gamer Lair and it looks lovely there.

It is strange in a way to see this old lamp so far from my grandparents’ dining room where I remember it, but I like that it is still here, still part of the family story.


LucyInDisguise said...

Thank you for this! This is so cool on so many different levels.

Artifacts from the past found in places they don't belong.[In.]

Our home contains many such (as yet uncounted) precious objects. I have a 6-foot floor lamp of similar acquisitional circumstance standing a mere two and a half feet from where I'm sitting as I write this that is waiting (patiently) to be re-wired so that my lovely wife can finish restoring it to all of its 1940s glory.

I should probably do the right thing and write down some of the history relating to such objects so that when the time comes our daughters understand the significance of some of this (what they will probably think of as) 'junk'.

And so it will be: I shall place that task upon my list of Things I'll Probably Never Get Around to Doing.

(It is a rather lengthy list.)

Yes, It Is.


David said...

Definitely rewire it! It's just so cool to see these old things getting use again, especially when they come with stories.

And if you can at all put aside time to write those stories down you should. When I ran the local historical society I can't tell you how many things got donated to us because Great Grandma passed away and nobody had any idea who those people were in the pictures or what house that formerly precious thing had come out of. It was just stuff without stories, and stuff without stories doesn't mean anything.

I'm trying to do more of this, myself. I came into a lot of stuff when my parents passed away and I'm one of the few who remember the stories anymore. Unless I tell them, they'll be lost. I don't know if my kids will want to keep any of it even if they do know the stories, but at least I can give them that much.

But it is a rather lengthy list, as you say. Sigh.

Send a picture of the lamp!

LucyInDisguise said...

Pic sent. Check your inbox ...


David said...

I'm having trouble with getting my email right now, but I'm working on it! I'll let you know. Thanks!

David said...

Got it!

LucyInDisguise said...

“Does it give much light with those white glass pieces?”

Enough light to brighten up a 15’ x 24’ living room! It is indirect lighting, the top of each light is open to the ceiling, the bottom is open to the floor, and anything within a 3’ radius. The switch is three-way - you can select one light, the other, both, or off. (Maybe I should call that four-way to avoid confusion - although ‘off’ is not normally counted in such things.) The white glass acorn-looking things hanging down under the light fixtures do not have lights in them - decorative glass only, as was the headpiece.