Sunday, October 4, 2009

Baker’s Table



The sixty-some-odd albums on this old baker’s table contain most, but by no means all of our family photos. The oldest belonged to my father’s parents and his brother. Some of the largest and thickest are filled with scenes from my childhood, which, I have long felt, began many years before I was born. The rest catalog numerous domestic scenes, our various travels, and other milestones.

The drawers in the table itself contain, or used to contain — I think I might have moved them into the typewriter well of my mother’s desk, where I’m working now — the travel documents used by my grandfather and his mother when the surviving portion of his family left Turkey to come to the United States in 1906. These documents are quite large and colorful and look almost like maps.

The drawers also contain some old newspapers and clippings that I haven’t had time yet to study. One thing the curved bin doesn’t contain is flour: there is no way the table could withstand a session with a rolling pin.

Where did the table come from? The house of my grandfather’s cousin in Fresno. Her father, Tateos, ran a restaurant in town in the early part of the twentieth century — a gathering place for recent arrivals and lonely misfits trying to make their way in the New World. I still drink coffee from a flowery demitasse once used there.

[click to enlarge]


Updates:
“Baker’s Table” added to Penny Thoughts and Photographs.

In the Forum: edgy, gritty, and no-holds-barred.

8 comments:

Rachel said...

...ein Fundus an Erinnnerungen, William, das ist ein Schatz!

dir noch einen feinen Sonntagabend...


herzlich, Rachel

Leks said...

What a treasure!
I imagine those large travel documents like old maps,full of life's drawings on them.A good dat to you,:O) Aleksandra

...Gray... said...

How lucky you are to have such treasures from your family history.

William Michaelian said...

Gray, Aleksandra, and Rachel, my thanks to each of you. These albums are treasures indeed, and they are what I imagine myself grabbing first in the event of a disaster, even before my books, which I also value dearly, if not beyond reason. The family members, of course, will have to fend for themselves — after they’ve grabbed their share of the load. And then out to the street we’ll go, to watch the conflagration....

vazambam said...

So much family history concentrated in so little space--I wonder how many other families have been so fortunate to have such a caring curator.

William Michaelian said...

Vassilis, for as long as I can remember, my mother was the guardian of the objects — and, more importantly, the history and stories they represent — that you see in these photos. Many of them she saved from certain ruin. Now that she is no longer able to look after them, that responsibility has come to me — as she had always assumed it would. References to them are scattered throughout my writing, and will go on being added, probably, for as long as I’m able to put my thoughts into words.

Elisabeth said...

So you are the family story teller, William. I salute you. I read somewhere that children are the archivists of family memories and that in each family there tends to be at least one story teller who is given the task of carrying the memory. It is such a vital role and your beautiful baker's table exemplifies it all.

William Michaelian said...

Thanks, Elisabeth. A memory is such a fluid thing, co-existing as it does in many minds. When you witness how even members of the same immediate family remember things differently, or parts of scenes and events and not others, and some not at all, not to mention how their recollection can change over the years, it’s no wonder history in the larger human family is the convoluted thing it is. Of course at the same time, there is our collective memory — our relationship with fire, for instance, which lives somewhere deep in our wiring.

At the same time, as I write about my life and the lives of those I have known who were close to me, I am conscious of my own tendency to embellish, to put it mildly, which is definitely a family trait of ours. While the heart and lesson of our memories are sacrosanct, part of our responsibility is to entertain. Perhaps if the older members of my family had not been great humorists and entertainers, I would not have been bitten by the writing bug at all. That’s just conjecture, of course. I can no more dissect my life than I can remember key events with complete honesty and accuracy, and without bias.

Thanks again. I appreciate your visits.