The month of March is full of not only wild weather but happenings like Scarlett’s birthday, the annual Daylight Savings time change, Girl Scout Day, the Ides of March, Fat Tuesday (this year in 2022), St. Patrick’s Day along with National Irish American Heritage month are just a few to single out. With Fat Tuesday landing in March of this year, Scarlett decided to make Gumbo for dinner on her birthday. It would be the perfect meal on a rainy cool nite and she could bring out the unique porcelain china that her mom had bought when Scarlett was 15. It was a complete set for serving a gumbo or etouffee meal and the china was from New Orleans. It had 6 deep bowls, a medium sized compote with lid to hold rice and a larger compote with lid to hold the gumbo or any other “Nawlin’s” type dish served over rice.
While growing up, Scarlett’s mother owned a fashionable antique shop in Atlanta, GA.named FiFi’s Antiques with a reputation for fine furnishings and accessories for the distinguished southern buyer. At 15, Scarlett had gone to work for her after school to dust, sweep, take the garbage out and maintain the restrooms to earn money to buy a car. One afternoon, Scarlett was behind the register getting the key to the vending machine for a Coke when a young woman, well dressed and in her mid twenties ventured in while FiFi was with a customer. The woman asked her if the shop owner bought items. Thrilled to be acknowledged for something other than a clean restroom, she answered with a professional “Yes quite often. Let me get the owner for you.” She then proceeded to see if her mother could help this young lady. FiFi stepped away from her client to see what the young woman had in mind. As it turned out, she had three huge boxes of items she wanted to rid herself of. Seems that the girl had gotten married in New Orleans to the son of a wealthy family there…and I mean wealthy. She confided that the marriage had only lasted a few months when she found out he enjoyed an alternative lifestyle. She divorced him and walked away with these wedding gifts but only if she promised not to cause a scandal for the family in Louisiana. Moving back home to Atlanta, she brought three big boxes full of Waterford crystal vases, exquisite glassware and bowls, new and old sterling silver items that ranged from trays to unique serving pieces and candelabras, high quality housewares and the compete set of the china mentioned earlier which was from the early 1800’s. It was maker’s marked porcelain with a transfer pattern as its decoration. Scarlett helped to bring all of the boxes in as FiFi made an offer on it all and the young woman accepted. Near closing time, the two loaded up the boxes to take home and investigate what all had been purchased.
Arriving home, Scarlett brought the boxes in and they shared the adventure with her dad as the three of them unwrapped one item after another. It was a magnificent buy. There would be lots of money to be made on this find. When the complete set of china came out they were in for another treat. Two of the pieces had been repaired on the back side with iron clips similar to staples. Scarlett had never seen anything like that, but her mother rejoiced because this helped date the pieces. Repairs like this were rare to find due to the fact they usually were holding cracked items together so the crack would not open and ruin the piece. Items repaired like this had to be carefully cared for. Scarlett immediately told her mother “When you no longer want them please pass them to me instead of the three other kids.” FiFi agreed and when she came to live with Scarlett many years later, she brought the china with her to pass it on as she had promised.
Many of the items in the boxes were stored in the attic at her mother’s home and were given as wedding presents, birthday gifts, etc for years to come. She and Scarlett never bought anything before going up in that attic to see what was left out of that great buy.
This day, the china would hold her gumbo in honor of her birthday, then it would be hand washed and dried and put back in the Victorian mahogany cupboard with the hand-blown glass doors that stood in her dining room to await another special occasion. It had turned out that FiFi’s decision to set these and other pieces aside for Scarlett had been a good one. She was the only one out of the four children that appreciated old things and went on to sell antiques herself. Speaking up for what she wanted and showing an appreciation for tradition and respecting history had made her mother aware that she was eager to learn and follow in her footsteps. She often said ” You have a good eye and I have taught you well. Now use that knowledge to make something of yourself”
Scarlett has carried on her mother’s legacy by instilling that same message to her step son Paul. His apartment is full of Mid Century modern soft goods but antique maps, decanters and hand crafted early wood furniture. He shares in her love for old things, including her as she turns 69 on this birthday.