"Wave Crest in so-called group of "Art Glass, American" glass biscuit jar with silver plate rim, handle and cover. The Cover is marked Knickerbocker Silver Co 1321. The glass is unmarked. It's a glass body, melon ribbed, soft apricot color with typical wavecrest decoration of pansies, violets and scrolls. Price $140-150 minimun, $200 maximum. April 17, 1982."
Margaret gave this biscuit jar to me in 1985. It had belonged to Margaret's grandmother, my great grandmother on my father's side of the family. Margaret was aging rapidly when she surveyed her own life accumulation of belongings and decided to distribute them as she saw fit, while she was still alive. Before she gave it to me though, she brought it to the local museum, Wisteriahurst, for Antique Treasures Appraisal Day. This was a service where local antique dealers would identify and price a single item for you free of charge. The antique dealer looked it over and the appraisal she received that day is quoted above.
We always knew Margaret as just Margaret, it was never Peg, Peggy or Maggie. As we grew older we learned that Margaret was a somehow a relative, though it was confusing to understand just how. As an adult, I know now that my great-grandmother had married three times. The father of Margaret and her three sisters was a product of my great grandmother's third marriage. My own grandmother had been a product of Great-Grandma's first marriage back in Scotland. So, Margaret's father and my own grandmother were half-siblings, confusing at best, to a kid. She was quite a bit older than my father and a number of years younger than my grandmother. Right in between really. Yet she somehow managed to be my grandma's best friend, remaining close to her until the day Grandma died.
Margaret was unmarried and had her own business as a hairdresser. I can remember being forced to get my hair cut at her place as a kid and being fascinated with the wallpaper which was dominated by pink poodles: dancing poodles, poodles with parasols, primping poodles in front of a mirror. The kids in the family never liked getting hair cuts from Margaret as we would usually end up departing with the same haircut and style of all the old ladies who had their hair maintained by her. Over the years, she had managed some financial independence and had been able to buy a house, which she painted pink. She lived with her mom, who we refered to as Auntie Nellie.
She also lived with a big black mongrel dog called Duffy. Every summer Margaret would hold a large birthday party for Duffy, inviting all her many neices, nephews, and their children. There would be games, songs, and even a birthday cake, but to this day I don't recall Duffy ever receiving a gift.
Margaret was a confirmed Scot (specifically) and Anglophile (in general) and I learned early on that all things from that country were wonderful. Margaret was big on tartans and had been a motivating force in my dad learning to play the bagpipes as a kid. She had, over the years, purchased an expensive set of china, place setting by place setting, each one depicting a different Scotsman in clan regalia. When our family would be invited to a more formal dinner at Margaret's house we would speculate about whether we would have our dinner served on the clan Stewart or Burns or MacGregor. We grew up in my family eating shortbread and always observed the tradition of First Footing on New Year's Day, along with the superstitions. Margaret talked about the "Old Country" as often as my Grandma or any of the others and could turn a fine bit of brogue as she recited Bobby Burns, and though it was her heart's desire to someday visit Scotland, she never did. She had been born in America and never left, she was always the daughter that was the family caretaker.
One day a few years ago my dad was putting together a family genealogy that I was formatting as a book to prepare to print. We were looking through family photographs and other memorabilia to include in this major effort that had begun with my mother and was now a tribute to her.
There, among the old photos was an 8.5" x 11" print of a radiant Margaret. Taken at a 3/4 angle, her hair swept back, a lovely smile and a blush (albeit colorized) on her cheeks. The photographer had posed her with her elbows on the table, torso leaning slightly forward hands to the side of her face. In the photo, on the third finger of her left hand, she sported a golden ring with a large diamond.
Suddenly I realized that she had once been engaged. It left me breathless to consider this, for in my childhood exposure to Margaret, she had always been a one-dimensional soul. I wondered who she had loved enough to consent to marry, who had given her the ring on her finger, curious if it might be someone I would have heard about as a kid. Obviously, she never had married, and I wonder why to this day. Who initiated the breakup? Was she scared of commitment the way people sometimes are today? Did they tire of each other? Was the engagement all too fast only to let time realize they were wrong for each other? Did one of them cheat on the other? Did he die in a war or an accident? Moreover, had she been mourning all these years? Had she been secretly pining for him, hence her choice to remain single? Most importantly, had she been happy all these years or was it all a façade?
To this day I think about this and still do not know, no one in the family who remains alive can remember. I look at the biscuit jar and stuffed inside is a rapidly yellowing paper from Antique Treasures Appraisal Day giving me all the data anyone would ever need about the biscuit jar. The photograph of Margaret is at the house of a relative, inside a photo album, and when I view it I imagine how nice it would be to have been able to carry the photograph to the museum. To be able to give the photograph to the Antique Appraiser and wait for a response. Were it true I imagine it be be like this:
"Engagement photograph, circa 1930. Attractive woman commemorating engagement, expressing happiness and hope. While this engagement never came to fruitation through marriage, she felt no regret and lived a happy and fulfilled life. Priceless."
But that is all a dream. No one will ever know, because a photograph cannot be assessed. My only hope is perhaps I think about all this and wonder far more than Margaret ever did.