Brimley, Michigan: Right Town, Wrong Century

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by Sharon M. Kennedy

I love doilies. Even the spelling of the word looks ridiculous, but that doesn’t change how I feel about the lacy little darlings I have scattered around my home. When I was young I used to tell Mom I was born in the wrong century or at least 50 years too late. I couldn’t get in step with the kids around me. I couldn’t find humor in silly jokes or nonsense prattle.

My peers thought I was stuck up, but I wasn’t. From the time I learned to read, I devoured books considered classics, things nobody my age would ever read. True, I liked “Archie” comic books, but my thinking was different from most girls in my class. I excelled in home economics. I wanted to learn how to set a table properly, how to iron intricate collars, and what to use to make silver flatware sparkle. I was a teenager and these were my main concerns.

I’m not sure when I fell in love with doilies. There was always a pretty cloth with crocheted edges covering our side tables and nightstands. They weren’t doilies, but they were fancy. Mom said they helped keep the dust down. If the edges were merely hemmed with no crocheting, colorful embroidered flowers and birds adorned the cloths. I still have some small ones I keep in my bookcases.

Around the time my daughter was born, my doily obsession went into high gear. I rummaged through the house of my childhood and found lots of hand-crocheted tablecloths, most in pristine condition due to their lack of use. In the old days, people always saved their good stuff for special occasions. But when Christmas or Easter rolled around, there was usually too much going on and the “good stuff” was either forgotten or replaced by a festive cloth.

At one time there was a store on Ashmun Street in Sault Ste. Marie where senior citizens sold their handmade goods. It was a wonderful store full of unique and useful items. Some things were silly like outdoor chimes made from strips of beer cans. That didn’t appeal to me, but most of the other stuff was tempting. Knitted and crocheted afghans, mittens and hats, frilly cotton aprons, and doilies in all shapes, sizes, and colors made me a regular customer.

More doilies, more lace!

I have no doubt my doily collection quickly grew as a result of that store. Like many other shoppers, I was disappointed when it closed. One day while browsing the aisles of K-Mart, I spied a heap of cheap mass-produced doilies. Although their quality was poor compared to the workmanship of seniors, I was smitten. Once again, my end tables, bookcases, nightstands, armchairs, and every surface other than the stove was covered with a white, beige, or colored doily.

The first time my second ex-husband visited, he said it was like stepping into his grandmother’s house. I was thrilled. That was the highest compliment he had ever given me. I had achieved what I was after. I had turned my home into a replica of one from the early 1900s. I had rescued furniture from garage sales and my couch and easy chairs were reupholstered in floral prints. Oak side tables taken from our old house were stripped of their dark varnish until the beautiful grain was clearly visible. My walls were covered with pictures I had known all my life. I puffed up like a peacock.

That is until Rick laughed. I don’t often speak of my daughter’s father. He was like a shadow. Here one minute, gone the next. He was raised in the city and had never lived on a farm or been around country people. Our respect for the classics brought us together when we taught English at a business school in Detroit. He was intelligent, witty, and clever, but if there was one thing he didn’t appreciate it was a doily. When he walked into the home I had decorated with loving care and attention to every detail, he laughed. I didn’t say a word, but the next time he came around I made sure I had doilies underneath everything, even his coffee cup.

But doilies aren’t my only obsession. I love lace curtains. Every room except my kitchen has store-bought lace curtains at the windows. I even took the doors off my bedroom closet and replaced them with you know what. I can’t help it. I’m trapped in the wrong century. There’s no antidote for my malady. There’s no use trying to fight what comes as naturally to me as flies to honey.

I live in what I refer to as a “tin can.” It’s an old mobile home. It looks okay from the outside, but it looks spectacular inside. No kidding. I’ve transformed this space into a doily and lace sanctuary. When the morning or evening sun shines through my windows it’s like paradise. There’s a feeling of peace and security in my rooms. My dimestore doilies and faux lace curtains are only replicas of a bygone past, but they make me happy. That must count for something.

     Doilies, tablecloth, & lace curtains





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