Sunday, November 04, 2007

To grandmother's house we go

Sean and I drove up to Santa Barbara to visit his grandmother yesterday. Grandma has led an interesting life. She was born in Germany in 1917 and lived there until her family escaped East Germany and came to the U.S. in the late 1950s. When she was in her 60s she opened a toy store that sold all sorts of unusual things from Europe, like painted wooden toys and the full line of Steiff stuffed animals. She was married to her husband Rolf (whom Sean and the other grandkids called "Opi") for over 50 years until he died just a few years ago. Opi was a merchant marine for many years and collected things from all over the world. Their house is filled with a wide array of items that I find fascinating.

This is Linda, a Steiff giraffe who stands about 5 feet tall. She lives in Opi's old room.

This is a collection of German smokermen. You light incense cones and put them in the smokermen's bases, and smoke comes out of their mouths. About as un-PC a product as you can imagine, but they're all handmade and handpainted, and I think they're sweet.

This is a handpainted canteen hanging on a wall.

This is a marionette hanging in the hallway. Grandma calls it the birdman because he's holding a little birdcage in his right hand and has feathers all over him. You have to pass him to get to the bathroom, and Sean's 7-year-old nephew is scared of him and is always asking Grandma to take him down.

He is a little frightening.

Here's an odd grouping on Grandma's hearth. There's a smaller version of Linda, a fawn, and a creepy clown, all made by Steiff. I can't remember what that grey animal is on the floor. And then there's a handcarved and very detailed fisherman statue from one of Opi's Asian voyages.

A handmade chess set on top of a handmade fold-out liquor cabinet. Grandma's house is filled with handmade furniture from Asia, much of it intricately carved.

I never noticed this collection until yesterday. It's a whole line of carved, painted wooden sailors lined up in an upstairs window, looking out onto the driveway. That white, fluffy thing on the left is a piece of coral.

This is Opi. He was about 18 when this photo was taken.

This charming thermometer is hanging downstairs in the laundry room. It's only four or five inches across -- the details are astonishing.

Another odd grouping. All of Sean's mom's side of the family is really interested in Eastern religions, and Grandma has many Buddhas around her house. The fellow seated on the left looks rather sinister in this photo, but he's a Buddha, too. I guess the CD player doesn't seem so out of place when you learn that Grandma listens to her Alan Watts CDs on it.

And then there are some things that are just inexplicable.
A blog I must recommend: Anonymous Coworker

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