We recently had new carpet installed in our house. Every lamp, book, basket, magazine, decorative pillow, and table-top treasure had to be moved to different rooms as the carpet unrolled. A workman found me in one of the bedrooms and said, “I’m so sorry. I broke your lamp.” Then he trailed off: ”I’ll have to see where I can replace….”
Replace this 50-year-old milk glass table lamp? If he only knew its story! Fortunately, I am more mature—and less stressed—today than the first time that lamp was broken. I told him, “Things happen.” I wish I had said that when my three children—all under the age of five—broke the white glass bowl the first time. I don’t even remember who broke it—or how it happened. I do remember that in a flurry of anger, I sent all three to bed. I was devastated over a lamp!
Money was scarce in those early days of raising my family. The only luxuries or “nice things” I could afford for our home were purchased with books of S&H Green Stamps. I had saved and saved for that lamp and its matching mate. Each came with three pieces of wax fruit. I thought they were beautiful, and quite the addition to tables at the ends of the couch in the living room of our small house. I do recall that it was winter, and early evening. After I sent the children to bed and swept up the pieces of the milk glass bowl, I took the lamp and dropped it like a broken dream outside in the trash can.
Unbeknownst to me, my husband—the father of my children—had phoned one of my friends and colleagues. Within fifteen minutes, she marched in from the cold, bearing the nude lamp she had retrieved from the trash. She put it back on the table and proceeded to tell me that all was not lost. The lamp, minus its white fruit bowl, could still function. Eventually, she had me laughing.
At that time, another dear friend lived in Dallas, Texas. In exchanges of letters (we had no e-mail, cell phones, nor Facebook), I told her about the stripped lamp. With an uncanny memory for colors and designs, she went to stores in the Dallas area and found an identical white milk glass bowl with broad leaves overlapping in the pattern. I could not believe it! The next trip she made to Heber Springs, she brought me, not one, but two replacement bowls. I took one of the bowls to a local handyman’s garage and asked him to drill a hole in the bottom. We put the new bowl back on the lamp, and it was as good a new.
Over the years, other bowls on the lamps were broken. By that time, I had started looking for those identical bowls at flea markets and collectible stores. I do not remember how many lives the lamps—or at least, the bowls on the lamps—have had. Through the past decades, I have arranged different things in the bowls, ranging from clusters of grapes to silk flowers. Most recently, I filled the lamp bowls with moss and eucalyptus, sometimes red and sometimes green. The lamps are old and out of fashion. But they are part of my life, part of my décor, and more than that; the lamps tell a story, a history of me and my family and friends.
Fortunately, when the lamp was broken recently, I looked in my hutch and one last white milk glass bowl sat there waiting. I took it to the local glass shop and the owner warned me that the bowl might crack when he drilled into it. I knew that. I accepted the risk. But it did not crack. Now, I have two treasured matching milk glass lamps back in my home. One sits on an end table beside my favorite chair; the other on a round table between a couch and love seat on the sun porch. Each has an arrangement of pungent-smelling eucalyptus. Now, I must start scouting garage sales and antique stores for more replacement bowls—just in case.