Goodbye Beulah

Goodbye Beulah

This is Beulah. I named her for my Aunt Beulah. She had a farm house full of antiques in southern Illinois back in the 1970’s when I was a little girl.

Beulah did not come from Illinois however. I mean, my aunt did, but this dry sink is from somewhere else. 

This Beulah was born sometime in the 1800’s. And she only came to be a part of my family in 1953. When we lived in Larchmont, New York. Seven years before I joined the family.

My parents found Beulah and adopted her on one of their many trips to New England where they would go antiquing. Among the other finds were a spinning wheel, a black adult sized potty chair with a white pot to piss in, a Windsor style church pew for two, and a cobbler bench, which, yes, was used by a cobbler. To make shoes. 

But this is about Beulah. She has quite a history in my history. I moved in in 1960. Beulah had established herself quite nicely by the time I formulated my first memories of her. This was between the years of 1965 and 1969.  When I was age 5 to 9.

Beulah had built a home on two acres in Connecticut and taken the other furniture, my parents, my brother and my sister and me with her from Larchmont to enjoy country living. Beulah is a rustic gal. No frilly turns of wood or doilies for her. She is just simple folk.  Knotty and cracked. Sturdy and simple.

Her spot in the Connecticut house was in the living room. A room with large paneless picture windows at either end. And a traditional fireplace in the middle opposite the sofa.  Each window with bookending views of the Connecticut countryside. Heavy woods filled with white Birch trees. Next to her was a lime green nubby satin sofa as I recall. 

(Recent photo of Connecticut living room.)

I spent a lot of time in that room. I would perform Beatles songs for the Monkees who were my invisible guests on the couch. And I did the same for the Beatles as they sat while I sang “Last Train To Clarksville” to them. They all enjoyed it. And Beulah most of all.

Beulah loved music. She was never home to the dry sink pitcher and basin of her friends and relatives to my recall. No, Beulah had a big job. She was the stand for a beautiful Tannhauser music box. The kind with metal records that had holes in them so that when they revolved, tines in the bottom would play music by hitting those holes. Kind of like those jewelry boxes with ballerinas. Only way bigger. And quite beautiful.  The dark wood top, when closed, with the name Tannhauser carved in fancy cursive. Then opened, it held a beautiful painting of pussy willows and butterflies. (Something like that. I have slept since then.) 

(Our music box looked much like this.)

The records were 18”. And each one had hand painted art. In color. We even had “The Wedding March” among the collection of metal discs. The holes were like those on the rolls of a player piano. Another member of our family at a time. The music box was my personal favorite.

I remember I made up ballet dances to the music. Apparently, the living room was my performance hall. And at that age, I thought Beulah and the Tannhauser music box were all one piece. So Beulah was magic to me. 

She was quite tall too. I guess she shrunk with age as people do. But at one time, she towered over my head.

To turn on the music box was no simple feat. Sometimes it had to be wound up. And to place a record on it required lifting an arm much like that of a record player. Only in this case, the arm would come down to lock the disc in place. Then the gears, which were right at the edge of the record would turn and the gear holes perforating the record’s edge would oblige to move and music was made. 

We had words once too, Beulah and I. As I reached up blindly to turn on the “go” lever for the music box, I had a dance to do, but my little fingers got caught in the gear and the music that came out was much louder and not the pleasant kind. I remember it like it was yesterday.  But it wasn’t yesterday. It was over 50 years ago. 

Much like Beulah over the years, our family shrank while living in Connecticut. My father passed away, leaving me and my mother and older brother and sister. And shortly after that, it was just me and my mom and Beulah as my siblings entered college and left the nest. 

Beulah took us to Southern Illinois. Taylorville to be specific. My mom’s old home town. And we were just a few miles from my Aunt Beulah while there. Beulah the dry sink then moved us to Springfield, IL and ultimately settled in Tulsa, OK, where she has continued to be family since 1972. 

She and I lived with my mom for a few years. Then, with my mother as I had become an adult and went off into the world for a time. 

I eventually returned to Tulsa and nine years ago, when my mother passed away, Beulah decided to move in with me.

I have always loved her. She has held many things inside and on top. At one point, her innards were a liquor cabinet and cat house. You heard me. I once opened the door to see three rows of alcohol-Gin, Vodka, Kahlua and there in the back, Peanut. No, I did not leave the “s” off. It was Peanut. My orange male tabby. Apparently, he had a night life. 

I pretended not to see him, although I looked right into his eyes as I snapped a photo that has since been lost. But we never spoke of that night again.

Once Beulah and I moved in together, she held the family Wedgwood China inside. You know, the fancy stuff that never gets used. But Beulah never once complained. About anything.

Her last two locations were with my art studio space. At one point she held over 100 miniature mermaids on her open shelf on top. I think I saw her smiling once at this, too.

And now, she is going to live with a new family. She has chosen people named Lisa and her husband Gary, their grandson Tristan and furniture friends the likes of an old secretary which has the previous owner’s name on the backside, a grandfather clock that joined the family when Gary gifted Lisa for their 10th wedding anniversary, and a huge curio cabinet that is full of nothing but Scottie dogs and Bull Terrier collections. The room is adorned with a shiplap wall that hosts an antique fireplace that Gary put in. Leslie calls it “Farmhouse Shabby Chic.” There are pigs in the kitchen too, a collection of course. The real things would make the shabby not so chic.

Beulah looks forward to the animal menagerie too. She has known over a dozen dogs, a couple of cats and a bearded dragon in her lifetime, so the four dogs, manx cat and cockatiel will be a welcome gathering of friends.

Most noteworthy in her new Kansas digs will be the antique framed obituaries that belong to their daughter Loree from the 1800’s to the early 1900’s that line the stairwell to the basement. Good thing there’s a basement, too, so Beulah can take shelter in tornado season. It is Kansas, after all.

I have to say goodbye to Beulah. As I downsize myself, making a move to Florida from Oklahoma.  It is time. And I feel wistful now as I write it here. I will miss her. 

Goodbye Beulah. Thank you for the love you brought into my life. Enjoy all of your new friends and families as you go forward. You are one sturdy girl. 

And I love you.


P.S. When I shared this with Lisa, she said it brought tears to her eyes, telling me that she had a Great Aunt Beulah. Indeed.