Sunday, July 25, 2010

Brown Swiss and Vintage Linen

I went to the Saratoga County Fair yesterday, largely because my Handsome Husband was volunteering at the Rotary booth there. It's been many years since I've gone to a fair without small children or antsy teens, anxious to be off to the rides and games. I enjoyed a leisurely pace, chatting with farming youngsters about their Brown Swiss ("They're the best kind!") and admiring the good-looking and iconic Holsteins, below.

My mother came from central New York State dairy farming folk and when I was a child, we occasionally visited her cousins who still farmed near West Winfield. I always envied their children, but I note, none of them farm any more. It's a hard, economically uncertain way of life. Still, the youngsters caring for these cattle were slim, fit, tanned, friendly, happier- and healthier-looking specimens than the average teen one sees these days.

On the way home from the fair, I stopped briefly at a garage sale which had been well picked over. I spied this box and opened it...

and inside was an old linen tea towel and two cut work pillow cases.

How much? I asked.

There was a long pause. Will you use them, the owner asked, I mean really use them?

Sure, I said.

Then she explained. These had been part of her wedding trousseau, carefully assembled by her grandmother many years ago. And the owner had never used them.

They always seemed too good to use, she said, so I never did.

So if I promised to use them, she said I could have them for a dollar.

I brought them home and got out my copy of Antiques at Home to see what author Barbara Milo Ohrbach had to say about...

cleaning vintage linen. Gently, is her basic advice. So I am off to buy some Ivory detergent.

If I can make these pillow cases look clean and white again, then they will go on the guest room bed. If they don't come out so well, I will use them myself. After all, I did promise to use them.

Thank you, unknown Buffalo, NY, grandmother. It took a few decades, but your carefully chosen wedding linens are finally going to make it out of their box.