Artist: Unknown. (Possibly Anchor Hocking Milano Lido? Morgantown Glass Company? Seneca Glass Company?)
Title: Amber Crinkle Glass
Date: 1950s or 1960s
Provenance: Presumably purchased new by the grandfather of EAH some time mid-century. Gifted to EAH by her grandfather around 2002.
My grandfather, born the seventh of fourteen in a small town in Iowa in 1905, was one of my idols. I adored him, and since I lived with him for a few years as a teenager, I like to think we had a special bond. So when I was in college and he finally moved out of his own home at the tender age of ninety-six, I was eager to grab some of his possessions from the donation pile. Not out of greed but rather out of a desire to hang on to a little piece of him. His life story fascinated me, his presence cheered me, and I just wanted to be around him as much as possible.
So I was excited when my mom told me I could have these funny bumpy glasses that I remember using so often at his house. And I was young and needed glasses anyway. These glasses became a part of my new life in Long Island City and Brooklyn in the early 2000s. I dearly missed my grandfather living miles and miles away in the humid Illinois plains. Every time I used the glasses, it was like getting a little reminder of him. Of getting a little piece of him with me in New York.
My grandfather’s hands were enormous. His fingers were massive and strong. I still have a clear image of the side table that stood next to his swivel arm chair (which, along with the light-blue metal TV stand that he would play endless rounds of solitaire on, will always be vivid in my memory). On his side table he always had a lovely decorative letter opener, his TV remote, usually a letter or card from an old friend that he would reread a few times before storing away in a basket somewhere, a newspaper clipping of some sort or the crossword he had worked earlier in the morning (which he would time himself doing and mark the time at the top of the page, always seeking to best his previous times), and a cup of water to slake his thirst. I would so often sit on the adjacent sofa and have long conversations with him, eagerly lapping up the stories he told about his younger days—skinning the horse that was pulling his cart after it was hit by a train so that he could get money for its hide, when he was still just a child; killing rats by throwing his shoes at them in the meatpacking plant in St. Louis where he worked as a teenager; walking into the home of a customer to whom he was delivering something or other and finding her naked, attempting to seduce him (!); hanging by his arms under the trestle bridge as a kid while a train rumbled overhead; and, and, and.
His voice was joyful and booming. Indeed he was “Grandpa Boom-Boom” to one of my cousins. Between booming sentences, he’d sometimes pause and reach over for a sip of water. I remember seeing his strikingly large fingers grip one of the amber crinkle glasses that now lives in my house. Noting the incongruity between the delicate glass, its small cavities and nodes, and his large, forceful hands. I see those hands every time I use this glass.
There used to be more than one. Four maybe? I’m not sure how we got down to just one, but my husband and I have moved a lot. I do know that our cat Biko knocked one over (because, cats!) and broke it. I’m pretty sure I cried.
Not long after my mother died, many moons after I first inherited the glasses, a cousin sent me old family video footage of my mom when she was a child. There are snippets of her, brace-faced and skinny, laughing on Christmas with my grandfather who unabashedly adored her. One of the glasses showed up in this video. Or am I remembering a photograph? In any case, there it was. In situ. In its original time. Being used by happy people celebrating life. I’m so happy to be its steward.