Posted November 20, 2015 in MH Combermere ON:
Is Anything Here Real?

by Toni Austin.

One day this past summer, a little girl of 4 ½ with curly brown hair and hazel eyes walked into our pioneer museum. She looked all around at the artifacts of bygone days, soaking up everything. Then she asked: "Is anything here real?"

Though her family was with her, at that moment I knew that my tour had to be geared to her. I gave her three choices. She could listen to either the horse and cow and sheep bells; the party line telephone, which you crank; or the player piano, which you play without using your hands.

"The player piano!" the three children answered at once:

The older sister, age 14, curled her lip as only a teenage girl can and said, "It’s electronic."

I assured her that it was very much not electronic and that maybe she might be able to play it. Her brother, age 12, just looked on. He obviously wasn’t interested.

So we all went over to the player piano. I put in a roll, pumped with my feet, and the piano played. Then the 14-year-old did the pumping. Then her brother.

The 4-year-old tried, too, but she was too small. So I put her on my lap and pumped, and she was delighted. The 14-year-old played the best of all of us.

Then we went on to the other two options. I cranked the party line telephone and let them "listen in." Then I did a long crank to sound the alarm as people did in the old days if there was an accident or fire.

I showed them the antique typewriter and demonstrated how to use it, and I showed them the 100-year-old dolls, the green-handled egg beater, and the miniature iron stove which had been used as a display model for selling the real stoves.

When we came to the child’s bed, the 14-year-old looked longingly at the children’s cloth book on it, so I let her hold it. Peace seemed to enter her from her head to her toes. It was really something to see this.

Then I rang the cow bells which told the farmer where to find his lost cow, the sheep bells, and the horse bells.

Finally, in the laundry section, I handed the little one one of the lighter sad irons and a piece of fabric so she could pretend to iron.

Suddenly, the grandmother, who was younger than me, exclaimed, "I used one of those at my grandmother’s house in the country in Poland." Then her daughter said, "I used one of those wringer washers when I was first married."

By the end of the tour, it was as if angels had visited us. All of us had a new peace, a new vision, and a new sense of connectedness with the people who had gone before us.

When I told Beverly Maciag, my fellow staff worker, this story, she said it reminded her of her first evening meal at Madonna House, when she touched the flowers on the center of the table and saw that they were real.

Fr. Brière, the MH priest at her table, said to her, "Young woman, everything in Madonna House is real."


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