Hamilton, Ontario


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A Very Expensive Chandelier

By Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Emily Jane Hills Orford chandelier “Where’s your mother?” Dad asked when he walked in the door after work. My sister and I were busy in the kitchen making supper, which wasn’t all that unusual as Mom insisted on allowing us independence in the kitchen so we could learn how to cook and bake. Usually, however, Mom was there with us. Just in case. Not this time.

“She’s in the dining room, Dad,” I volunteered. “She has the dining room chandelier down and in pieces,” my sister added. “Why? What happened?” We both shrugged our shoulders in response. Dad hung his coat in the closet and made his way to the dining room. As I stirred the stew and my sister prepared the dumplings, we worked quietly, hoping to hear the exchange between our parents.

“What happened?” Dad greeted Mom. “I hate this ugly, black thing,” was Mom’s response. The chandelier was black and ugly. It was black in the dark and even blacker when the lights were lit. There was nothing that could improve its appearance. No one in the family liked it. There were two: one in the dining room and one in the front hall. We all agreed upon moving into this old Victorian mansion the previous winter that the chandeliers had to go. And soon.

“Did it fall?” “No. I took it down and took it apart. You can put it back together once I’ve cleaned it.” We both smiled as we heard Dad’s distinctive groan. “Why? I thought you were going to get rid of it and replace it with something more fitting for the dining room. What about the one in the front hall?” “I haven’t touched the hall chandelier yet. That comes next.” “But why?” Dad asked again. “I was walking downtown and passed a lighting store. They had the exact same chandelier hanging on display in their front window. Do you know how much they were selling it for?” Dad didn’t answer. Mom didn’t wait for an answer. “900 dollars. Do the math. Times two, that’s 1800 dollars. And for something I was about to throw in the trash.” “So, you decided to come home, take it apart and clean it.” “Yes. And already I can see the difference a little elbow grease and brass cleaner can do. See how those pieces shine like gold?” “And in the meantime, I suppose we’ll be eating in the kitchen.” “Of course. I need the space. What better place to work on something so valuable than on the dining room table?” “Of course,” Dad mimicked in a grumble as his footsteps stomped towards the stairs and then upstairs to change for dinner.

The chandelier in the dining room was finally put back together, all shiny like new. It really did glisten when it hung over the dining room table. Mom never did get around to dismantling the front hall chandelier. It remained black till the day Mom and Dad sold the house forty years later.

keep reading Perhaps $900 doesn’t seem like much for a large chandelier in the twenty-first century, but, in 1968, it was a lot of money. The two chandeliers continue to grace the dining room and the front hall of the grand old mansion, the one in the dining room shiny and glistening from a good polish. I wonder what it would sell for today.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford has published several books, creative nonfiction stories mostly about her family. Growing up in Toronto, then Hamilton and finally London, Emily-Jane has lots of family stories to warm the heart. In her most recent novel, “Mrs. Murray’s Ghost: A Piccadilly Street Story” and the recently released “Mrs. Murray’s Hidden Treasure: A Piccadilly Street Story Book 2”, the author returns to her roots and the fond memories and dreams, growing up in a haunted old Victorian mansion in London. For more information about the author, check out her website at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca