I broke it.
I didn’t mean to do it, but I broke it.
When I first saw it, on my grandmother’s marble-topped table, it was beautiful. A gilt cast-iron table lamp, very large and ornate, with a stained-glass shade about two feet apart. It wasn’t leaded glass like a church window, but a hexagonal metal hemisphere with cut-out scenes of trees and elegant people, and panels of opalescent stained glass that slid into little brackets inside the shade, one piece of glass for each of the six panels. I used to make up stories about the people and scenes in the lamp, great fun on rainy afternoons.
By the time my mother inherited the lamp and the table, the gilt had worn off most of the lamp base and shade. She felt she couldn’t afford to have it re-plated, so she painted the metal white with a spray-can of Rust-Oleum. I still remember the smell.
When my mother’s cancer was diagnosed, and she decided to go into a nursing home, she gave me both the marble-topped table and the lamp. We didn’t have room to display them in our small house, so we stored them in the attic. Several years later, we moved to our current house, twice the size of the old one, with plenty of room for the table and lamp. We planned to have the metal parts of the lamp stripped and re-plated after the move, but…
I didn’t re-pack the lamp. We carefully wrapped the table’s marble top in layers of towels and blankets, so it survived, but I didn’t re-pack the lamp. The pieces were in a big cardboard box, loosely wrapped in newspaper. The movers packed the box into their truck, and took it from the truck directly up to our new attic.
It was almost a year later that I thought of it, and dragged the box out of the corner, intending to take it to a local metal shop for refinishing. I opened the box, and started crying. Somehow, during the move, something had fallen on it. The metal frame of the shade was bent and misshapen. Some of the ornate metal bits were broken. Some of the glass had shattered. I managed to straighten the main part of the shade, and took it to several metal shops and stained glass studios to ask about repairs. No one was willing to work on it. “We don’t work on antiques.” “Nobody makes glass like that any more. You’d have to replace all the panels.” “Repairs would cost more than it’s worth.”
I think the box is still there, in a corner of the attic. Someday, I’ll try again. There are new metal shops in town, and new stained glass studios. I’ve seen some new lamps with similar softly clouded glass that could work with the scenes in the shade. I’ll cart the pieces around and ask for estimates. Someday.