It’s strange how when one ages, old memories come bubbling up at odd times, often completely unrelated to what might be happening at the moment. Since I am now a member of the When One Ages Club, I was surprised while dining out with my besties that I suddenly focused on the top of my grandmother’s dresser.

Being blessed with the Gift of Gab, I was able to continue our table conversations while my brain was fixated in great detail on all the wondrous things old Grandma Anna Elizabeth Wolcott Scott kept on the top of her mahogany dresser.

I had not seen it in well over 50 or 60, years, but I could see every single detail most vividly: all the gleams, glows, shines and glitters. I could smell her perfumes and powders and even feel the bumps and silks and bristles and magic of her beloved gewgaws and tchotchkes.

I’ve been most fortunate to have been able to touch on and hear about lots of generations in my 80 years — a bit of the Victorian, the Great Depression, Art Deco, too many wars including the big pnes, those crazy ‘50s, the Hippie era and everything else. Which have I enjoyed the most? All of them.

But because of my old grandmother, I got to see a lot of the fading out Victorian era when I was young, and what held my interest the most was the top of her dresser. All sorts of fascinating things were spread atop a thick and starched lace dresser scarf, a pattern so intricate and involved I could see new designs in it every time I looked. As was the style of the day, Grandma Scott had matching sets of hair brushes, combs, nail files, button hooks, hand mirrors, face powder tins, assorted jars that contained strange potions, tiny silver rouge jars, white elixirs for her face and body, nail buffers, a silver encased pin cushion, toothbrush holders and scissors.

The matching parts were the silver backs on most of the tools of her trade. The designs were strangely puffy, as if one could push down on them if one wished, the way we push down on bubble wrap. The puffy silver designs were hunting scenes with strangely compliant deer waiting to be arrowed by a proud hunter. There were birds and flowers, angels and butterflies, women playing harps and flutes, tiny horses and goats gamboling about in the background and fish leaping from a shining creek. None of it made any sense, but the clutter and stories of all those scenes were seriously enchanting.

I must have inherited the need to always have a clock in front of me and on every wall because my grandmother had four on that dresser all pointing in different directions, so she would not have to move anything but her eyes to see the time — just like I do now. They were all silvery of course. Back then, no clocks were battery driven, so someone had to wind all of them, including the one in the belly of a small white marble unicorn statue standing proudly in front of the huge mirror attached to her dresser.

I never quite knew what that nail buffer thing was all about. It was around six inches long, thin and soft-of pointed at each end, and there was a silver-like handle at its top. But the buffing part was intriguing. It was soft, thick and suede-like material beneath that ran the length of its silver top. Grandma Scott would rub it vigorously on her nails to make them shine, but it never worked on my nails. They remained dull.

The bristles on her hair brush were sort-of beige and thick, and I never knew how she cleaned that brush because of its silver back. Her big comb was tortoise shell — oh please, let it have been imitation — and I don’t know how she cleaned that, either. But after she died, I loved seeing her long white hairs remaining in those hair implements.

Crystal glittered all over the top of her dresser too. Small dishes into which she would drop her jewelry-of-the-day, small lidded jars to hold any number of anything at all, deeply cut crystal perfume decanters stood on a gleaming glass tray, and there were tiny vases for real flowers and several small cut crystal angels stood on that dresser top. A guardian, I suspect.

When the sun streamed from tall windows and beamed down on all the things on the top of that dresser, rainbows slid gently all over the room, and it was beyond magical. No matter what age I get to be, I will never forget the beauty and enthrallment of the top of my grandmother’s mahogany dresser.

LC Van Savage is a Coastal Journal contributor. Her book “Queenie” is available at local bookstores and on