Not necessarily what you are thinking, though my mother does have a small Italian marquetry side table with a musical box inside that plays a tune when you lift the lid, and which will probably join in the game some day.
Remember musical chairs, the game where everyone moves around or along a row of chairs until the music stops? There’s always one chair too few, so at each pause someone is left without a seat. In our family, we have a variation on this. It isn’t the people who circulate, but items of furniture that are still good but don’t quite fit in any more, which are passed from one household to another, somewhere between hand-me-downs and heirlooms. We refer to them as “musical furniture” doing the rounds.
This even has international ramifications. In the early days of my marriage, my mother-in-law gave us some dining chairs which went with us from Germany to England at the end of the sixties. These were left behind when we re-emigated from England to Switzerland along with a kitchen chair given us by my ex-husband’s aunt and two armchairs we had inherited from my aunt. My mother liked them and found room for them in her house, and still has them, in daily use and none the worse for wear.
Our former Swiss living room furniture – originally Catalan – ended up in my French holiday home, although the cost of transporting it from Switzerland to Brittany was probably more than it would have cost to buy new. However, it survived there for over twenty years before succumbing to woodworm, at which point it was warmly received by the local second-hand shop. They adored the antique character imparted by the woodworm!
Over the years, my daughter and I have each moved house over a dozen times, and on every occasion something has been passed on or exchanged. A visit to her house or to my eldest granddaughter’s house regularly reunites me with a number of familiar items that have sometimes followed a rather circuitous route via other family members to get there, but are still rendering faithful service. When my daughter downsized around the time I was looking for a dining table, I inherited her entire dining room
Transportation hasn’t always been easy. Long mirrored wardrobe doors that were longer than my grandson-in-law’s car boot were left sticking out, and at least one of the mirrors didn’t survive the oscillations to which it was subjected during its trip. The dresser to my daughter’s dining suite (what Americans call a hutch) came in two large pieces when it was delivered to my new home, and was too heavy and bulky for those delivering it – relatives of a friend – to get it any further than the garage. So there is stayed, to my great frustration, for several months, until another friend sent her three hefty sons around to heave it through my window and into its final resting place. I shall never dare try to move it again.
The latest item to join the circus is a kidney-shaped coffee table that I passed on to my second granddaughter, replacing it in my living room with a table from my daughter that – not surprisingly – matches the dining suite. Second granddaughter then emigrated, leaving the kidney-shaped table with her mother, who – decluttering again four years on – has decided it’s superfluous to her needs. Would I like it back? Yes please. Where should I put it? Well, I just needed to rearrange my bedroom slightly, and it fits neatly across a corner. However, its journey home in the back of my daughter’s Twingo was not uneventful, and almost resulted in a very squashed spaniel.
Now, what do I need to dispose of at this point, apart from cushions that seem to breed spontaneously? I’m considering getting new wardrobes. Eldest granddaughter now has three children, so surely she could use my old ones? Second granddaughter is due to move house again soon; maybe she would like something? And third granddaughter is involved in making her boyfriend’s flat cosy … curtains?
There’s also the prospect of us all wanting to keep things from my mother’s house when she eventually passes on. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it – possibly in a hired Transit van.