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The legacies of my grandmothers are now in my keeping. From Nanny, the bentwood rocker from Grandmother Allen, the pearl-handled buttonhook. This morning the rocker withdraws into a silence amid the contemporary furniture of my glass house. On my desk, the buttonhook is alien among pencils and papers. Yet having them brings home to me the years of my childhood. Not yet confortable in her chair, feeling traitorous when I slide her buttonhook into my jeans pocket, I am not ready to take possession of worlds that spun like planets in the galaxy of my first and last heaven.

It was time for the inheritance. Louise Jessop Allen in her 92nd year sleeps like a child in the clean efficiency of a nursing home in Columbus, Ga. Musa Blackmon Herring, a decade younger, has broken up housekeeping after more than half a century in rural towns in Alabama to go and live in Atlanta with her youngest son and his family. All the china closets and oak-tables and teapots of their lives have been scattered to the children and grandchildren. The bentwood rocker and the buttonhook traveled with me to North Carolina, and there are, family members from California to Massachusetts who shared in the last ritual. From one century to another. From one world to another. From Grandmother Allen and Nanny to Emily Herring Wilson, child of Louise Allen's third daughter and Musa Herring's first son.


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