Mom’s Gift: What My Amber and Vaseline Glass Collection Means to Me

A shared passion for antique amber and Vaseline glass brought this mother and daughter even closer together.

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Amber glass hen butter dishPhoto: Deb Sandau

My Prized Amber Glass Butter Dish

My mom, Joan Vladicka, was an avid antique lover. She loved items she found that had a back story, though, truth be told, Mom made up many of those stories herself—it was part of the fun! My fascination with amber glass began with a butter dish my mom received from my paternal grandmother, who we simply called “Granny.” The dish was shaped like a hen sitting on a nest (above). You lifted the lid to get to the butter and, as a child, I would carefully sneak it from the shelf to look at it. I would put it on the windowsill and watch the warm colours splash across the wall, and move it around to see what new patterns I could create. Mom would tell me that when I was 18, I would get the butter dish for my home. I actually had to wait until I was 32 before she would let it go, but it was a magical day for me when she gave it to me. Driving home with my husband, I told him all the stories that Mom and I had come up with for this little piece of glass. It really is one of the most-prized things I ever received from her.

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Vaseline glass and amber glassPhoto: Deb Sandau

My Growing Amber and Vaseline Glass Collection

When I was 16, Granny gave me a small perfume bottle also made of amber glass that she had kept over the years. I fell in love with it instantly and it became the first real piece in my amber collection.

When I was 18, during my days off from work, I would meet my mom for lunch on 17th Avenue in Calgary. She loved Vaseline glass and we would try to see who could find the most original piece. Mom won hands-down one day when she found the ugliest tree vase ever! We had great fun together, scouring all the shops hidden away in the neighbourhood. The shopkeepers all knew my mom and she them. She would barter incessantly, loving the thrill of getting a gorgeous piece at a wonderful price.

Over the years, we would attend the antique show held in May here in Red Deer. We would stay for hours, treasure-seeking. As Mom got older and was obliged to use a wheelchair, I used to tease her that I’d have to tie a balloon to her wheelchair so I would be able to find her—she’d disappear so quickly and so often, having spotted something of interest. She’d laugh when I found her, and then tell me to push in this or that direction because she wanted to look at the crystal.

Check out more of Deb Sandau's impressive photography in this gorgeous gallery of inspiring travel pictures.

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Antique teacup and saucerPhoto: Deb Sandau

Precious Memories of Mom

Mom began to collect tea cups for me when I was 12. After searching out and acquiring a new addition, she’d proudly come home and tell me all about her find. The hunt was exciting, but getting the best price possible was the biggest kick of all for Mom. Telling me how she was able to talk the vendor down never failed to bring a twinkle to her eyes. What I loved most was hearing the back stories Mom would come up with whenever she added a new cup to the collection: one belonged to a Japanese princess and was used to sip her morning tea, another was from a set belonging to a young English lady of nobility, which was only used at garden parties, and so on. Her tales were better entertainment than anything on TV or in most books for that matter! Sometimes, she would come home and say it was my turn to come up with the back story. After straining my imagination for a while, we would go out on the deck, cup in hand, and I would tell her my story. She would laugh, clap her hands and tell me how wonderful it was. I loved these moments with her and cherish them so much now that she is gone.

She collected six cups for me in all, and I still have four. When one of them was broken, it was in her possession at the time; she called with a teary voice to tell me the news and say that she was so very sorry. When I look at the remaining cups now, I remember all of the fun times we had together, laughing and teasing each other about who had the best story. It was such a wonderful way to spend time with my mom.

Whatever a new item might happen to be—amber, Vaseline glass or a teacup—she would hold it up, look at it in the sunlight, admire the work and smile her special smile. She once told me, “Some people would think it is just a silly little thing to have, but I think it was something that brought happiness to someone and now we are the lucky ones to be happy with it.” Now, when I find a new piece, I always look at it and wonder: Where did you come from? Who held you? Who made you what you are? Then, finally, I find the best place for it to sit and say, “Welcome Home.”

Next, find out what this Our Canada contributor's watch collection means to her.

Originally Published in Our Canada