I love old stuff. I understand if you don’t (not everyone does) but I’m drawn to it like a kid to cotton candy. I love the rush of anticipation I get when I arrive at a flea market in my grubbies, latte in one hand and pulling my little red wagon with the other … my husband says I become a heat-seeking missile. I am focused and single-minded. There’s a treasure out there waiting to be found, and by golly I’m going to be the one to find it! Don’t bother me with Beany Babies and Tupperware lids, I’m lookin’ for cool stuff, old stuff, and good stuff!
I started “pickin'” as a kid, long before I knew what “picking” was. My first purchase? A blue willow plate for $2. My second? A Brownie camera for 25 cents. I was nine and had just finished reading a book called, of all things, “The Blue Willow Plate”, a story about a young girl during the depression who was mesmerized by her mother’s one prized possession. I saw that blue willow plate on a table at a neighborhood garage sale and couldn’t believe my good fortune! That plate travelled with me through my childhood and teen years, graced the wall of every kitchen I’ve called home, and eventually took up permanent residence in my china hutch. And the Brownie camera went to camp with me every summer and chronicled my life’s story in pictures until it was replaced by a fancy-schmancy Minolta 35-mm that took me years to learn how to use.
As much as I love The Hunt, there’s nothing quite like the euphoria I feel when I SCORE a real treasure. It’s truly a visceral response. I can still remember my elation upon finding an old check register in an abandoned homestead in Eastern Oregon … preserved by the elements so that I could still easily read the entries from 1929. Who did it belong to? What drew them to this place in the middle of No-Where, and how did they manage to sustain themselves in such a desolate area during such desolate times? This is the Stuff of Life that fascinates me.
I’m drawn to the textures of old linens, embossed writing on old books, and the porous salt glaze of aged pottery. I love tarnished silver and rusty tools, the artwork on old sheet music, and wooden crates and boxes that say stuff like “Remington” on the sides. I love to haggle and dicker (these are technical terms) and then drag it all home. I even love hearing my hubby, saint that he is, say those oft repeated words, “Uh, where are you planning to put THAT???” as I unload the contents of my car into the living room. And kitchen. And …. well, you get the idea.
Let me be clear, not all old stuff is good stuff. And one woman’s treasure is often another’s trash. Beauty is most certainly in the eyes of the beholder, and what may call to me across a farm field of rusty implements may hold no appeal to you. But I find comfort in the inherent beauty of an old brown pitcher that has graced the kitchen table of many a family over the years, and served is owners’ well for generations. It has been the silent guest at a hundred family suppers and held more than a few bouquets of prized roses and dahlias lovingly snipped from the backyard garden before it came into my appreciative hands. And it deserves what I am going to give it … a new home!