There is just something about the musty smell of an antique store, seeing the various displays of well-loved, weathered and possibly highly valuable items that were once someone’s prized possessions.
Glassware and dishes are my favorites. I have been forbidden to bring anything else home. I am running out of room and the forbidder will inevitably break it anyway. It doesn’t really stop me. Plus, glassware is in my antique budget.
“Why do we love old stuff so?” Cole asked as he scanned the many cluttered shelves in a store one rainy Saturday afternoon.
“It has more character than new stuff,” was my answer.
“And it wasn’t made in China?” he inquired, checking the mark on the bottom of a plate.
“Right. It wasn’t made in China.”
Cole is my frequent antiquing buddy, willing to spend hours pouring through the various stores, in search of something that catches our fancy. He even knows how much he’s willing to spend on an antique typewriter, telling one antique store owner he has been pricing them and hers was a good price but out of his allowance range.
The first time I ran into an antique store with my child, he was much younger and I thought for sure we would be asked to pay a few hundred bucks for something that had been broken and then asked to leave and never, not ever, return.
Even at 3, he did surprisingly well and the only thing that was broken was by my big purse swinging into a small table of glass. I wasn’t asked to pay, I just had the reproachable glare of a snooty emaciated store clerk who didn’t understand the need to tote a purse big enough to carry a compact car.
“What’s the oldest thing we have?” Cole asked as he continued to look through the store with a keen eye. He loves history and will watch “American Pickers” for hours to see the swag Mike and Frank score.
My child gave me a disapproving look at my disrespect.
“That’s not nice,” he scolded. “What is the oldest thing we have?”
“My sideboard,” I answered without hesitation.
I am not sure how old it is but it had been my great-grandmother’s, given to her by a neighbor when Granny Fanny’s house burned down as a young mother – the neighbor was going into a nursing home and had been very elderly. We don’t know if it had been in her family before her or if she was the first one to own it. She couldn’t take it with her, so Granny Fanny was the recipient of it.
It had been coated in a thick hideous drab brown paint when Granny brought it home after her mother passed away. That mean old woman had been 93 and had been the owner of the sideboard for probably 60 years at least. This was in the early 1900s, not sure of the exact year.
It sat in our little white house for years, all drab brown and ugly. We only figured it had some worth when Granny’s brother said he’d take it off her hands.
Granny’s oldest brother was one of the craftiest people any of us knew. When he expressed an interest in it, I knew something was up. I told Granny I wanted the old dilapidated thing.
The ex’s father restored it for me as a wedding gift. It took him days to just get the hideous thick drab brown paint off and I am sure he lost a few sinus membranes in the process.
When he finished, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
The original finish underneath the drab brown paint was the most gorgeous deep wood I had seen – I wasn’t sure if it was cherry or mahogany.
One of the doors was still a little bit loose, but like other antiques, it gave the piece character. There was something about knowing that one piece of furniture that had lovingly held a place of prominence where ever I had lived, had once belonged to my great-grandmother.
While I am not one that puts much emphasis on material things – they are just things, after all – there was something solid in knowing that one piece had once been where Granny Fanny sat her cake plate piled high with tea cakes, put out platters of biscuits for everyone before they hit the fields to work or displayed her coconut cake for Sunday dessert.
It had been graciously given to a tough young Fanny as she tried to rebuild her home for her family after a fire had taken just about everything. Instead of it being put in a special room for display, this sideboard served a utilitarian purpose – it was used and enjoyed. It saw the happenings of the families it had been owned by and it had been involved in the day to day lives. Unlike many antiques that are put up on a shelf or on display, it was not made to be looked at; it was made to be used.
“You mean the sideboard you have next to the table?” he asked.
“But Mama, you use that all the time – it’s old. Aren’t you supposed to put stuff like that up where you don’t touch it or use it?”
“No, it’s meant to be used.”
Like all the other precious treasures in our lives, those things are meant to be enjoyed on a daily basis.