Wonderful Old Things
I was probably ten years old. I was with my Dad, and we were in a part of town that I had never been to before. The houses were old, set much farther back from the street, and the trees were so much taller than trees by our house.
We were at a yard sale. My Dad loves to stop at them, and I certainly never minded. I thought it was fascinating to walk among the tables and see all the things that people were selling. I was just wandering. And then I saw it. An old, heavy, black typewriter. It was love at first sight. I had to have it. I knew that it was a rather strange request, but I loved it so much that I couldn’t stop myself from asking. My Dad looked at me strangely for a minute and asked, “Are you sure?” I said, “Yes.” For some reason he said ok, so $1.50 later we were driving away and I was the proud owner of a dusty old typewriter.
I tried to clean it up when we got home, but years of dust made it difficult to do. Still, I was fascinated by it. But the typewriter spent most of its time in my parent’s garage. Every few years my Dad would come to me and ask if I was ready to get rid of it, and my answer was always “NO.” I graduated from high school, left for college, and still said, “NO.” With the patience only loving parents can have, they never got rid of it. After I was married, my parents came to visit and when I opened the door, there stood my Dad holding the typewriter. I said “Yes” and it’s been in my home (and happily out of my Dad’s garage) ever since.
I love old things. My love of history contributes, I am sure. But I don’t love everything just because it’s old. I love things that are old and have some character. Just being old isn’t enough. There are lots of old things I want nothing to do with. I tend to gravitate toward things that are a little shabby, items with a story. There are certain old things that call to me simply because of their color. I don’t really have a formula, but I do know at a glance if I like it or not.
I happen to live in a part of the country where the yard sales stink, for the most part. Whenever I go home to visit my parents I get up early on the summer weekends to hit the sales. It’s so much fun. On one trip I fell in love with a coffee table. I paid $7 for it. My mom looked at it and asked me what I was going to do with it. I said, “use it.” I figured I could always repaint it if I wanted to. As my dear husband tied it to the top of our car so we could go home, I had my kids come watch with me for a minute and told them it was proof that he loves me.
Today that coffee table sits (unchanged) in my family room and my old typewriter maintains the position of honor on top. I love the way children come to our home and are drawn to the typewriter. Their parents worry and I tell them that everyone plays with it. My own children bring their Playmobil toys and have grand adventures in and all over that typewriter. And my Mom comes and talks about what a great table it is. I smile. I love wonderful old things.
I love to look at magazines and have a number of things I’d love to find for myself. I cut out the pictures I love the most. A year ago I was sorting through those pictures and paused to look at one that made me sigh. Suddenly I looked a little more closely and realized that the very mirror I was looking at was identical to the old one hanging in my family room! Sometime between tearing out the picture and re-discovering it, I had managed to purchase the very thing at an antique mall. I just smiled to myself. I figured that if I’d managed to pick up something that had been used as a fabulous full-page shot in Country Living Magazine, then my taste must be decent, at least!
I don’t live in a part of the country where there are wonderful antique fairs. One of my dreams is to go to some of the fairs I read about in other states. Occasionally I have some luck at the thrift store, or find something fabulous at a little local shop or on ebay. It’s fun to stop and look, just in case. And it’s probably a good thing that I can’t find too much of what I love.
Today my home is filled with old and new. Some of the old looks its age, some of it has been refinished, recovered, or repainted. Some of the new is well-built, high quality. Some of it comes from bargain stores. That’s fine with me. What I love about it is that no one can walk into my house and think, “she shops at ____.” I love that most of my really cool things are one of a kind. Over the years I’ve made some mistakes. There are things I’ve passed along that I never should have picked up. But I’m a lot better at it now, and I don’t make many mistakes anymore. I was blessed (or cursed) with a sense of proportion, symmetry and line that sometimes drives me nuts, but I think that’s partly why I usually know if it’s a winner or not. I don’t seek perfection; just good bones, character. I crave a lot more tidiness than I usually get with a large young family. That will come. For now, at least, I can smile at the little spots that hold the wonderful old things I’ve collected over time. And I’m always on the lookout for a new wonderful old thing.