I suppose it all started while searching for deep blue glassware. Tall and short vases, bowls and goblets, enough to decorate and draw all eyes to the center of crisp white tablecloths for my niece’s wedding reception. What an elegant idea!
So, we were on a quest. We had seen a thousand different glasses and teacups over the last four antique stores, as well as patterned plates, old tools, worn cookbooks and Bibles, and to my inner teenage girlie delight, Barbie Christmas ornaments and scads of Nancy Drew mysteries.
My sister-in-law was simply on the lookout for her beautiful blue glassware, but unbeknownst to her, I was being introduced to a new side of myself. A new world of possibilities was entering my heart and opening up my mind to the past. I hadn’t encountered these feelings for a while, and I was intrigued. I felt a rare glimpse into old memories that had the potential to stop me in my tracks, make me close my eyes, and simply remember.
There is no logic to this fascination with antique stores I’ve grown to love. I am an established neat freak. I love my home and closets organized. If you ask anyone in my family if they are missing something, I’ve likely put it away or – yikes! – thrown it away. Yes, that’s a simple truth about my personality. When I was growing up, my joy was in keeping the small room I shared with my sister cleaned and tidy. No shelf or wall space was left in disarray. This is a good addiction of sorts, right? I surely thought so. Which makes it even more curious that I now eagerly search out these ever-popular antique stores, large or small, whenever I can and wherever we happen to be traveling to.
It’s hard to explain the feeling, but I’m convinced now that it will rise in me sooner or later as I venture in. I’ll start down an aisle or toward a cluttered booth and begin to browse. I’ve learned to anticipate and slowly take in the experience. After visiting dozens of these types of stores, I’m prepared to begin with an attitude of curiosity, wondering … just what will I uncover?
I move between the cabinets and my thoughts start to wander. Sometimes I’ll give attention to how beautifully displayed certain items are or have a thought of their history and unique journey to finally end up there. But mainly, I’m waiting to feel the goosebumps and strong sensation of reminiscence when I see something specific from my past.
Something that just by looking at it will prompt the feeling that brings both joy and nostalgia wrapping their arms around me like a warm sweater. It can be as precious as an old Life magazine with a cover photo that looks like my mom, who I miss dearly, or as silly as an old Fisher-Price Family Farm that makes a "moo" sound when the little plastic barn door opens.
I’ve been stirred emotionally from outdated, yet classic light fixtures that resemble the ones from my grandparent’s Colorado home, or an old, out-of-tune Gibson covered in Beatles stickers. That guitar takes me back to playing ’60s songs with my aunt, singing in her small Indiana kitchen seated on silver metal chairs. My mind retreats in time and I’ll remember being 7 or 8, propped on a stool with my elbows leaning forward onto a cracked laminate tabletop covered with gold flecks. The details swarm my mind.
Seeing an old pipe, I can almost smell my great grandpa. Some items that bring this reaction surprise me, and that’s half the fun. And then other times I’ll see something, and the sensation vanishes much too quickly before I even have a chance to enjoy it. I’ll slowly walk backwards and retrace my steps to try to retrieve and relive it. Colored plastic drink stirrers like the ones from my Papa’s martini, quilts with Sunbonnet Sue patchwork designs, and an advent calendar that resembles the one that always brought excitement to five little sisters every year as we’d begin to decorate for Christmas.
All have prompted ‘the feeling’ and consumed my heart and senses. I’ve perused the old metal lunchboxes and then caught myself opening the Elvis one (or dare I admit, the David Cassidy one?) to check for the matching thermos inside. Old albums, jewelry, purses, and scarves. Vintage Scrabble tiles in little baskets, pictures inside beautiful antique frames, and eye-catching endearing knick-knacks displayed on tops of worn dressers with large oval mirrors. All these things ... were precious to someone.
This could be completely overwhelming if I let it. But I don’t. I simply enjoy and take it all in. Visually and emotionally. And then thank God I’ve learned to compartmentalize both of these very different parts of my personality. Just let go of being in control for a little while and embrace the journey. Old and new, clean or cluttered. Gratefulness for my past and my present fills me to the brim.
I can’t stop searching now, whether I end up walking out of those antique storefront doors with a tangible treasure or not, I’m confident that the feeling will be arriving soon, just around the next aisle.