It's been years since I went to a flea market, so yesterday hubby and I went to prowl for three hours through the one at Dixie Value Mall. There are roughly 100 vendors, though some booths were vacant or closed up. I have no interest in the ones selling DVDs, jewelry, dried flower arrangements, stuffed animals, or clothing. But I adore the antiques and "old junk" booths. They remind me of my grandpa's old red shed, full to the brim with interesting bits and pieces, half of which I couldn't recognize---thick chains, tractor bits, horse collars, kerosene lanterns, horse shoes, buckets, tools I will never know the use of...
The booths yesterday held the collected evidence of people's lifetimes, some organized and displayed neatly, welcoming perusal, and some jumbled into impervious masses you could only tiptoe around and poke hopefully. It was all probably mostly gathered from estate sales and emphasized the old adage that you can't take it with you. And when you don't take it with you, it becomes someone else's trash or treasure.
I've always been interested in history, and I enjoy thinking about the story behind each item. My husband pointed out that when he sees something, he's looking at the object, thinking about what it could be repurposed for or how it could be fixed up, or where it would fit in the house. But when I see a thing, I'm looking at the associations attached to it, not the thing itself. What memories does it awaken? Who do I know that owned one in the past? How does it make me feel?
He's probably right. As I poke through the 1970s Mickey Mouse plastic record-players and the Royal Daulton china tea cups, my mind is actually quite far away, lost in stories. These china figurines were valued and collected and carefully dusted by someone, somewhere. Did these get sold off when her old-age pension ran out? Did she tire of them and go on to collect old Coke bottles instead? Or were they passed down through generations until someone finally put them in a garage sale? Whose grandmother used that rolling pin? How did that German book make its way here? Who on earth would ever have purchased that stretched-glass amber centerpiece to begin with? How did Kewpie dolls get their start? Why did Barry Manilow go out of style? And more importantly, whenever I need a new set of glasses or a casserole dish, why do I head to the nearest WalMart instead of coming here, to this Aladdin's Cave of recycled items? Surely it's better to re-home these things that someone once loved and that still have a lot of use left in them, rather than going for the shiny and new all the time.
Having said that, in all my years of prowling through antiques, I've rarely bought anything. Once we bought a circle of Bavarian lace, which now stands on my mother-in-law's antique wash stand. And once my husband surprised me with an 1870's commode I keep in my front hallway. But that's all I've ever gotten from an antiques store. I like to touch and envision and daydream, but I rarely spend money. Yesterday, however, I scored a lovely old pottery bowl that was brushed in such a way that it looks like cork. It was beautiful to touch, hefty in weight, and just felt like part of my home. A wabi sabi sort of bowl, you know? Five dollars. That I can do. I wrapped it in a bag and put it in my closet and will bring it out at Christmas as a present to myself.
Of everything I saw yesterday, just two items made me wish I were rich and had a cottage. One was a beautiful old green metal stove, a sort of chiminea, dusty and rusty and quaint, that would look perfect in the corner of a log cabin. And one was a golden-hued spinning wheel, perfectly restored and functioning, which would revolutionize my life, give me a home industry that would provide for my needs, and suddenly inspire my husband to leave our suburban backyard to move to a sheep farm. Well...no, probably not. In reality it would probably languish in a corner of the living room and be nothing more than a conversation piece...except I never have company over to converse with. There's no point in purchasing things for a life you don't have. So I left both spinning wheel and stove behind, and came home happy with my bowl, which will fit perfectly in the centre of my dining table.