Old Things


When I was a little girl I dreamed of living in an old house, preferably one with one or two ghostly roommates. I was a bit of a strange, macabre child, and something always fascinated me about the old, the relic, the worn. To be in a house or to hold an object that was used in a different time, when the entire world looked different, when people were different, made my little imagination explode with wonder. People died, but the things they used did not. They remained, links to generations past, touched by hands long since laid to rest in the earth.

As a young California girl, I remember the oldest house in our town was perhaps from the late 1880's. My eyes would fixate on that sprawling Victorian every time we drove by. It wasn't until I learned of places like Salem, Boston, or any east coast locale did I realize our country had houses and things that were much older than anything in my young, west coast habitat, and I longed to step foot into places where Revolutionary War soldiers lingered, or to see where a seventeenth century accused witch called home.

Once I finally achieved my goal of living in an old, New England home (complete with those ghostly roommates), I wanted to fill it with old things. There are modern conveniences I wouldn't trade for their antique counterparts. Give me a modern, comfy couch over a horse hair filled settee any day! And have you seen those antique rope beds? No thanks. But other than those things vital for a cozy sleep or sit, I wanted to see my house brimming with old stuff.

Antiques, as it turns out, aren't cheap, and filling a home of four children with expensive relics of the past was fraught with risk. But the older they get (the kids, that is), the more willing I've been to bring in the antiques and fill my environment with those things that make my heart happy.

It's been a slow acquisition of old things. Whenever I get the chance, I add a little more here and a little more there. On my birthday last month, I recognized the opportunity to get my fix, and went to my favorite antique store, my place of supreme euphoria, and picked a couple of aged beauties for my aged house.

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I came out of the antique store with an antique portrait. I love antique portraits! And maybe that has a bit to do with the slightly eerie appeal of old portraits, the haunting stare of a soul from another time. I also bought another blanket chest to add to my collection. This is my first one that stands above the ground on feet. We are putting this one to good use housing all of our naughty, yummy goodies.

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Each day since we've had our dark-haired, New England gentleman hanging in the dining room, I stop and stare at him and wonder. I want to know his story. I want to know where he lived, what he did, who he loved, or hated. I also want to know the story of the man who stroked his paintbrush carefully against the canvas, capturing a young man and his era. And each day I run my hands along the chipped paint and time-worn surface of the chest and wonder how many hands have opened this lid. What sorts of fashions draped the bodies of those that unlocked the chest? And what did they store in there? Treasures or everyday, sundry items?

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I like being part of the story of these things, I like being just the most recent in a long line of many who have admired and used these items. I love creating a depository of the old and worn in my own home, things that still make my imagination burst with wonder and provoke creative speculation. And when given the chance, I will always bypass the big box store and its easy merchandise in favor of the sometimes frustrating, but always exhilarating hunt for the special or odd treasure that speaks to my soul at my local antique shop. I think the strange, little California girl I once was would be proud.

14 comments:

Amy at Ms. Toody Goo Shoes said...

I hope your purchases bring you joy for years to come. They are really special!

Maywyn Studio said...

Congratulations on the new portrait on the wall. He's a handsome man.
Have you thought about have your portrait painted in that style?

I don't paint like that, but I've thought about the will it feel more creepy than neat factor. I think neat.

pattianne70 said...

Well said! I agree completely. Is there a name on the painting?

Sarah Laurence said...

Nice match for the dining room! I love the color of the walls too. We've gotten most of our antiques in England. My mother-in-law buys damaged ones and fixes them up. Antiques are much cheaper in the Old country. When my husband moved to the USA, we rented a container on a ship. It took several months to get our stuff, but the most expensive part was the moving truck from dock to our house. Auctions can be another place to find bargains.

ellen said...

Where is your favorite store?!? Do tell!

martha said...

I live in Amherst Village too, and grew up with antiques, accompanying my mother to shops. I have an appreciation for old things and they are part of my life too. My parents were Shaker antique dealers...we should meet up!

Anne said...

Love your beautiful buys. I often think the same as you about old things, who had them and used them and it's lovely to try and imagine. I'm not sure about the ghosties but I would love to live in an old house too. I think perhaps New England has more than its fair share of ghostly hauntings!

Alyson (New England Living) said...

Hi Martha, yes we should meet up!

Heather said...

I love your old house and your village! This room is especially lovely, I love the warm pumpkiny color (of course!) and how it really sets off the dark tons of the portrait and trunk. And hey, if you need more art, I know someone.... ;)

Donna said...

You write so well about how I feel about these things too. Things from the past are magical! I love imagining and wondering about the hands that handled those items and the people to whom they belonged. I got a really neat autograph book from the 1800s at an antique shop on the Cape last summer and I love leafing through it because of all the people who touched it and wrote in it. I love your new (I mean, old) finds! It would be fascinating to find out who that man in the painting is.

19thcgirl said...
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19thcgirl said...

I just found your blog and I'm enjoying it so much. I, too, enjoy old houses and antiques. I have an antique portrait hanging in my dining room, also. It is of a woman and I know much about her life and even where she is buried. It was quite a feeling when I found her grave. I enjoy looking at her lovely image every day. I look forward to reading more of your posts.

Leeann @ Join the Gossip said...

You explain your childhood in a way that I felt but could never so eloquently express. All of that still fascinates me. If only I could figure a way out of CA and over to NE :)

Great buys - I'm sure they look amazing with the rest of your incredible home!

Megan said...

Your home is the perfect blend of old and new, character and pizazz, ghosts and kids :) I love it...never felt so at home in someone else's home as yours. Was an answer to my prayers, a respite, and food for my soul. Souls seek after (or are led to) similar souls I think. :) and I think we can see the world in a way that is so necessary that others can't....so nothing is more important than living up to the gifts within us from our creator. You are my reminder. He needs you to keep doing what only you can do...in your home, family, church, in your writing...you bring something so necessary...even though the cost to you is high...with the weight like the ocean tide working against you, surrounded by plastic thinking, plastic people in a plastic society. Nothing is harder for a romantic than just showing up, but when we do, we bring the subtle perspective often lacking. I've always wanted to hear you teach RS! :) i would love it....a girl, and lesson, after my own heart! we may not fit in completely but I don't think we were created to! Sorry for the rambling! Sometimes I forget we are not sitting on your couch eating junk food and philosophizing but that I'm rambling on an on in the comments on your blog! Nice!