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 town, 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, 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.
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 our liquor.
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?
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.