Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Priceless Antique

While we were out walking on Sunday in Bristol, Rhode Island, this jarring tableaux caught my eye. That is my childhood toy. It is in an antique shop.

It's unlikely that it's the actual article, of course; but even that's not impossible. I grew up a few dozen miles from there. But I hadn't thought about that thing for forty years, and then there it was in all its glory.

We didn't have a lot of money. Then again, people with a lot of money didn't have a lot of stuff forty years ago, either. So any toy like that seemed precious. But its precious nature is different than today's. Being precious meant that you used it all the time, not that you kept it in the box and displayed it like people do with so many things now. I put baseball cards that would pay the mortgage on my house into the spokes of my bicycle to make that satisfying brrrrrrt sound. I don't regret it one bit. Since everyone collects everything now, it's all worthless. There's next to nothing in 99% of antiques shops I'd call an antique. It's just stuff old enough to be left on the curb once.

I spent countless hours in the little patch of dirt outside my door, assembling my own cogent universe out of a riot of disparate objects. That thing there, the little enameled mild steel truck, is invested with the anima of a million boisterous pushes and gentle touches.

If I was rich, I'd buy it. If I was really rich, I'd play with it.


PatHMV said...

Did you see that episode of Seinfeld when Jerry dated the woman who collected vintage toys? Jerry and George would drug her so they could play with the G.I. Joes and other toys from their youth. The morality of the drugging aside, Jerry had a much better appreciation for the real worth of the toys than the collector woman did.

SippicanCottage said...

I must have missed that one. That's the right idea.

It hasn't happened yet, but eventually I want to be walking down the street and see furniture I made in an antique store.

PatHMV said...

We have a bunch of "antiques" stores in our area that are really just "used furniture that's not totally made out of fiberboard and contact paper wood-grain" stores.

When my mother's parents got married and were building and furnishing their house, my grandfather said to my grandmother: "Avis, I'll buy you whatever you want for the house, but choose well, because I'm only ever buying one of them." That was in the late 1920s. Today, I sleep in one of the beds they bought then, eat on their dining room table, and enjoy their piano in my living room. The dining room chair joints squeak a bit, but other than that, they are as good as they were when new. And I don't keep the table covered in precious plastic wrap; I use it, day in, day out... spilled food and all. I'm quite confident it will be suitable for use by my own grandchildren one day.

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Well, currently, your furniture is being put to great use, every darn day Chez Adams. It won't be an antique until the three kids argue who's gonna' get that little 10 finger stepper. [And I was right about not wasting your time distressing it...3 kids and every day use and it's distressed nicely.]

SippicanCottage said...

pat-it's your whatnot that the grandchildren will want the most.

ruth anne- I am not getting rich making furniture. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction to send these little things out into the world, and know that they are part of the fabric of people's lives in some small way. It's wonderful to hear about all those little Adams feet putting their mark on that little thing.

"It is a small thing, but mine own" rubs both ways.