Monday, July 1, 2013


A few things that came home with me from my grandparents' day.


I like old stuff.  Yes, I do.  Not that I deal in antiques or decorate with a flair for the old, but I like the way it looks, feels, shows; its elegance and its functionality.  Much of what I like relates back to images from my childhood. Both sets of grandparents were visited often and enjoyed very much. Their old homes contained many objects I found beautiful or interesting. One didn’t dwell on these thoughts as a child but it became a part of your life experiences. Antique stores always seem to have one or two or even a few items that I can identify by memory or I even used long ago as I helped in the kitchen by my grandmother’s side.

This summer the memories have surfaced in vivid clarity.  There is reason for this.  Three contributors came by way of time and change. First off, I moved from the farm to the city, necessitating a major review of things stuffed in boxes hidden away in the closets and cupboards. In these boxes I have a few items that came my way via my grandparents. A ricer that grandma would use to prepare potatoes for her Sunday meal of roast, mashed potatoes and gravy. Yum! Crocheted coverings, embroidered linens, hand-sewn doll clothes, tatted lace edgings on pillowcases made by my grandmother, vases and dishes from by-gone eras.  All there as reminders as I sort and review the boxes contents.

Second contributor in memory lane. My teenage daughter and I have purposed to view the complete collection of Sherlock Holmes movies.  Around ten at night we get started. A bowl of popcorn and we’re good to go. I don’t tell her this, but one of the things I like most about watching the movies is the old stuff I get to see, things like mahogany hutch bookcases and ceiling-to-floor window drapes, settees and room furnishings, picture frames and accent decorations, the Persian rugs and hanging lamps, wall paper designs, china dishes and teapots, and on and on. Even the doors and  wall trims do not escape my notice. I love the look of the buildings with their austere presentations. Some have elements of craftsman style dwellings much like the gracious craftsman style houses, with their wood trims, picture hanging rim and built-in buffets, of my grandparents homes.

A third twist to this venture in “old stuff” is a task my brother began, and in which my sisters and I joined in the doing of, or should I say, the finishing up of!  We gathered at the old farm place looking at relics of all sorts of shapes and sizes, things from the past going back to my father’s grandparents' era. The items were those of working people, farmers, craftsmen—tools, buckets, shovels, ancient wood stoves, a hand-carved weathervane, stand-alone gas pumps, and so forth.  None of it was particularly fancy, especially since the old stuff had accumulated dust and rust during its long season at rest. We were curious, mesmerized, excited by the hunt. Some things contained a mystery when the purpose was unknown for the object under consideration. My brother, who is more knowledgeable about these objects and their various functions, explained their uses to us. We sorted through many items; drill presses and farm implements, a scattering of pots and pans, a wood-slatted toboggan, an old-style sled. The last two I recognized from my childhood remembering how we slid down the hill in the snow at Big Bear, and the thrill it gave.  A few things were there from my own childhood bringing back fond memories from the days when we ate, work and shared together.

My father was enjoying this time, seeing the many items and telling us about the history or usage of each one, remembering which one of his parents, grandparents, or great grandparents owned what, how it was put to use, whether or not he ever used it. His childhood came into focus as a few articles related to the dairy farm or citrus groves, things like milk pails, a cooling tray, or smudge pots and torches used to light them. I came home with a few  more things than when I started out the day; large metal wheels to decorate my yard, a couple old stand-alone units, cupboards that will need a good cleaning up, some wooden-handled tools, two ink-stamped wooden crates with old packing house insignias from back in the day of packing citrus in my grandfather’s southern California orange and lemon groves.

I find it satisfying. The old days had something to contribute that is rare in this day and age. Before the days of plastic throw-aways and planned obsolescence things were made to last, and they did last. Things were real, the genuine article. We yearn for the real in a day when the false is trumpeted as real. We've become careless in our impatient lifestyles, resisting changes that would help put us back on track, even the carrying of our own packing bags to the grocery store seems like a bit much when we're used to convenience. I'm guilty of this. In some ways, a simple life can be a rich life. My heritage incorporates some of this way of thinking. My parents are modest in their lifestyle. Some thing about this way of living has become part of me. I am modest in how I live although not to the same degree. I like pretty things and useful things. I don't want to consume wastefully. I want to be a good steward of what I have been given, to not spend what I haven't earned. Maybe this is even the way of "old stuff" by way of an old world view. 

Old stuff speaks to me of simple graces and where one works with your hands to achieve that which will last. One develops an eye for these things. What may seem just old and useless, even icky to the casual observer, may become a flower pot in its second life, an old metal teapot re-conditioned. Truly, the old adage comes into play as I close this writing out.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. 

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I welcome any comments in regard to this post.  Thank you for reading!

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