Everything that is old is new again

A sign reading

The beauty of writing about myself and my family for so long (self absorbed much?) is that I actually forget that this is not normal for the majority of the population. Moreover, I just plain forget what I have written.

It is not uncommon for someone who reads my column to reference something I have written. This is how civilized people with well developed social skills behave. They might say “so, any great bargains lately?” in reference to my recent essay about my love of thrift purchases. Or, perhaps, “how’s the potato salad juggling going?” in reference to my attack by glass salad bowl (For the record, I lost).

Generally because I have all the social graces of a squirrel, I will freeze momentarily while my brain tries to connect how they know these things about me? After a laboriously slow mental process, I will realize they read my essays (thank you!). I can then proceed accordingly with polite conversation. It’s a whole process really.

Deacon’s bench

Last week I wrote about my love of thrifting and closed with my big score — a twelve foot long “Deacon’s bench.” I paid very little for it as I am prone to doing. Mr. Wonderful dragged it home — figuratively if not literally, although it was probably a close call. He also wrestled it into place right where I wanted it — sitting outside our barn. I placed a few decorative pillows upon it and placed a plant beside it. Our barn is very bougie that way.

Today a very nice man approached me and asked if I had, perhaps, purchased a powder blue bench? I assured him that I had. He then proceeded to tell me that I did not have a “Deacon’s Bench.” What I had was a bench out of an old Friends Meeting House. It had been his mother’s. He wanted me to know that it dated from around 1817 or so — 1817, people.

I probably looked dumbfounded as it dawned on me that I had put a 203 year old antique outside in the weather like it was a piece of discount patio furniture.

Using it

That begs the question of the care and keeping of “old things.” Antique and vintage items are wonderful. I own and enjoy many of them. My gram collected antiques long before it was a “trend.” As such, her home was full of beautiful, museum quality pieces, all of which we used.

I have written before of a civil war era chair that was pulled up to every holiday and Sunday dinner table for someone to sit on. That, after all, is what chairs do. With my grandmother’s influence I have both a healthy respect for antiques — and a sense that most items are best if enjoyed.

Since my run in with the glass bowl I have found a new desire to own Tupperware. The plastic ware that everybody’s mother had in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s is now finding its way from thrift stores to my kitchen. I’m not collecting it for profit. I use the stuff.

Show me a sturdy plastic bowl or an olive green dill pickle picker upper (probably not the technical name) and my heart beats a little faster. It’s old. It’s affordable. It is well made. It won’t require me to get stitches if I drop it. What is not to love?

This is the other side of antiques. Sometimes we inadvertently end up with things that are far nicer than we need — or deserve. I had suspected the bench worthy of refinishing, but I don’t really have a need for 12 foot of seating indoors. I’m not sure I even have space for such a thing. So, as BoyWonder notes, we are probably going to leave it right where it is. I will bring it inside for the winter. I am not a savage.

On any given day, I roll out of bed and reach for items left on a 100-year-old nightstand. I cook with enamelware pans that probably pre-date the 1920s, and a measuring cup that was used to bake “mock apple pie” and “victory cakes” during World War II. I slide open the drawers of a buffet that is a century old. I bump the door of a 120-year-old cabinet shut with the thrust of a hip as I pass by. I like to think items can be both ancient AND useful. Thus I have to face the fact that I am exactly the type of person to put a 203-year-old bench out front of the barn.

I have said that this is why we cannot have nice things. On the other hand, I now believe that perhaps we just appreciate the heritage of the nice things we actually use a little more.


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