I have always loved old things, ancient things even. Mythology was my favorite subject in high school and I still study the early Persian myths and religions. Gods and goddesses and pagan magic hold an allure that has always been there.
Almost everything I own is old. Mostly inherited, as my grandfather made furniture as a hobby and I got lots of that. I have my granny’s hope chest, old Pennsylvania Dutch that she updated in the 60s with an antique wash. It’s peeling now but I love it still. Since it’s been refinished it’s not valuable. Just sentimental.
Counting the items of furniture in my office alone, of the 11 pieces, 6 originally belonged to my grandparents. 5 bookshelves, two my grandfather made and three from IKEA. Two cabinets he made. Her hope chest, where I keep my files. The lovely ottoman with intricately carved legs that I just could not get rid of when the springs and stuffing finally poked through. I had it reupholstered and my guy (when you collect old things, you always have ‘a guy’ who helps you mend what breaks) went ahead and refinished the bashed up legs too. They are so beautiful. Maybe I love old things because of the care people used to take with craftsmanship. Maybe it’s because these things remind me of my grandmothers, both passed on, both their homes such sweet sanctuaries for me as a child.
The book in the photo above was my grandparents’ too. “Burke’s Complete Cocktail & Drinking Recipes” (1936) has two subtitles. The first “with Recipes for FOOD BITS FOR THE COCKTAIL HOUR” (yes all in caps) and “The Art and Etiquette of Mixing, Serving and Drinking Wines and Liquors.” I have looked through this book often, but never made a drink or a ‘food bit’ from it. I learned to bartend with a similar, slightly updated version of a book like this. So I’ve made Sidecars and Pink Ladies for people. The cocktail shaker in this photo is also a family relic, from the 50s, from my parents. It’s still the only shaker I own. You can see it has matching shot glasses. The 50s were big on comic accoutrements. Not my favorite era, but if someone gives me something useful, I keep it instead of going to Restoration Hardward and finding a beautiful silver shaker that looks retro, like from the 20s. I’ve seen those and adore them. I have lots of things from the 20s. But I keep my old 50s shaker because I prefer using what I have, even silly old things.
Beauty is subjective and to me old things that are also useful hold charm that brings me great joy. I hate buying new clothes. I wear my jeans until they tatter and fall off. Same with shoes. I don’t buy new jewelry as I have so much vintage from my grandmother. And I wear it. None of this has anything to do with nostalgia. It is all about using what is given and cherishing what has come before. Now when I post a #TBT photo on Facebook like the one here, that’s nostalgia. 1978. Me and my first child, bonded in a way that was wholly new magic to me. There’s some danger to nostalgia, I think, if it makes you long for the past. I don’t. I remember how we were and it makes me happy that everything turned out so well for him, and I move on. Life continues in the present. It’s not that I want to live in the past. For one thing, I’d have to be an invalid as I cannot imagine having to wear a corset.
There is a huge disconnect living in an ultra-modern home and loving antiques. I got lucky just before we moved in last year; Mom gave me some contemporary living room furniture. She buys new furniture every few years (!) because she wants a fresh look. This concept is foreign to me. So much so that when we got here, Al bought everything we needed. (Is there anything more cold than stainless steel appliances? I would have chosen RED). I made half-hearted attempts to insert my own opinions, but ultimately I let him choose everything except my reading chair, which has, no surprise, a distinctly vintage feel with just enough of a contemporary edge to fit somehow with all the leather and glass and that huge television that takes up half the room.
There are things I like here. The fireplace. Having a mantle for my Buddha and my children’s photos. I collected and framed all the art on the walls over 25 years, and eventually found a perfect home for every piece. I used to haunt antique stores for old frames. Yes, some of them are on these modern new walls. The old things I love live in uneasy harmony here. But my baby, a grown man now, lives in a 1920s Craftsman story-and-a-half that I greatly anticipate seeing for the first time.
I’ll see my new grandson, too, if he decides to arrive on time. And I’ll love him as I do his father. New humans, now those I like.