I was ready to sell! Make some money on some wonderful “antiques” I had collected during my “antique phase” in the Eighties and Nineties when I wasn’t interested in buying anything that wasn’t “old” (or “olde”), had a story, or evoked a romantic aura of earlier times.
The popular culture then was all about Victorian memorabilia, Americana, and things with less chrome and more patina. Many of us then weren’t interested in anything unless it had a history and reeked of nostalgia. I accumulated plenty.
Some of my stash is family items: A height chair used by three generations; “45” records from my teen days – including Elvis; vintage hats; my childhood collection of salt and pepper shakers (my mother’s idea), a 100-year-old Seth Thomas clock (not working) that my grandparents supposedly carried from their apartment east of the High Bridge to their new home being built west of the bridge. They often made this evening walk to check the progress of their new home being built on Manomin Street.
Then there were my shopping “finds”– a pair of large, oval-shaped, hand-tinted portraits I had in my dining room for years, dubbed “Charles and Caroline” (some people thought it odd that I would display strangers so prominently but I just liked them); a collection of iron Victorian bill holders that I gathered because I liked the way my best friend displayed hers in her house; an old school bell I had on my desk at Blake for years.
It has been made very clear to me that these treasures are not wanted by my contemporary, Ikea/Pottery Barn kids who lecture me: “For heaven sakes, Mom, get ride of some of that stuff!” In fact, the style of the day is “uncluttered,” sleek, functional, “modern.”
Much in my mind has been the nine-months it took my brother and me to go through my parents’ house, the packed-to-the-rafters (literally) two-bedroom bungalow with basement, attic and everywhere else stuffed with what “might come in handy” sometime. The Depression deprivation mentality was alive and well on West Curtice Street in West St Paul.
So Saturday morning my trusted antiques dealer arrived and I proudly showed him my stuff, arrayed in the basement. In a sad voice he said, “You know, people just aren’t buying this stuff anymore. Unless it’s bookcases or trunks – things that are useful – we just can’t move anything.”
He bought a small desk, the school bell, and a crock. Ninety dollars. My life’s pile of stuff is worth a fraction of what I thought it was. I fought feeling devalued and olde myself, to be honest.
I wasn’t that surprised, I guess, since earlier I had checked eBay for the prices of some items. Seth Thomas clocks are a dime a dozen – and there are tons for sale. Ditto the salt and pepper shakers. Even my vintage Bruce Springsteen “Born in the USA” album is worth zilch, a profound insult to the Boss.
An article in last week’s Star-Tribune explained that people who have antique silver would make more having it melted down than trying to sell it. Silver is not in style and no one wants to spend time cleaning it (when they could be Facebooking?)
I’m planning on a garage sale this spring. Too much for the Huge Sale. Prices will be time-appropriate.
I’ve been thinking of how my antiques experience echoes other changes in my life – and the lives of many of us: our stock market retirement funds have shrunk; Barbara’s Bungalow is worth probably $40,000 less than when I bought it six years ago.
Now no one wants my Seth Thomas clock.
Suddenly the Scriptural verse becomes relevant: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” – or where changing tastes and market uncertainties subtract from your investment.
Of course it’s all relative. I look at pictures from Kayoro, Uganda, and feel like the most blessed person on the planet. And I AM grateful every day for my outrageous array of blessings, including a wonderful job where I have the opportunity to ponder these mysteries. Pondering is what Lent is about.
Ash Wednesday is tomorrow. “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Even the antiques that have lasted three generations, and all those who treasured them. The journey is forward not backwards, and Love is in the driver’s seat. The words of Ash Wednesday are both a solemn reminder and an invitation to renewal.
Next Sunday’s sermon will be about Satan tempting Jesus in the desert during the 40 days of Lent – as well as the temptations extended to us by our ever-changing culture and our own insecurities.
See you in church. Barbara
P.S. Read chapters 6 and 7 in the Joan Chittitser book for the first Wednesday Lenten program March 15. Plenty of pondering! Discussion! Movie clips! No antiques!