As most of you know who read here regularly, I am a garage sale/estate sale/thrift shop aficionado. On most weekends I spend a few hours going to the sales—predominately looking for ephemera for my art projects these days. That wasn’t the case in earlier years. I did not go to these places during my 25 years of marriage and child rearing, or at least rarely. After my divorce, however, my lifestyle changed greatly; I was moving into my new digs and couldn’t afford new stuff. Finding used stuff became both a necessity if I wanted to change my living environment and something I found that helped me get my post-divorce sanity back. All of us are consumers on some level; it’s just that I get my jollies from used stuff versus Nordstroms, Macys, Pottery Barn et al. I am also fortunate to have a few antique furniture pieces and accessories passed down in the family. I do have my original Danish modern bedroom dressers and they are very dated. For some reason, I have never been able to replace them, however.
One of the games I play with pieces that have real significance to me is that I make up stories about who owned them before. New stuff has stories, too, but old stuff has many layers of the previous owners. Sometimes the seller will tell me a story about the piece but most often they don’t.
This is my bedroom. The cedar chest at the end of the bed was my maternal grandmothers and it is very precious to me. It is filled with family treasures. On top of it are two versions of the Christian bible and A Course in Miracles. Two sachets my daughter-in-law Gretchen are on top of a very old, and truly exquisite wooden box given to me by a friend when her own grandmother died. The small box on the cedar chest is a gift from a friend who brought it back to me from the Holy Land.
The two bedside tables have “found” treasures, too, including a replica of the Kewpie doll I had as a child, and one has a homemade lace cover made by an aunt. My five-year diary (I’m just entering the 11th year of keeping one) sits on my bedside table with the pens I use for my written journal. The book I am currently reading is at my left and the books coming up are on the right. When married, I would never have had a lace and netting canopy; it wasn’t appropriate. As a woman alone who revels in frou-frou feminine in the bedroom (not in the rest of the house or in my clothing), I love my canopy. Tucked inside the flowers over my head is a dream catcher given to me by my late friend Donna many years ago. The angel vase is a garage sale find. Cookie sleeps on the carpet between the wall and the bed.
Now, the bed. The bed itself came from an ad in the Penny Saver a few years back and that my former son-in-law Lorenzo and grandson Anthony hauled home for me. The down comforter you can’t see as well as the navy blue down bedspread are from estate sales. The maroon velvet angel pillow was purchased from a local antique mall. A new addition is the crocheted bedspread on the top I bought at a moving sale this past weekend and whose story I am about to write for another post. The seller and his wife are moving into assisted living in Seattle to be near their daughter and they bought two of these bedspreads at a garage sale themselves many years ago. Gregarious by nature, I always enjoy talking to the sellers if they are so inclined because most of them love to tell their stories about the stuff they are usually reluctantly getting rid of.
For some reason I cannot explain, this crocheted piece has mystical energy in it for me. I would like to think it is hand-made, but perhaps it's machine-made. It doesn't matter to me. I haven't even removed a few spots it bears so far; they will be in my story. My spiritual director Betsy Caprio is a quilt maker and collector who has used her own collection of quilts she used for quilt retreats. There is one point in a retreat where we choose a quilt and take it to a quiet corner to “experience.” I like to wrap myself in the quilt. What enevitably happens is that the quilt’s maker and owners reveal themselves and then Betsy suggests the quilt’s story from our point of view be written in a journal.I will wrap myself in this crocheted coverlet one day soon and let it speak. One of the owners will be Grace; I do know that already.
Have you ever tried an exercise like this? What possessions do you have that are story-laden? Tell me about one item you own that calls to you personally.