Antiques: Society’s Detritus

IMG_0811.JPGAfter four years in our house Abby and I finally got around to decorating our bedroom. This included buying real bedroom furniture, instead of just using whatever random furniture we had leftover as nightstands. And no bed frame—we’ve been married for over 10 years and we’re just now getting a headboard. We feel so grown up.

Anyway, the space we have for nightstands is very limited so we were coming up empty looking at our usual haunts. So we started shopping at antique stores trying to find furniture with just the right character.

Going back to antique stores is kind of like going home for me. My parents were big on antiques. Half the furniture in our house was antique—kitchen table and chairs, coffee table, TV stand, you name it. At one point we had our library of VHS tapes in an old chicken coop. Half the stuff on the walls was older than my grandparents. Speaking of them, their house was no different. It was like stepping back in time and then taking everyday stuff and hanging it on the wall or using it to store magazines. It’d be like taking a case of beer to store your magazines today. Come to think of it, decorating with antiques is kind of like a college dorm room in time warp.

As a child I accompanied my mom to many antique stores and weekend shows. There was usually the vague promise of baseball cards and later old yo-yo’s that kept me vaguely interested. So lately as we’ve been wondering around antique stores looking for bedroom furniture it’s been like going back.

Aside from all that personal history, antique stores just fascinate me. They’re the repositories of our societal detritus. Forget the museum, they’ve got the valuable stuff. Antique stores have the everyday stuff. They’ve got old bottles and boxes and side tables and postcards and photos. It’s such a random and weird assortment of stuff. I find myself picking up a box and wondering what it was used for and how it got so scratched up and what the original owner would think to see it sitting in antique shop 100 years later priced at $64 and ending up as someone’s nightstand.

Makes me wonder what crap of ours will hang on someone’s wall in the year 2111.

“Wow, what’s that?”

“It’s called a mouse. That’s how they used computers before they were surgically implanted at birth.”

Even now that we have our bedroom furniture mostly taken care of, I feel myself pulled back to these repositories of stuff from another era. I want to sift through the layers like some kind of geologist and put together the pieces. Who is the couple in that faded photograph? What was this box used for? Who thought to save this jar of hair tonic? Why are there so many bad reproductions of Jesus paintings? (my favorite so far is sacred heart Jesus on a bright yellow and blue clock face with the words “Jesus is my dad.”)

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