Antiques: a little mystery to figure out

Yesterday, I went antiquing with my good friend Brittany. To say I had “fun” would be a serious understatement. We checked out two places on Willamette St. and I just have to say, that area should come with a warning sign. Unless you’ve got some serious self restraint, you will end up buying something.

A common assumption about antique buying is that it’s expensive. Believe me, I only went into these shops because even though I was deathly afraid of not being able to control my money, I was also completely overcome with anticipation just imagining what treasures I would find.

Well, I embraced the shelves crammed full of old, musky-smelling jewelry, books, records, figurines, toys, pictures, etc., and I ended up with:

An old photograph of this man. There’s nothing written on the back, and there seem to be remnants of tape on both the top and bottom… as if someone had once kept it in a photo album. This man’s photograph was in a pile of about five others. Those others were all men too, but they each had something off-kilter about them. One guy was completely bald with an icy stare, and a couple others had those famous broom-looking mustaches; they were all really old men too. This guy, however, spoke to me.

When I took it up to the counter to pay for it, I asked the lady where his photograph came from. She told me she didn’t know but that there are a lot of people who bring in piles of photographs of unknown people. She didn’t say if the store pays money for the photographs, but she did give me this one for free, saying he was quite handsome. Apparently there is another woman who comes into the store specifically looking for old photographs of handsome men for her collection. Huh. Well how about that.

My second and final find was a sterling silver ring. You know those glass cases that jewelry stores keep diamond necklaces in? The ones with the sparkling lighting that makes each piece look shinier than it actually is? This ring was in one of those cases. As I leaned over the case, studying each one individually, the lady behind the counter said to me, “Are any of them screaming at you? ‘Take me home!’ ” We both laughed and I said, pointing, “Actually, can I see that one?” She pulled it out of the case, I tried it on, and since it was a perfect fit, I decided I’d buy it. Price? $6.50. Talk about a steal.

Wandering around the store trailing behind Brittany, I kept wondering, Who were the owners of such fine things? I know that kids sometimes have the responsibility of going through their parents belongings after they pass away and must therefore decide what to sell and what to keep, but, I questioned aloud, “Why would anyone choose to get rid of these items?” Brittany answered, “Sometimes people just don’t have the room to store them.” It is such an obvious answer, one I should’ve been able to figure out myself because my own mother will be faced with the task of sorting through my grandmother’s things after she passes. We are both not looking forward to as it is not only very emotional, but so final.

Anyway, I told the woman who rang me up that each seller should be required to provide a little blurb of some kind about each thing they want to sell. If I worked in the store, I would get so caught up in hearing about everyone’s different stories. I love the history behind old heirlooms and antiques. For a long time, I’ve felt like I was born in the wrong era. I know this isn’t uncommon for a person to feel… I was just accompanied in the store by a sense of longing for a different time period and it’s enhanced just by glancing again quickly at the Man in the Suit photograph. His pocket-watch, his pose, his smooth, combed-back hair and ears that stick out just a little further than normal…he’s timeless. Damn, I wish there were a name.

It’s almost slightly absurd how much wonder and curiosity a ring or a photograph has the potential to bring to one person; one absent-minded girl wandering the streets of downtown Eugene on a sunny Saturday afternoon.


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