Estate sales always bring up mental Polaroids of costume jewelry to me. I’m not sure why these two terms are synonymous in my wild brain, but they are. Every “estate sale” yard sign conjures sepia toned pictures of tarnished silver prongs loosely holding yellowing rhinestones, ancient brooches that more than likely squeak in agony when opened, rows of fake cameos, and pearl necklaces galore–all of them nestled in a display on a black velvet material (which tries its best to class them up.)
I own my fair share of old 1950’s- 1960’s era costume jewelry. There’s something about old things that I adore. I can’t help but wonder at their original owner. Was the piece a gift? Was it purchased for a specific event? Did she wear it to a formal, luncheon, wedding reception, women’s club meeting, the Kentucky Derby, or an anniversary date with her husband? Did she wear little white gloves and a pillbox hat or a little black A-line dress? Did she have a fur stole the brooch was pinned on?
There’s a Woody Allen film I love called “Midnight in Paris” where the protagonist, a romantic writer, dreams to one day own a nostalgia shoppe. People close to him in the film think he’s crazy, but I get him 100%. I’ve always had an affinity for antiques, but more important to me, the human stories the antiques tell. I love being able to recognize myself and my own emotions, motivations, and concerns in the things of the past. I think we all do.
We can all relate to the mom on a rusty tin sign advertising the use of a “New and Improved” biscuit powder. She’s busy, but she wants the best for her family the same as we do.
We can study the faces on the old photographs for sale in antique malls and see the same sparkle in the lovers’ eyes that we share when we lock eyes with our soul-mates.
We can thumb through old record albums and tell which songs were the most loved by how worn they are. How many times do we listen to our favorite song on our iPod?
A few months back I went on a road trip with some girlfriends and we ended up in an antique store. (We’re wild and crazy like that.)
I, like I usually do, immediately start looking through postcards and letters. As a self proclaimed letter writer, I can’t tell you the joy I get from reading old correspondence from the past. One letter gripped me in spite of, or because of, its incompleteness. Only a third of it existed in tact, front and back. It began like this:
“November 10, 1929
Tonight is Sunday, and I had a strong desire to be with you, but as things are not as…”
There was more on the back.
“Tonight I went to a tea dance in Jefferson Hall. I saw Mary Ella and she told me that she had just heard from you. That made me want to hear too, so please answer more promptly than I am want to do.”
The signature was missing. I scoured the entire antique store looking for the rest of it to no avail.
I don’t think we’ll ever know who Florence’s friend was–or if she wore a rhinestone brooch to that tea dance.
Romanticizing objects, particularly clothing, is one way my brain stays entertained. I can recall outfits I wore to functions, on dates, to shows, and on various shenanigans. When I put on a certain dress or shirt I am prone to say to myself, “This is what I wore when…”
I wonder if other people do that.
I also can’t help but wonder if, in the far future, there will be a lady wondering who wore my (now new) red dress? To what function? With whom did she attend it? Was it a happy occasion or a sad one?
Maybe this futuristic lady will even poke around to see if there’s anything written about my red dress.
Well, look at that–now there is.