It was like a maze, trying to navigate the warehouse-sized store. There were piles of objects all over, display cases, shelves, and furniture creating part walls and barriers. There was so much to look at–too much to take in during the course of a visit, and enough to overwhelm my eyes so that I had to blink the crowded images away in order to take in new sights. And it was so easy to miss the most interesting pieces, for they were often the smallest.
But I was on a book hunt. I’d seen the slim, dark copy just a week before, on my first visit, and it became my mission to find it. I scoured the shelves, poring over titles written on old, cracked and fraying spines. It didn’t take too long to find it, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and when I had, I carried it with me, pressed close to my chest where it belonged.
There were countless fascinating pieces in the store: remnants of the past, beloved tokens of people’s lives and childhoods, relics of historical times. Jars of marbles, cases full of burnished and tarnished jewellery, shelf upon shelf of dishes and glassware and cutlery. Some things were easily forgotten, having such little value to those who once owned them. Yet others were trinkets of the most sentimental kind. The kind of sentiment that isn’t easily bought.
I was drawn to the books, as is my nature, and I came across one that was so old, its cover was black and warped and it looked as if time had melted it. I cracked it open oh-so-carefully, flipping through pages at random till I came across a card. Yellowed and faded, it wished “Merrie Christmas” to the recipient, with a name signed neatly at the bottom. A little further in, a tiny pointed leaf was pressed between the pages, as delicate as a spider’s web and so long aged, it was nearly white. Why would someone keep a Christmas card and a dried leaf in a recipe book? There was sentiment there, and while I found it interesting, I knew it wasn’t for me.
Looking at all of the objects, seeing ones that would have obviously belonged to children, been a beloved toy, or others that were clearly gifts from a relative or a lover, I was a little overwhelmed by the sentiment of it all. We fix so much emotional value to the things we own, putting our love and joy, sorrow and pain into them though we know that they’ll outlive us. One day, my books and jewellery will be beyond my possession, maybe in an antique shop, maybe within my family, but certainly out of my reach.
And all of the sentiment I’ve attached to them–will it last?
I think so. You can see, in the time-worn objects–the torn and cracked books, the dull silverware, the dented toys–that whoever once owned them dearly loved them, gave them some sort of care, and it’s something that passes to whoever should chance upon them next. We handle antiques so delicately, with none of the fond abandon their original owners would’ve used, because we know that they are precious things. That sentiment is still there.
Our possessions carry pieces of our lives in them, whether we mean them to or not. Sometimes that attachment makes us weak. Sometimes we forget to love human beings more than material objects. But as that sentiment is passed onto the next generation, it is a reminder of the loving, hurting, completely human soul that once possessed it.
When you walk into an antique store, it’s like walking into the realm of passed souls. When you browse the shelves, touch the sentiment-filled objects, their souls are for a moment reawakened, remembered. And should you choose to take something home, let it grace your life, that soul is reincarnated and more sentiment floods the precious vessel.
No step taken in an antique shop is one that will not be remembered.
A couple weeks ago, I visited a nearby antique shop, first with my dad and sister, and then a little while later with my mom, sister, and grandma. It was so strange, to see objects frozen beneath glass or on shelves, no longer being treated as they would have fifty years ago. But I love the idea of previous ownership. I love to take things into my life that once belonged to someone else, and to think of all the memories and emotions they might have put in the objects I now treat with such respect and awe.
It was certainly an adventure, going to the antique shop, and it’s one I’ll happily remember.
Do you own any antiques?
May the sentiment you pour into your possessions live eternally through the generations.