Why I love old stuff

Every once in a while, Chicago Now community manager and all-around nice guy (suck-up points here) Jimmy Greenfield, gives his 300+ bloggers a writing exercise. The topic this time around was “Write about something you find beautiful that you feel others may not understand.” Well, this is an easy one for me because I collect old stuff.

Now, I know this isn’t unusual because I know a lot of people who love antiques, but I’ve been collecting since I was 13 years old.  I have such a variety of collections that my husband, Chuck, once quipped he couldn’t even afford to collect toothpicks.

My first antique was purchased up on Main Street in my hometown of Dupo, Illinois. I will never forget it, Aunt Tilly’s Antique Shop (antique being a very, very loose term here) was a veritable wonderland for me. Room after room filled with treasures (again, “treasures” being a very loose term) and I was captivated. Every time I went there, which was often, I felt like I had fallen down a rabbit hole.

I imagined the lives the pieces collected here might’ve had before, who owned and loved them and why…One day, a 19th century, heavily carved cabinet caught my eye, but with a price tag of $45, I knew it would be a difficult, if not impossible purchase. However, I convinced Tilly to let me pay on time, so throughout grade school and into high school, as I worked as a model in St. Louis, I saved my money and eventually this beautiful piece was mine. It still has pride of place in my home, now as a heavily loaded liquor cabinet. 🙂

But, let me tell you another story about Aunt Tilly and her wonderful store. She literally lived among the pieces there that were for sale there.  One day, my late Uncle Marvin (who was also an avid collector) was rooting among her things and she drawled, in that accent that only darling people from Southern Illinois have, “Marv, now you’re in my underwear drawer.” We laughed about this until the day he died.

My collecting inclinations don’t stop at antique furniture though. I also love and collect antique Christmas items–19th century Santas in every shape, size and material, fragile ornaments, cast-iron sleighs, decorated, miniature Christmas trees from the ’40s and ’50s and so much more. I used to display these cherished items only during the holidays, but I couldn’t stand being away from them that long so now they’re in a curio cabinet year-round. My designer thought I was nuts until he saw (and approved of) the charming display.

Oh yes, and one more thing, I also collect antique paperweights. They are true miracles of creation before it became easy to do with machines doing all the heavy lifting. The patience and skill required to create these complex glass orbs is astounding to me. So many were destroyed due to mistakes that it’s a wonder any survived at all.  The ones that did are highly prized and pretty pricey now.

A guy came to our house yesterday to film a video for a friend’s birthday and he commented on the limited wall space I had due to artwork, etc.  I smiled outwardly, but inside it was clear to me he was a minimalist. And, in my mind, the definition of a minimalist is someone who has nothing to say. Case closed.

(We also collect rare books but this is another story).

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