There is a history in old things. Some people don’t like them for that reason and buy only new to avoid having to deal with any feelings old, used things evoke.
My own home has hardly anything new in it.
Because Mom liked to save things, we had furniture stacked on furniture with few voids — every space became consumed eventually — as we all grew and nothing seemed to leave. It may be that because of that, empty space leaves me feeling uncomfortable even now. It was also likely because of that aspect of childhood that I ended up in a career arranging things. It became my job as a child to organize because, after awhile, everyone could see that I had a knack for it and so, as with all things someone does well, it becomes expected of them.
Lucky for me that I loved to do it.
When the old farm house my mother was living in changed owners and the caretaker was given all the old antiques that had been it it since its beginning, Mom and I went traipsing through a string of used shops all lined up in a row in one section of a nearby town and found replacements for everything that went missing with the caretaker. We had so much fun and ended up becoming friends with one of the shop owner because she got so much from them that it took a few trips to decide on things and each trip we spent time visiting. They delivered the entire lot once everything was picked out.
It may even have been the stories that they told that helped her pick the things she did.
In those days, old things hadn’t started fetching the kinds of prices they do now days — so we were able to refurnish her rented house with her measly money. Most all of those things ended up in one or another of her kids’ or their kids’ homes after she “conked out”, as she always called it — “I’m dibsing this to you for when I conk out,” — would be what she’d say and that person’s name would go on it or on a list.
Some of those things I had to let go of when I left California to move to Arizona. I corralled any friends who needed things and let them pick and choose for free and anything left was offered to another friend I had who rented a space in an antique shop who did special effects on things and then resold them. I loved her work. She picked the things she wanted, we decided on a price and after she gave me the money, I gave her all the rest of the stuff — whatever she still wanted — for free because, well, just because and I wasn’t going to move it so what else was there to do with it but make both of us happy.
There is always a bittersweet feeling letting history go but if it gets a good home, all the better and not so bitter.
There was one table, an oval one, that I had purchased used and made a faux marble effect on its top and painted the legs purple. It had pride of place in my big California house. I hated to part with it but it was really big and I had no idea what I would be living in once I got to Arizona, (I like to take a lot of risk. At least I used to.) I only took small things that could serve multiple purposes and were easy enough to carry around by one person.
That table, a dear friend took and it ended up as the table in the space her husband liked to be in and as his sprawling work station with papers and clutter all over it — little patches of the faux finish peeking through. That was his space and it kept clutter and stuff from all over other spaces she didn’t want it and it was tucked back in a corner where it wasn’t easy to see. I have an image of him friendly-flipping me the bird while sitting at it one time that I visited. So, the history of that table lives on and on. They aren’t together anymore but I think he took the table with him.
Right before my mother died, she asked me if I thought about renting her old house — she loved it so much and wanted to think of me in it. I said, “Mom, I would never be able to get over you if I did that.” She looked up at me and said, “I know.” So many times I almost wish I had — 20/20 hindsight. But, I would not have had the life I’ve had, good and bad and God only knows what I would not have been able to rise above if I’d stayed. California will always be home though and I very often miss it and especially my mother’s old home and the little wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling used-furnished abode we spent a lot of time in too before we all moved up the street to the big old farmhouse where all the space got filled as well.
Filling empty space has been a thing my family excelled at and I was, am, no exception. But while my mother, on the one hand, would stick new pictures on the wall wherever there was an empty space, I would learn to try to make them make more sense and have a rhyme and reason to where they did get placed. And I would eventually learn a little bit more about editing and letting go of things so that there could be a few empty spaces for a place the eyes could land to find a little peace from utter chaos.
All the things that come and go are touched and leave a fingerprint while in the person’s custody. Finger prints can be erased. What the touching does is anybody’s guess but I think that might be why I like old things — history travels with them, perhaps. And I love that very continuity and the sense that life just might go on. I know I sense my mother in the things she left and that is such a bonus and a comfort after all is said and done — any nuisance of clutter or the burden of the baggage of old dolls aside. I’m glad to have my mother still with me, one way or another.