Vestiges of the past and the treasured keepsakes of others long gone find new homes generations
The heart hath its own memory
like the mind,
And in it are enshrined
The precious keepsakes into
which is wrought
The giver’s loving thought.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Music touches every key of memory
And stirs all the hidden springs
of sorrow and of joy;
We love it for what it makes us forget,
And for what it makes us remember…
From the book “Links of Memory”, published around the turn of the century, and discovered at a flea market/antiques show and sale, Charleston, SC
Keep everything for the joys of remembering how they came to you, and read them in your dotage when the memories are bittersweet.
Comment from a reader of my journal
You know how in bookstores near the cards, gift items, and journals, are found those little miniature books of wisdom and inspiration, some full of profound and wise sayings, others merely humdrum, pithy, amusing or just plain ordinary? They are often 1 1/2 or 2 inches or 3 by 4 inches — small collections of sayings that you can tuck away in a convenient place like a pocket or book bag, or briefcase, even, if you carry one. They are filled also with beautiful illustrations or nature photographs — landscapes, sunsets, seascapes — scenes to refresh and gladden the mind and soul when it is too weary or worried to cast about for more difficult fare to read, or even look at.
These types of books have been around for some time, I discovered at the big Antiques Show and Sale in Charleston that I used to attend years ago, taking my mother who dearly loved antiques, and who knew many of the dealers at the show.
I came across the table of one dealer which contained four wafer-thin little volumes of poetry, quotations, and color lithographs. They were apparently reprinted from earlier, longer editions of the same works published by E. P. Dutton some years before, in the late decades of the 19th century, I would imagine. I bought one of them called “Links of Memory” because as I thumbed through the book, its words seemed to speak directly to me that particular day when I needed something reassuring and kindly to read.
You open the book and begin readng the quotations and you smell the old book smell you’ve noticed a hundred times before when you’ve picked up old, yellowed volumes in used bookstores, or on the shelves of your grandfather’s bookcase. I remember that musty “old” smell from childhood, and all during the years I was growing up, for I have long frequented antiques and collectibles shops, although not with the passion of a true collector. I usually wandered in these shops and looked around briefly, taking in the atmosphere and seeing if anything really stood out. Today, I take more time, and I appreciate the experience more, even though I have mixed feelings about this need to revisit the past, the pasts of others, not my own, as often as I do.
It was fascinating to go to those combination flea markets and antique sales that came to town every month or so. Now they are gone, but the memories linger, memories of anticipation and hope of finding an unexpected treasure.
Once inside the building, the stalwarts were already there, eyeing the tables for what, to them, are priceless bits of memorabilia they will get for a bargain. Glass encased tables are filled with old fountain pens, rings and a seemingly endless variety of other antique jewelry, vest-pocket watches, pocket knives, old photos in lockets, post cards, medals and other keepsakes from someone’s jewelry box or chest of drawers, picked up at estate sales or purchased at countless out-of-the-way and obscure antique shops.
These collectibles may stir the memories of buyers who are drawn to the sales as moths to flame. There is something wistful and pleasing about all this, a harmless indulgence for collecting and an interest in the craftsmanship, art and culture of the past.
But there is somthing sad, too, although compelling. Some of us are drawn to these reminders of other days, irresistibly, as if longing perhaps for better days, a more sane, happy and neighborly age that seems sometimes to have vanished in the tumultuous world we live in today.
Baskets, Indian arrowheads, pottery, fine china, lawn and garden statuary, Christmas ornaments and decorations, very old embroidered linens, bowls, cups and saucers, antique children’s toys, kitschy items from the 50s, old highway maps, old and vintage books, soft drink bottles you remember from your childhood (Nehi, Orange Crush, RC Cola…) — it’s all there in bewildering abundance.
The past is enfolded in the present and lives on briefly as an item catches the eye of an astute buyer (aren’t we all astute at this pastime?). The the questions and sales talk begins. Many dealers actually dread parting with some items, I have discovered.
Every time I go to one of these sales, I feel a sense of connection to the past. I think of simpler times, more innocent and youthful days, because so many of the things I see are from that period in the 50’s when I grew up. You know you have reached a certain stage in life when those treasures, those once-lost reminders of youth, are now collectibles. But it’s nice, too, because they bring back the pleasant memories we enjoy recalling.
I found this little book at an antique mall earlier this year. What’s especially endearing is the inscription dated “Sept. 18885.” “To Blanche Gifford from Aunt Hattie.” The book is about 2×2 inches square and was evidently a small keepsake to treasure given by an aunt to her niece 138 years ago.
I love going to estate sales and thrift stores. I could spend hours there. The last estate sale I went to I bought a couple of books (which I already read and they were really good), some quilting stuff, a few kitchen items…can’t remember what else. It’s kind of sad to me to see all of a person’s treasures being rummaged through by so many people.
I just wonder how many hands that little book from 1885 has been in…how many have owned it? It’s really cool.