One of my mother’s great passions was collecting antiques.  Growing up poor in the Great Depression fueled her enjoyment and appreciation of the things the rich people had, which is not to say she was a snob.  She never forgot what her life was like and helped so many people over the years, but she learned to appreciate the beauty, craftsmanship and history of beautiful pieces.  She taught me a lot when I was first married…mainly the fun of getting a bargain.  Or something that “gladdens your heart,” as she said.  Especially if that thing was a bargain to boot.  She loved estate sales, auctions, and antique stores and became friends with many of the owners.  For one thing, she loved the stories about the items, the history of the pieces.  She became quite a sophisticated buyer, bargainer and bidder through the years, ending up with some pretty gorgeous pieces.  I tended more towards English pieces and she liked the more formal French, but we were both pretty eclectic.  For her, getting the piece was part of the game.  Years later, when I had a retail store, she had a keen eye for what would sell and what was a keeper from the new items on the market.

I got my dining table, 6 chairs, and a matching buffet at an auction with her when I was about 22 years old.  I paid a whopping $150, which I had to borrow from her and pay back.  I was newly-wed and still in college and she had to store it at her house, using it for awhile, until I had a house for it.  Over the years, she often commented on how the set got prettier to her every year.  It was that bargain, I’m sure.  I’m not sure I would have even picked these items out, but they have served our family well over the past 40+ years as they served the families before us.  That was another thing she taught me – that antiques appreciate rather than depreciate.  Usually, that is.  It’s also recycling, although she didn’t mention that.



For the past two days, I worked at an estate sale. I spend more than I make, so it’s not a real job, but, it’s fun to see the things in the sale and all the people who come through.  Many observations came to mind.  First is that the majority of the people who come are about my age or older.  I’m guessing that it’s a combination of all the things that made my mother go to them.  It’s getting out of the house, running into friends, looking for bargains, seeing what you already have is worth, adding to a collection and finding a treasure you can’t live without.  There’s such a variety in an estate sale – everything in a house and based on the owner’s taste and what the family hasn’t taken out.  Dealers rush in first to scout for the really unique and see what they can come back to get at bargain prices on the last day…one dealer called himself the Buzzard because he swoops in at the end for the real bargains.

Such a shopping spree…where else are you going to find silver services and fine crystal,


replacement parts for your kitchen items, along with cookbooks that are out of print that you want to give someone,


pressed glass for your friend who collects it,


a miniature scuttle, which we decided was used for cigars, although we didn’t really know and loved it anyway,


lovely oil paintings at bargain prices,


unusual wicker pieces,


an old stamp collection, along with books,


old family photographs (this horrifies me),


and, my favorite, an antique iron.


The iron was a source of constant conversation as we saw how it heated up with flame and then had to be picked up with a cloth or potholder wrapped around the hot, hot handle.  On top of that, I could barely lift it.  Imagine trying to plop that down on a piece of clothing and move it over the area without scorching.  Wow!  We all had a greater appreciation of our light electric steam and spray irons and for the women who had to wrestle these monsters!

The comments I heard over and over were “omigod, my house looks like this.  I need to clean things out,” followed by “I have to have that,” and “my kids don’t want any of my things.”  Having cleaned out my mother’s home, after she had cleaned out a lot of it herself, I learned what she had already taught me when she cleaned out homes for relatives and friends.  You can’t imagine how much is in there until you have to touch every item in every drawer, shelf and closet.  On the other hand, cleaning out her things taught me a lot about her and brought back many memories.  It can be a healing thing.

On the comments about our kids not wanting our things, I have a few suggestions.  My mother left us with a list of the things in her house and where and  she got them, who the artist was, and what she paid for them – the provenance, so to speak.  It was invaluable.  It didn’t mean we had to love it like she did, but it kept us from selling it as a piece of junk in a garage sale.  I was working on a list like that for my kids, but it’s tedious.  My grandson is going to help me videotape everything, with me telling the story of the item so my family will know why it meant anything to me or if it’s valuable or not.  After that, I assume they will also treasure it or send it along to a proper new home, recycling it once again.

I don’t know what the newest generations will like or want, but I love the history of my old and new things.  I’m hoping that I live long enough to pass some down to my grandkids as they launch into their adult lives, as my mother did for my children.  The history of some of these items has passed through other families and is now part of my family’s history.  Except for those many things that will end up in my estate/garage sale one of these days.  Hope someone enjoys plowing through my treasures looking for a treasure of their own.  One of these days.  I’m not ready to part with my stuff yet…