I saw the telephone chair in the corner of Homewood Antiques, and suddenly I was back in the old house of my youth on Westwood Lane. I could vividly see Mom sitting in the chair, talking on the rotary phone to her friends or my aunts, her laughter ringing through the house. I could feel myself sitting there, the phone chord tightly wrapped around my index finger as I tried to get the courage to dial my father’s number. The table sat right by the front door, where you could feel a bit of breeze through the screen door on those endlessly hot Florida evenings. The memories washed over me, so many of them, so many things I hadn’t thought about in years and years.
My mom used to drag me to the seediest antique stores in Tampa (or junk stores, as Mom would call them). The messier, the better. She loved nothing more than searching for treasures in the crowded, dusty and dim stores, but as a little girl, I didn’t understand the fascination, wanting to be anywhere but there. I came to find in later years, though, that that love of all things old, things imbued with history, was running through my veins- just as it had in my mother’s.
As I slowly walked through the antique store, I stopped and touched certain pieces pieces that called to me; a wizened face carved into a piece of wood, a claw foot tub in pristine condition, a concrete angel that looked as if it had guarded a grave for many years. Old jewelry; long strands of flapper pearls, a necklace made from an ancient key and a piece of an old ruler (I’m a sucker for old keys- had to buy that one.). A friend of mine put it best- you can feel the history in each piece. I am drawn to that history, wanting to know more about the time they were made and what the people were like who used them over the years, what the world was like back then. I respect the history, and when I buy something old, I feel a responsibility to care for it, to be the guardian for that little bit of history while it is with me.
I thought about how much my mom would have loved this place with its funky, eclectic collection of items. As I passed a large curio cabinet, I could just see her stopping to sit there on her walker, taking her time to study each piece. She would call me over to her, “Ooh, Neese, look at that! That’s from the olden days- it’s worth a lot of money!” She would then tell me a story about a similar piece from her own childhood, never seeming to tire of looking and remembering, these bits and pieces a connection to her youth.
Maybe that is why I love junk stores so much now; that connection with history, and more importantly, with my mother. I feel her with me among all of those old things, feel her joy in looking, touching, and studying the treasures to her heart’s content. Those bits and pieces carry on long after we are gone, holding their stories of ‘olden days’ secret sometimes, sometimes opening up and whispering their tales to those willing to take the time to listen. I’m so glad that I did just that today- I felt like I got to go junkin’ with Heavy D one more time.