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When Did I Become My Mother?

Champlain Bridge – Crown Point, NY

My mother loves to drive. When I was a kid we would go on afternoon excursions. Driving just to drive.  I’d gaze out the window at beautiful old homes and the mountain landscape. I especially loved driving over the Champlain Bridge to Vermont. It was a big adventure. To me, the Adirondacks were hunting gear, snow plows and too many trees to count.  Going to Vermont was like heading to the big city, it was filled with sophistication and culture. My mother also loves to shop.   I loved walking down Church Street, in Burlington, window shopping and every so often, splurging on something nice. It was so much more decadent than Merkeles in Plattsburgh. Vermont was an adventure.

Except for Sundays. I hated car rides on Sundays  I hated Vermont on Sundays. And I definitely hated shopping on Sundays.

On Sundays my mother used to drag me through dusty old barns and to one specific church barn in Vergennes.  I loathed that barn and its monthly antique auctions.  Nothing new. Nothing shiny.  Everything was old, dusty and broken, including the people.  My mother was under 40 and neither old nor broken, but when you’re 8 everything is ancient.  I spent what seemed like hours shuffling my feet, kicking the dirt in my kangaROOS while old crotchety people (usually men in overalls) quarreled over the price of some seemingly stupid dresser as my mother watched and learned.

boxes and boxes of teacups

“Can’t you just go to Ethan Allen and buy a new one? Who wants someone elses old stuff?” I used to wonder.  “When are we going to Church Street” I whined.

When we left, my mother would carefully place the box of carnival glass or hand painted tea cups into the trunk of our car.  Five years later, she opened an antique store in our tiny town on the Adirondack Coast.  I spent my summers working there and hated that too!

In my twenties, something shifted. When shopping for furniture to fill my tiny apartment in San Francisco, I began opening drawers, searching for the dove tails, the maker’s signature, anything to give me an indication of the quality. These aren’t things I was taught to do, but things I learned as little girl in those dusty barns and antique auctions. The drawers I opened were mass produced, designed to last 5 years if I really took good care of it AND I had to put it together myself!  No dovetails, nothing hand carved, it didn’t smell like wood. It was plastic and particle board, cheap convenience for a modern society.

From that realization, the appreciation grew and an new antiquer was born. Well reborn, really. As I move through my thirties I am now the one dragging my husband through the old dusty barns and antique shops.  In the beginning he hated it as much as I did when I was 8. But I think the tides are changing.  We live on the edge of one of the most wonderful Antique Districts on the Jersey Shore. It just too convenient not to have an appreciation.   Unforutnately, the town of Red Bank is re-developing the West End Antique and Arts district and many of my favorite antique shops are set for demolition. Four of the stores are already closed and boarded up.  It breaks my heart. Rumor has it that they will re-open at a different location, but in this economy, only time will tell.

I come from a long lineage of antiquers, “junk” auctioneers and furniture makers.  I am pretty sure it’s in my blood. I have an almost primal urge to work with my hands, create and recreate things from wood. I simply need the space to do it.  It just may be time to move out of our little antique district apartment so, like my mother I can fill our garage and storage room with old wood furniture, turpentine, refinishing tools and boxes and boxes of carefully packed, hand painted tea cups.  Maybe someday, I’ll even open up a store.

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