“I’m looking for the other side of this earring, if anyone’s seen it,” a woman said as she sorted through stuff at a recent peddler’s fair. A small swarm of women hunched over tables and dug through tangled piles of new and used jewelry in hopes of finding treasures at $1.00 a piece. Camaraderie developed amongst the women as they called out their requests and admired one another’s finds, but behind their backs a few onlookers shook their heads in disbelief. Obviously, to some people this stuff was trash, but to others it was treasure.
All truth be told, I, too, am attracted to tables of treasure and peddler’s fairs. My husband and I have fun perusing the tables as we stroll through the booths and take trips down memory lane. The crafter-decorator-creative recycler in me has a difficult time ignoring some of the purchasing opportunities, but basically, as much as I enjoy the “thrill of the hunt,” I most enjoy the open air history lessons.
Bits of history, in all shapes and forms, are on display at peddler’s fairs. If you want to learn something about the history of toys, kitchen goods, garden equipment, furniture, tools, advertising, and just about anything else, a peddler’s fair is a good place to start. Whether you eavesdrop on conversations or converse with vendors yourself, there is much information to be learned. For the most part, vendors are very knowledgeable about their ware and some, when asked, will tell interesting stories about their pieces. As I look at items I wonder: How old is this? Where did it come from? Who made it? What is it made out of? How was it used? As I work my way through booths, I make mental notes about what I’ve seen, what I’ve learned, and the relative value of items.
Because old things have back stories that new things do not, I became a collector of random old things. It isn’t a regular addiction, but every now and then something special calls out to me, such as an old wooden Chinese cookie mold or a silver spoon engraved with my husband’s initials. I once thought everyone revered old things, but I learned otherwise when I bought an antique quilt several decades ago. A pretty hand-stitched quilt, made from old flour sacks had caught my eye during a trip. It was extra special because it had been “signed” by the woman who constructed it. I wondered about this woman and the story behind this quilt. Later, when I mentioned my prize purchase to my sister, she said, “Ewww, it belonged to a dead person!” That was the first time I realized that antiques and possessions formerly owned by other people were not considered treasures by everyone.
My home is warm, homey, inviting, and cluttered. The people in my home are not the only occupants who have stories to tell. In every room there’s some found object that tells a story. Even though I’m attracted to the clean look of minimalist, contemporary-styled homes, I could never be happy in one. After all, where would I put all my treasures?