(My mom and grandmothers. Photo of five generations from the Miami newspaper, 1953.)
I come from a long line of women who loved antiques. For the past century, the first child of each generation was a girl, born when her mother was 20 years old. My mom and I broke that tradition when she had me at 23. I really blew it up by waiting until 29 to have a baby. (And that still seems so young to me today!) There were always five generations alive at once when a baby came into the family. I not only had multiple grandparents and great-grandparents when I was born, but I also had a great-great-grandmother until I was almost a year old.
These women, coming from wars and the Great Depression, had a “use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without” mentality. Using old things and repurposing utilitarian objects came from necessity rather than fashion. They were the original Flea Market Flippers and Design-on-a-Dime champions. My mom used to tell me stories of coming home from school to find my grandmother and aunts reupholstering an old chair or sewing new curtains.
When she was 26, my mother opened her first antiques store in South Florida. She sold old quilts, among other things, and women soon began asking how to make quilts themselves. The store quickly became an antiques/quilting store where fabric and sewing supplies were sold and quilting lessons were given in the back. I grew up running around the place, learning to use a sewing machine, how to cross stitch, or to weave ribbon into a plain basket to make it look “fancy” – and very 1980’s!
My great-grandmother moved from Miami to North Carolina and eventually settled in Tennessee, where she purchased a 200-acre farm to raise cattle and live her best hippy life. We would take road trips to visit her and always spent time picking through dusty old antique stores along the way. I remember countless afternoons spent with my mom, great-aunts, and grandmothers, the women cackling their way through junk shops, sharing family gossip, and teaching me about depression glass or explaining “I Like Ike” buttons.
These women were strong and opinionated and loving and kind and I’ll always associate antiques with them. To me antiques = memories, both my own and of others. When I see a primitive table, I imagine the father who most likely crafted it by hand. Did he cut and mill the wood himself? Or is it made from scraps of other pieces of furniture and old shipping crates because he was making do? How many meals were shared around that table? How many stories told or card games played? I’m a sap, I know, but I want to save each and every item if only for the stories it knows.
(That little blondie is me!)
Few families today will experience having five generations together at once, so I treasure the memories I have with these women. I wish I could go back in time and ask a million questions and fill volumes of books with their stories. Instead, I collect and curate memories with the goods I bring you. They all come from different eras and places and each one is something that I find beautiful. I hope you will too!