Dust, Junk, and I Can’t Thank You Enough

There’s a buzz down at the fairgrounds today. People are pulling in to park, paying eight dollars for a spot near the arena. It’s not what you think. They’re coming to admire vintage craftsmanship and browse through trinkets old enough to have belonged to your great, great-grandmother.

Some people turn their noses up at the sight of all this junk! After all, some booths have things hardly recognizable for all the dust and scratches. “Antiques,” they say; “it’s just another word for outdated rubbish hawked by hoarders.”

Until a small green talcum powder canister catches the eye. And like an irresistible gravitational tractor beam, it draws her straight into…childhood. “Oh, look! I remember this very jar sitting on Grandma’s dresser! My sister and I would ask longingly for a shake of the fragrant powder to brush along our wrists. That was such a special time.”

There is something paradoxical about the Antique Shoppe. When driving by or giving a quick scan of the shelves and aisles, a look of repugnance might appear on the face of those averse to clutter. But there is a story that runs much deeper, and if one stops to look past the clutter and open one’s senses, the magic begins.

The fairgrounds are a-buzz today and people are sharing stories over a counter display of century-old drills and drill bits. Someone found an original Jell-O recipe book and her face lit up at the remembrance. The memories are recounted with delight and animation. “Seeing the Tinker Toy’s oatmeal-shaped container reminds me of the castle-type contraption my brother and I built with our two sets. It was a maze of sticks and drums! My dad wanted us to break it down to clean the house for company. Instead, my brother grabbed one end and I feebly got hold of the other end. We scooted that thing to the corner of our bedroom where it stayed for a month!”

The discoveries are just as likely to tear open a wound buried in the distant past. Some moments of healing long overdue are evidenced in moistened eyes and soft murmurs in quiet repose. “There it is… Oh my goodness.  My lunchbox from second grade. Barbie and Midge; and the matching Barbie thermos. I… I lost mine the night the tornado hit our town.”

An exchange of ideas is heard over at the snack counter:

Oh, those booths are just a means of escape. Those dealers escape life’s harsh realities and hide behind their junk. Or worse, they prey on people’s nostalgia for profit!

“Oh, really? Even if it’s granted these booths provide an escape to a safer place mentally, emotionally, even spiritually, the fact is it’s rather a benign escape, don’t you think?”

There are a lot of healthy means of dealing with increasing societal pressure, and this might be one. Just as many other hobbies divert attention and recharge life’s batteries. Whatever the motivation – escape, fascination, or appreciation, the impact on the visitor is palpable. And when deep connections are made with one’s personal history, something timeless and magical occurs. The human story is elevated to its rightful place – one of dignity, validation, and wonder.

A great big THANK YOU goes to antique dealers for releasing the stories of our past. You’re experts at unearthing the rich treasures of childhood buried ‘neath the tire treads of time, pain, and adulthood. By preserving bits and pieces of the past you preserve our stories. You preserve us; all of what makes us -us. You give voice to the memories the sands of time have nearly scoured clean. For some, you return to us joy, contentment, and smiles long overdue.


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