“daddy can I have this dog?”
“well a. that is a special stuffed animal that was your great great grandma’s. you can play with it but it’s mine. you know that stuffed pineapple downstairs?”
“that was your great grandma meyer’s. when she passed I took it from her home too. it helps me remember her.”
a short conversation. I looked around my office, as you may have looked at the pictures I posted last week, and could tell a story about everything in there. the parachuting frog from a friend in appleton, the old post office bank from my mom, and many other “stuffs” that preserve/jog my memory. it’s important to me. a. seems to have a bit of “it” in her. she offers most visitors something of hers – usually a picture. I love this action. give people little things so they’ll remember you – so goes a line from a lou reed/john cale song. it isn’t giving something. it’s requesting something. “remember me”.
we had our first visitors come from wisconsin this last weekend. i know the girls, and us, enjoyed having part of our family, familiar faces, explore our new surroundings and home. a. and h. loved the attention from two of their grandparents. we: children museumed, duck fed, bridge street walked, swimming pool swam, flea market looked and filled our family tank on conversation, food, and the sharing of our lives “down south”.
not to minimize any of our more precious moments with the kids (there were many), i must start with the flea market. both my mother-in-law and i share a passion for looking through and buying old stuff. it drives r. nuts, but i think she is coming to understand it. our enjoyment comes from the excitement of finding that jewel with a real monetary value (not known to anyone else of course), recreating the memories of where the items might have been, and mentally picturing where you would put them in your home. something that didn’t come off a store floor where three thousand others were bought before yours. physically, the flea market was set back a short distance off a major highway. we pulled in and it felt very “ghost town” like. we piled out of the mini-van, a. and h. getting smiles from patrons and vendors, and after helping them out and smiling at people – my eyes immediately went into “scan mode”. “yah i know they’re cute – down to business”. the non-human elements that greeted us, but they certainly had a life of their own, were old wood shelters, shacks, and overhangs with folded tin roofs pounded together in an effort to keep the treasures safe from the elements. there were outside vendors with clothes, toys, pictures and vegetables (we bought a half-dozen peaches-and-cream ears of corn and a pound of heirloom tomatoes.) the first overhang i walked into had a green lampshade stuck in the rafters half covered in dry dirt – it caught my eye, i asked “how much”, she said “5 bucks but the lamp comes with”, and i said “sold – let me get some change”. ice broken. the “buildings”, the quotation marks are not to diminish the quality of what they put together to house their wares, rather they were so unique and looked ever-expanding that to limit them as just “buildings” is not fair. they were as much apart of the flea market experience as anything. after perusing (intensely eyeballing) the goods outside we walked inside the smoke, musty smell of hope-and-luck cavern, and it gave me a rush. i can’t explain it unless you enjoy this type of atmosphere, but being around all sorts of odds-and-ends, old and older is, well, cool. i specifically enjoy that each of the rooms were kept by a different person, an elvis-record-fifties area, an old electronics section, a wall of “knickknacks” and so on. at first look one may think that there is no order to their goods, but what i have learned is that all of us collectors have our own way of sorting and keeping our things in their proper place. we can all understand that another collector has an order, but we may need to prod the owner or observe them in their environment for a long period of time to see how it works. it is a way of personalizing the pieces of your collection – it also shows the angle from which one collects. there seem to be collectors who like the visual appearance of objects in space, ones who like the alphabetization and recognizable order of things, and those who just like to have to “search” for things in their collection. like being lost in a 2 acre forest. you can enjoy the thrill of not knowing where you are, because you know it won’t last long. this style of collector loves the following situation: a person walks up to huge book shelves with thousands of records, scans them, and asks “do you have the butcher cover?”. he squints, takes a pull off his cigarette, grunt/gasps “hmph let me see. freewheelin’, bridge, e.l.(leaving off the o just fits the whole shortened version of everything). hmph”. another pull off his cigarette. he looks around a bit as if you hadn’t asked him to find it, but that he was on his own self motivated mission. you have become a mere observer in one of his many collecting rituals. “butch.butch butch. damn man? oh wait.” he knows where it is. you can’t believe he may actually have it. he pulls it out. you never see from where, but produce it he does. your eyes pop. he never lets you touch it. and with a wry smile he says “it isn’t for sale.” beautiful. he points to the mama’s and the papa’s greatest hits. you leave.
entering the structure i wanted to make my way to the back first, but knew i would have to wind through the right side of the building, eyes scanning, and make my way systematically to the back in order to come back out the left side, which would then be my right – this way i wouldn’t miss a thing (that others had). the back of the store left me with no disappointment. the electronics guy. old stereos, speakers, and stale smoke smell situated in a swirl of sound. i want to say a horrible bryan adams song came on when i found the source of what had been lynyrd skynyrd, but don’t remember – or intentionally forgot. but even his voice would have pleased me as it came through a panasonic-record player- reel to reel- coffee table- speaker system in great physical and working condition. hmmm. he seemed like a good enough guy. I felt bad how far back in the store he was. the ceiling of the store got lower and lower the further back you went, I think he was 3’3″. he knew I was interested, but not my knowledge of the product. which was limited. he probably knew. the guy has seen many like me come and go. he’s been back there a while. I looked. made a comment about getting “my wife’s approval” (which sounded so ridicules and typical the moment I said it.) a tad embarrassed, we made our way out front. I didn’t know he had followed us. we were looking and talking about the cactus out front and there he was. with a wealth of knowledge about cactus taboot. r. went back to look at it with him. came back out. we shrugged our shoulders, got back in the van and left.
i thought about the music maker for quite some time – and had a spot picked out in the reading room. just not the time. actually, the idea of it makes me far happier than having it here with me. and here i have another story.
physical objects, material items, stuff. we all have it. some more than others. r. is a bit of a minimalist. I, well, I like stuff, but I like stuff that reminds me of times in my life. okay, i like other stuff too, but i mostly like stuff that has a feeling – a story. we need reminders of times and places. items that we can hold as we share the wheres and whos of them. things that are unique to a time period. things that scream – “ask about me”. things that i put out so people will “ask about me”. i then have something to fidget with while i share my life.
we have many memories from the weekend in our minds, but i enjoy knowing that when someone asks me about that lamp i can use it as a jump off point to share fond memories of a weekend with family. worth 5 bucks.