Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Chest

Today after work, on my way to fetch some Children's Tylenol for my friend whose five year old is languishing under the dire effects of the chicken pox ("But Mom, I haven't even been AROUND any chickens!"), I finally Stopped. 

Countless times I have passed The Antique Place that looks inviting, like a portal into colonial life or some strange equally romantic notion. Stopping for The Antique Place isn't easy because it's on the Other Side of the highway, which may as well be Pink Floyd's Other Side of the Moon when you have to go to the stoplight, turn around, and come back. Nevertheless I made it - "one small step for woman...one giant step for womankind."

Instantly I was enraptured. If The Antique Place had been a man it would've been one heck of a first date. It wasn't just Aunt LuLu's cracked plates shoved into a numbered booth at an antique mall. These pieces were fine. Austere. Comfy. Orderly. Well-worn. Pristine. All of the above. But mostly, they were inviting: Take me home! Sit on me! Warn children away from me! Of COURSE we two lamps are worth our nine hundred dollar sticker, we look like we climbed out of Lewis's woods in the wardrobe in search of fauns to watch over! And so on.
The lamps captured me. But they seemed slightly (slightly?!?) extravagant, almost too fine (almost, anyway), and, anyway, I was only window shopping. 

Besides, I had already seen It.
It was love at first sight. I have never beheld an object so randomly and been so deeply moved in such an innoculous setting. One expects rich experiences in cathedrals or graveyards. This was The Antique Place. And when I saw the chest, my face instantaneously responded the way it does whether you want it to or not when you see That Someone.

It was several feet long. It had carving. Hand wrought iron hardware. But the most captivating feature appeared in three simple initials, and a year: M.A.D. 1767. I was surprised to find tears springing to my eyes, and I somehow got over to it and immediately had to feel it, clasp the iron handle, note the indentation where the handle ground into the oak as it was lifted in travel. It was a blanket chest - the surest indicator of home, a blanket. 

I opened the lid. It smelt sweet, of years and fragrance and ancient lumber that held sweet memories and warm embraces. It held the scent of pies infused into the surface and around the crevices as some woman had Kept House in the company of this chest. But for all of the sentimental woolgathering that I am capable of, I still find myself unable to explain the tears in my eyes when I saw my old friend. 

That's the way it felt - my old friend. If I were more of a mystic I would think that my ancestors had known this trunk, or known its owner. 1767. When Americans were Englishmen and our flag did not yet herald a rookie nation. 1767. When American women were pioneers and world travelers and Puritan and Presbyterian and when childbirth was always natural. 1767. Sublimity in The Antique Place? The trunk was not a Michaelangelo. Mystical experience in The Antique Place? A trunk is hardly Sacred Writ. Profound discovery in the Antique Place?...yes. 1767 forged a new bond in 2006, and I needed it to. 

Beauty is more than the eye of the beholder, but The Trunk reminded me that women have been sewing blankets far longer than I have taken shelter under them; woodworking lasts. I have never, by the way, been So Moved by a plastic Tupperware storage container lining the shelves at Wal-Mart. Maybe I just needed to sense an object of permanence - after all, I am in the midst of moving, and this year has been sketched in various shades of turbulence and upheaval. Or maybe, M.A.D. and I would have been friends. Maybe we will be someday. Maybe when I get to heaven I'll eventually shout, "who lost a trunk? I found it. And thank you."

5 comments:

Carrie said...

You have a way of captivating your readers. You should send your story in to a magazine.

Bob said...

so did you buy it or not??

Adam and Becca said...

Bitty...I was glad to get your updating email as to where you can be found these days....time sure goes by fast and you realize how long it's been since you've connected with someone! It's only fond memories I have of you! Your writing and thoughts are entertaining and very thought provoking. Check us out our blog if you'd like to see what we've been up to.....

Bitty said...

Well, at a grand total of selling an organ on the black market, I mournfully left 1767 at The Antique Place to remain cosy and warm.

Kelly said...

B.G.! I'm so glad that you've entered the big world of blogging. We need to chat sometime - email me or whatever.

Love ya, K.H.