One of my big hobbies is going to rummages and estate sales in search of treasures. I use that word loosely, of course. The word "treasures" can mean different things to different people. One person's wooden spoon collection might be junk while another person sees something fabulous in it.
If you live in the Midwest, you've got even more reason to celebrate the art of the rummage. Based on what I hear from my friends who live in the southern states, rummages are way better up here.
For one, people who move down south in their elder years tend to get rid of stuff before they go. For another, many folks have grandparents or parents who immigrated here and brought with them a diverse group of possessions. Their cultures come through in their dishware, clothing, and furniture.
As a writer, I love seeing what people have and what they sell at rummages. It fascinates me. I love to see the kitschy item treated with as much care as the more expensive pieces. I always wonder about the story behind the fabulously ugly ceramic bird, for example, that sat for 40 years next to the Lalique crystal vase.
I've found a lot of great stuff at rummages over the years. I collect Currier and Ives dishes because we had them when I was a kid and I loved them. My mother hated them and threw them out. See how one person's trash is another person's treasure? Her version of trash has been my collection obsession for over 20 years.
Just this year we found some cool pieces at an estate sale. Ten bucks for a group of fairly rare plates and bowls. What a find! We were elated the rest of the day when we spotted them.
Another favorite find was a set of six dining room chairs, a dining room table with three leaves, and table protectors, all for $60. All they needed was a little TLC. We remade the seats and backs with new material and batting, and now we have a dining room set that is uniquely ours. Can't find this one in a store. Most people probably wouldn't want to. Some people might say it's old. But you know what? It's in great shape. It's one of a kind, created in part with our own hands. You can't say that about the average thing you buy at the furniture store.
When we needed some items for a guest room in our house, we naturally found them second hand. This dish cabinet and Mary Cassatt poster were a combined $35 at a rummage.
When I needed a back-splash for above my stove, I got creative. I found a tray at a rummage for 50 cents:
and glued on tiles I got for a quarter each:
to create something that looks nice and does double duty as a quasi back-splash.
I've found furniture, dishes, pictures, knickknacks, and a whole bunch of glass pieces for my sculptures at rummages.
I also get a lot of craft stuff. Yarn, embroidery supplies, and great pieces like old patterns that I can use in mixed media art are part of the treasures I've found.
But the variety of houses I've entered and the cultural items I've seen while hunting for these treasures are the things I really cherish. I feel a sense of nostalgia going into a home and seeing things from my childhood, lovingly cared for over the years by someone I've never met.
I've seen someone's face light up when I purchased a cherished item that they no longer wanted but still hoped that someone would care for it as much as they did.
It seems the curiosity I have about the stories behind chotchkies and furniture is also true in the people who are selling these items. They want to know where I'll put it, how I'll paint or change the look of it, and why I'm interested. There is a history in personal possessions that are loved and cared for over the years, and the people that sell them want to make sure someone else will appreciate them as much as they do. I'm lucky I can find so many of these things here in the Midwest.