Happy Valentine’s Day! Hope you are increasing your caloric intake in honor of a martyred saint today! (I know I will be doing so with great gusto.) I made this graphic using the Studio Design app, which is a lot of fun, should you have some time to kill and a desire to join yet another social media platform.
For the third and final act in the Summer of Weddings, we recently went to a wedding at Brynmere, a huge old, rambling, seaside house in Annisquam, Massachusetts, which beggars description. There is nothing for me to say about Brynmere other than the fact that I want the sort of life that gives me a reason to go there regularly. How do I accomplish this? Make more money? Have more time? Discover a previously unknown ancestor who made a fortune during the industrial age and built a house called Brynmere? I don’t know. But I would like to find out. Brynmere is as antithetical to the 21st century as it is possible to get and still be in the first world. It offers zero in the way of luxuries as we have come to define them, but everything in the way of luxuries as they actually exist. Porches to sit on that overlook the sea, comfortable chairs in corners made for reading (too numerous to count), a kitchen big enough to make twenty pies in at a time, multiple fireplaces, and an actual wood-paneled phone booth, to shut people inside who prefer to spend all their time yakking on the phone so that the rest of us can get on with our lives without having to hear them.
The two people who were married happen to be out of another time themselves, so Brynmere seemed like the right place for them to mark the occasion. It was a wedding that involved a lot of drumming. Which was pretty much as weird and enjoyable as it sounds. We pounded out our good wishes for the couple in a variety of symbolic rhythms, and no doubt the ghosts lingering in the corridors were amazed at the sight (and noise, which probably roused them from their eternal slumber). On the other hand, maybe not, because Brynmere is old enough to have borne witness to everything mankind has come up with, short of murder. It’s not a murdering sort of place.
Following the drumming and the blessing, which took place in the Victorian-era living room, we headed to the other side of the house for some post-rhythm merriment. Each table held several vintage creamers from the collection of the bride’s mother, and in every creamer was a tiny little flower arrangement. The bride assigned every single creamer to her guests, and we took them home at the end of the night, something to remember the day by, not that we could ever forget. The lovely cakes as centerpieces, the old creamers, the guests banging away on the array of drums during the ceremony, with Brynmere presiding over everything, the grande dame of Annisquam, may she reign for a hundred years more.
Today’s post features some of my recent acquisitions, which include a vintage American flag along with some old photographs, a seascape and more. Todd Farm Flea Market has reopened for the season, so I’m back on my game. Last weekend we stopped in as we usually do during the season, and let me tell ya, the place was crawling with hipsters. I’ve never seen so many skinny jeans, workboots, ironic facial hair, knit caps and tote bags featuring screenprinted owls gathered together (but then I don’t get around much).
Even though I have hipster sympathies, since I pretty much have the same taste, from typewriters to pickling (only my credentials for such things reach as far back as the last century), I confess to not being too excited about sharing my flea market with so many new buyers. But really, what am I complaining about? The uptick in interest in old stuff is good for all of us. If more vinyl records, film cameras, and molded plastic chairs populate one-bedroom apartments instead of landfills, we all win.
But I draw the line at auctions. If these young whippersnappers start showing up there, then all bets are off.
Recently I went to a huge sale held by a man who cleans out local estates, auctioning the best stuff and selling the rest out of his warehouse. Rows of tables filled the room, all of the covered with boxes filled with everything from commemorative plates to old VHS tapes — all the detritus that fills up our storage spaces and junk drawers. I was moving quickly through the rows when I stopped short. In a box, mixed in with plastic jewelry and old pens, was an old bottle with a photo of a boat shoved into it. It was just my kind of thing: a small object involving old paper and old glass. But that wasn’t the reason I stopped short at the sight of it. What really surprised me about the bottle is that I had seen the very same one before, about ten years ago, when I sold it to a customer in my little shop on Main Street. More than that, the old bottle had a vintage photo inside because I was the one who curled the photo up and pushed it through the neck of the bottle, like a message.
I made a bunch of these photos-in-a-bottle for my shop. All the bottles were old, all of them were different from each other, and eventually, someone always came in who understood the spirit of the thing and found it charming enough to buy. And that was that. When merchandise left the shop, whether it was something I made, or something I found, I never expected to see it again. In fact, like anyone with a store, I desperately hoped that people wouldn’t return anything, ever.
This was how my retail store worked: I found things or made things, I brought them in the store and put them on display, someone came in, found something they liked, bought it, left with it, and then — I generally had no idea what happened. The object continued its life without me. Which meant I always hoped that the object went on to a better life. And I know for a fact that some of the pieces people bought from me had a very good time of it, heading directly to lovely places, installed in kitchens and living rooms that I would pay an admission fee just to look at. Some even traveled overseas to live in Europe (which made me just a little bit jealous).
It was bittersweet to see the bottle again. Because it was like recognizing an old friend. An old friend who has died, consigned to a graveyard of stuff. The whole warehouse, in fact, began to look like a graveyard to me, and everyone pawing through the stuff was there to exhume the bodies, picking them clean of anything of value. This little bottle with the curled-up photo wasn’t valuable of course; no one would have wanted it except me.
So I bought it, I took it home, and now it has another shot at existence, at least while I’m around to keep an eye on it. And now, every time I look at it, I see a message in a bottle. A message sent from the self of ten years ago to my older self of today. Something a little ominous, about mortality, the passage of time, the obsolescence of stuff. All of this stuff, passing from the living, to the dead, and then back again, if luck prevails. But sometimes — usually — it doesn’t.