Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Childhood Memories

When we moved into our current home 13 years ago, I considered myself very lucky that the house came with a full-size unfinished attic with a finished stairway. No pull down rickety stairwell or hole in the ceiling, this is a real stairway leading to a huge empty space. At the time, I had visions of finishing off the room into a craft space.

The craft space never materialized because, all too soon, the attic became the family storage space. Every time my parents would visit, my mom would drop off a box or two full of vintage whatchamacallits. Boxes of dishes. An antique kitchen table. Boxes of dishes. Victorian jewelry. A primitive spinning wheel. A vintage dressing table. Books. Handmade quilts. Old family coffee table. Did I mention dishes?

Now the kids are in college and we've decided to downsize. We cannot take all this "stuff" with us to a smaller home, but what to do with it? Going through the boxes is such a difficult process. Most are family treasures with a story attached. The story makes them real, gives them substance, creates a history that makes that item valuable. The value may not be monetary, but rather in the sense of continuing the family legacy.

My mom knows all the stories and has told them so many times that, when I look at a piece, it "belongs" to someone and I see that person reflected in the item. The china is not just a set of pink flowered dishes , they are Florence's Dishes. That battered oak table is not just a table, it's the table Papa Harold cut off the legs so that it could serve as a Coffee Table.

And then there are the books. My mom was an only child who grew up in an old Victorian home with her parents and grandparents. She lived a relatively quiet life and loved to read. When I grew up I had a huge library at my disposal full of my mom's childhood books. I read them all--The Bobbsey Twins, Anne of Avonlea, Heidi, Jane Eyre. You name it, I read it. I grew up reading all these old fashioned treasures.

Now all these books are in my own home. Two generations old; most of them have that dusty, musty smell that old books acquire. I haven't read one in years. My daughters never read a one of them. The books aren't treasures to them. While I know there is no good reason to keep these books, they are like old friends. So much of my childhood is dusted over each and every one of them.

In addition to my handmade shop, I also have a vintage shop on Etsy, Peanut and Tommy Too. Most of the vintage items in this shop are treasures I've pulled from the boxes in the attic. I wish I could say that I'm listing new items daily, that the number of boxes is going down, that the attic is empty and we're ready to go on with our new life. But that wouldn't be quite true. It takes me forever to choose an item and post it in the shop. I have to think about each one, go over the memories, visualize the owner, and decide on the perfect home. If the item has a story, I try to tell the story in the listing so the new owner will take on the history with the treasure.

Luckily for me, most of the items that I've sold in the vintage shop have gone to new owners who love them for the same reasons they were loved in my family. The books are the most fun to sell--I always get a note about the buyer's excitement at finding this specific edition. Wrapping up a book to send on to a new owner is quite satisfying--like sending a child off into the world, knowing there is a new life just around the corner.


  1. What a timely blogpost for me to read as I am currently clearing out my attic. Thoroughly enjoyed reading all you had to say as I am experiencing much of this myself. Here and there a good cry, a good laugh and all the memories unearthed! It is an experience!

  2. I hear you, and I'm so glad I don't have an attic like you and MrFR so that I don't have to put myself through this!

    I've sold quite a few childhood items of mine, and even though I'm so very sad to see them go, I'm thrilled when I get a comment from the new owner about how that item is now on its way to providing new memories for them! But, like you, I so wish I could keep everything! Hang in there, and if you truly don't want to sell something, then don't!

  3. Getting rid of items that are memories is always difficult. However, they are memories and they are still with you when the item is gone. I'm going through the memories of my childhood as well as the many collections that my parents and grandparents had acquired. They are memories and they will always be with you.

  4. I'm such a sentimental nut... I guess I'm lucky that my mom isn't. Had a box full of Barbies, a garbage bag full of stuffed animals, box full of old school textbooks, and numerous trinkets collected from my childhood- all of it stored in my moms crawls space in her bedroom (i wasn't taking up any of her attic space!). I did plan on removing it when my hubby and I settled a little, but she moved before I could get them... yeah, it's all been trashed. That was hard for me to hear. Its a good thing that I have 4 boys, i don't feel too bad about not having those barbies! :)
    Thanks for sharing your story! I'm off to check out your vintage shop again!