This morning I was reminded of a small moment that happened in front of me a few years ago. It happened when I was living in Northern California, one of my most favorite places in the world, full of used book shops and nature trails and people who cherish the past.
It was a Saturday morning, off season, so I was free to do what I wanted with it. I did what I never tired of doing. I got up slightly early (for a Saturday) and drove to town. I spent several hours reading while sipping an orgeate latte in my favorite coffee shop, the one with the large mural of Venice with the unrealistic duck. And then I walked over to the best vintage shop I've ever encountered.
It was run by a middling woman who wore her hair in a fashion about twenty years before her time (obviously a kindred spirit and lover of the past). She did not keep her shop well organized. The shop was such a small space that organization would have only made her insane, as she had a marvelous amount of old things piled up in almost every space. This was her shop's best charm. To find anything in her shop, you had to go on a treasure hunt for it. It would take one hours to hunt through everything. But that just made me excited for the next excursion.
On this specific Saturday morning, as I was happily wading through lace scarves and velvet hats, an elderly lady walked into the shop with a bag of items clutched to her chest. She walked directly up to the shop keeper and asked in a small voice if she were interested in buying some of her old things. The lady then began to pull each item out of her bag and explain what it was. Each piece she pulled out had a story attached to it, often irrelevant to fixing upon a price.
My hands had stopped their search, but I dared not turn around. This small lady had walked in to sell some of her most precious possessions, full of cherished memories from her past. As she continued to talk about her items for sale, she began to cry. It was barely audible. Like everything about her, it was quiet; unobtrusive.
The shop lady asked her why she was wanting sell her things. The elderly lady responded that her son was admitting her to a nursing home and that there was not room for many personal items.
A few moments more and the shop keeper had fixed upon a price for the lady's possessions. With the transaction complete, the elderly lady quietly left the shop, taking a lace hanky from her purse.
My throat was dry and the muscles in my knees were suddenly making their vehemence known for being kept in the same position for so long. My eyes connected with the shop keeper's and she sighed, saying that that was the part of her job she disliked the most.
I didn't buy anything that day. I couldn't. I have continued to enjoy the purchasing and owning of vintage items. But it was that day that I realized what I had never really thought of before. Any vintage item being sold in a shop used to be owned by someone else, and chances are, they did not want to part with it. They might have died and a family member did not see the need of it. They might have needed the money for something more practical and of greater need. Or they might have been an elderly lady, no longer allowed to be the manager of her own life, forced to give away her memories in order to move into the place of her future death; a place with little room for many personal items.
I do not know what brought this story to mind this morning, and I apologize if I have dampened this Saturday for you. That was not my intent. But for some reason, that little lady with her items of memory for sale, came into my mind and I realized I had never told her story. Well, her story, at least this little part of it, deserves telling. She is not forgotten.