Everything old seems imbued with a kind of extraordinary dimension of a silent knowing about the past. My antique mirror saw my great-grandmother brushing her hair, pinning on a brooch, straightening her collar. The music box played for my grandmother's ears, and my father's when he was a child. The cracked tea cup could just have a tiny bit of DNA from my grandfather or a great uncle I never met. I have kept and valued the doorstop my dad made when he was ten, and the handkerchief box he made for his grandmother still holds mine. Sometimes I feel like I could open an Antiques Roadshow of my own.
My great grandmother's parents immigrated from the Nottingham, England back in the early 1800's, and many of the heirlooms that I treasure came from her family. There's a pewter teapot, and I've seen one like in the Downton Abbey series. Somewhere along the way mine was set too close to a stove pipe and a bit of the design melted. It has place of pride on my great-grandmother's tea cart. Of course its value for me is not in dollars and cents, but in family history. It's a bit of the daily life from people who are long gone. There's a silver teapot, too, with a gold interior, but its ebony handle has broken off, so it sits on a shelf. My dad said it was used every day when he was a child, for afternoon tea. So that has its place too, and my granddaughter recently polished it to a high shine. Now her touch has graced an object used for over 100 years maybe leaving a bit of her own DNA in the process.
Then was an oil painting of a tall ship in the moonlight, which hung in our home when I was a child. The image has haunted me -- not only because of the dark and restless sea, but the unlikely balance of such a tall ship buffeted by the wind under a moon about to disappear behind the clouds. And maybe also because my mother didn't like it. She found it disturbing, but my father loved it. And they fought about it. I remember once he angrily took it off the wall and threw it into a closet -- I must have been about three or four. I had already gone to bed. Then I heard the front door slam as my father left the house.
The painting was eventually returned to the wall, and of course my father came back that same night. But from that day on the painting had an ominous power that was frightening and yet appealing. I have no idea where it is now, but one day, long after I had grown and left home, it disappeared.
I've looked for that same image over the years, trying to figure out why it was such a point of contention, and never found anything like it. But recently I found something close to it on the internet. It isn't exactly the same, but who knows, maybe it is. Memory can be faulty, embellished. There are no attributions as to artist, in fact it is listed as free clip art. That's no surprise since all of the valued treasures of my family have turned out to have nothing but sentimental worth.
Sentimental worth and untold stories, secrets never revealed, create another dimension, a mystic and mysterious quality that is without price, for me. I suppose that's why people are drawn to antiquities, to museums and galleries that quantify and chronicle our past as human beings. It is what goes beyond the object itself that speaks to me. Especially those dear things that were used and valued on a day to day basis. The shattered pieces of my great-grandmother's milk pitcher sit somewhere in a box, and they have secrets, too. Secrets as mysterious as moonlight behind a cloud, waxing and waning, but constant.