Aug. 14, 2013 — Contrary to what my college professors or high school teachers might think, I love history. And while my grades in those subjects never showed my enthusiasm, my love for ghost towns, cemeteries and antiques dutifully show my interest.
However, I should clarify that the sort of history I find unbelievably consuming is not necessarily the textbook-worthy events of the past, but rather the history in discovered objects, of lives well led and stories never told. I love combing through antique and thrift stores, searching for jewelry that might have been worn by a 1950s teenager preparing for her date to the ice cream parlor, or maybe a brooch that was given to a wife from her husband on their 25th anniversary.
Every piece in those stores has a past. Every single piece was important to someone some time in our world’s history.
After moving into my Susanville apartment built in the 1910s, and as soon as I tried to discover hiding places for forbidden love letters or pictures stashed in loose floorboards or deep cabinets, I began to imagine what life must have been like for the first tenant who lived there.
I wondered if the hardwood floors where I sat, Facebooking away, was once the scene of a young man learning the Charleston, or if the mirrored nook behind the shower, which now holds a myriad of brands, once contained the only shampoo selection that was sold in Susanville. Moreover, I cannot even imagine the stories the large mirror hiding the Murphy Bed or even the walls must have seen regarding numerous renters over nearly 100 years.
Truth be told, I am envious of my apartment because it knows what people came before me. It knows if they were introverted or extroverted, it knows their favorite food and their best friend. Yet, here I am, avidly searching for some clue into their lives and unable to paint a picture.
All I have is my imagination to see the history of an object.
When I wear my favorite 1950-60s yellow daisy necklace, I imagine a young girl coordinating the hues with her outfit for the school bonfire. I imagine my black alligator purse being the prized possession of a young woman about to start her career. I imagine my sugar and creamer set adorning a farm table in rural America. I imagine my apartment once housing a recent college graduate, like myself, and giving them their first place to call their home away from home.
Antiques, old buildings and vintage treasures all tell stories of past owners. I believe that in using these artifacts, rather than hoarding them away on some shelf, I can help bring along a legacy that may have previously been forgotten.
The history of any person should be remembered and I love being able to honor their history and their lives.
So while this view never helped my G.P.A., it gave me an ever-curious interest in the lives of figures who made my world what it is today — and with that, I’ll never be bored.
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