I grew up around old things. A cast-iron scale from the 1800s sat on a wooden pedestal beside our front door. Advertising thermometers — “Drink Tru-Ade,” “Chew Mail Pouch,” and “Gulf No-Nox Gasoline” — covered our wood-paneled den walls. Something from another era was on display in every room: an oak hall tree from the ’20s; Jugtown pottery from the ’30s; metal Coca-Cola bottle carriers from the ’40s.
My parents started collecting antiques in 1972, when I was 2. Most of the things I remember are gone now — sold when my parents finally downsized. My mother kept only a few pieces, and one of those was the first item she ever bought, the thing that ignited her 40-year love for antiquing: a metal, three-foot-tall, child’s riding horse.
Shortly after my parents got married, my dad suggested that my mom go to the YWCA in High Point to learn to play bridge. He was a golfer, and he wanted her to have something to do in the clubhouse with the other wives.
At the Y, she noticed a white-haired woman sitting on a bench outside one of the classrooms. She held a metal stick in her right hand; with her left, she looped yarn around the stick, making a pattern.
“Crocheting,” the woman said, when my mom asked what she was doing. “I’m teaching a class in a few minutes; why don’t you stay for it?”
“I’m here to learn how to play bridge,” my mom said.
“Psshh. You don’t want to learn how to play bridge. Come on in here.”
And so kicked off a lifelong friendship between my mother, then 22, and Mrs. Leo Kidd, well into her 60s.
Mrs. Kidd lived in a nice neighborhood in High Point called Emerywood. My mother visited every week, and Mrs. Kidd taught her something new — how to knit, cross-stitch, needlepoint. Mrs. Kidd kept sourdough starter in her refrigerator for fresh bread and always had hors d’oeuvres on the counter. She filled her home — and her life — with things that delighted her, and she encouraged my mother — who was just starting to build a life — to do that, too.
One Saturday, while the two of them were shopping, my mom spotted the old metal horse in the corner of a store. It wasn’t for sale. But she couldn’t stop looking at it.
I don’t know what drew my mother to that horse. The color? The style? That it reminded her of childhood? That it was discovered while on a happy outing with a friend? That it simply filled her with delight? Surely there’s a certain serendipity that draws us to the objects that come into our lives — and to the people who come into our lives, too. If we can find a way to hold onto these objects long after the people have gone, maybe we should do that.
Somehow my mother convinced the store owner to sell the horse — the first time she’d ever bought anything like that — and she and Mrs. Kidd loaded it into the back of my mom’s VW Bug, and she drove it home. There was no question it ended up exactly where it belonged.