Spent all morning Saturday wandering through estate sales, first inside one house, then another, studying the objects that once made up a life, now displayed for the selling: kitchen utensils pulled out of their drawers for easier viewing; cookbooks, a dollar each, scattered on top of an old microwave; Royal Copenhagen china, probably used for Easter lunches and special occasion suppers, stacked on dining tables; figurines — Hummel, Precious Moments — pulled from curio cabinets and piled in boxes.
I always wonder about the stories behind these objects and the people for whom these things had meaning.
In nearly every one of these houses are console-style turntables the size of a sideboard and a cache of albums. In one house, a record was playing, a 1960s Broadway recording of Man of La Mancha, on a pristine Zenith hi-fi. “The Impossible Dream” reverberated through every room, sounding so rich and booming that, for a moment, I could imagine the life and laughter that surely permeated this house 50 years ago.
I gravitate toward the kitchen items — reminders of Saturday afternoons helping my grandmother grease a pan for a cake or roll out a piecrust.
I’ve taken home an aluminum star-pattern colander, just like the one my dad used to drain spaghetti on Sunday nights; a set of glass swizzle sticks, topped with tropical birds, which I’ve used to stir extra-tart lemonade in the summer; a first edition of Charleston Receipts, the oldest Junior League cookbook still in print and the one that spurred my collection of local Junior League cookbooks. I really should cull my collection, but what if I need a macaroni and cheese recipe? What if I need to make perfect deviled eggs?
Which brings me to my recent object of affection. Lately, I’d been thinking about, of all things, deviled egg dishes, but I hadn’t quite found the right one. Until a few days ago, when I visited Replacements, Ltd., the giant repository of vintage and collectible china in Greensboro, and met the owner, Bob Page.
I’ve seen Bob at the same estate sales I go to, but, until a few days ago, we hadn’t formally met. We had a good conversation, talking about the ways we all stay connected to our histories through little household treasures that seem mundane but aren’t. I mentioned that I’d been hoping to find an egg dish, maybe one that made me think of springtime lunches, when company came and the house was filled with life and laughter.
Bob’s face lit up, and as I left his office, his assistant wrapped up a gift for me: a perfect, 1950s-era glass Anchor Hocking egg plate. I wouldn’t have remembered if I hadn’t seen it, but it was exactly like the one my grandmother used.
It’s funny, the things that find you when you’re not looking for them. It was such an unexpected gift, and a trigger for such a happy memory, that I almost cried.
I took the dish home and found a place for it in my china cabinet, glad for its next life, happy to create its new story.