Purchase Story

It's a Wonderful Life

The Young Collector

During some recent travels, we stayed with dear friends with two little children, each almost exactly three years younger than one of our children. So, of course, their lives are still full of the overwhelmingly large feelings that lead to tears on the battlefields of early childhood—meals and sleep and bathroom-related activities. Oh, those pathetic little nighttime wailing episodes with preverbal toddlers and tired parents and the horrible panicky awareness that other people might be disturbed! Hollie in particular felt pangs of sympathy, all while curled up, comfy and warm, in that state that is a cousin to schadenfreude—not delight at the suffering of another but gratitude for the fact that a particular suffering is no longer yours. There is a deep sigh of relief that the call was not one for us to answer, in all honesty. The only sadness came from the sympathy we felt for the pitiable creatures, both small and large, and the awareness that we would not be acceptable substitutes, could not sweep into the room and say, “Here, I’ll take him—you go sleep!”

Our friends apologized deeply for such things, but we told them with all earnestness that, truly, it was no trouble at all. Over breakfast we promised them that there would come a day when they would feel the same way and that while we didn’t delight in their struggles, there was absolutely a sweet contentment in knowing that those particular troubles are no longer ours. In life, it seems, you can either be sorry or glad for what you have not got—and sometimes the best way to be glad for what you have not got is to see someone else tired and bleary eyed after a big dose of it!

All that is to say that gratitude is important, as is stopping at some points to look back, if only to realize what you have managed to endure. It is that time of year, after all, and this past year has been a year. In fact, in November we had the opinion that we had already had 365 days’ worth of 2017 and would just like to spend the remainder of the year coasting.

We have survived Andrew’s second year of self-employment, and Hollie took ownership of Prices4Antiques in the spring. Mere blips on the radar of American entrepreneurship, we know, but they are our blips, blips that feed and clothe us all and keep a (nicer, larger) roof over our heads. Being one’s own boss is not always easy, and it certainly is not always fun. To get ahead, you have to find ways to say yes to everything you possibly can, even if by saying yes you are saying no to being at home on a Saturday night or even, as in this past year, to being at home on your five-year-old’s birthday. But what we give up sometimes in the way of a traditional work schedule allows us to wade toward a true work-life balance. The kids will likely have their own ideas about this (we joke that the family version of freeze tag is “It’s a work call—not a sound!”), but while we do work hard, at least now we have the chance to work hard together.

Speaking of things that you look back on and are grateful that you don’t have to do any longer—moving. We’re grateful, beyond grateful, not to have to move again. We were practically nomads for a decade. Between us we logged more than a dozen moves between 1996 and 2006. All that traveling around meant that we traveled pretty light. (Hollie’s brother would collapse in hysterical laughter that “light” was ever a word associated with moving thousands of books.) You can justify hauling boxes around only so long if they weren’t even opened since the last time you had to haul them. Then we stayed put for a decade, had kids, and lived in a compact space, making this last move absolutely exhausting for all of us. (Getting older, however, was certainly not in any way a factor.) Moving is expensive, labor intensive, and stressful, but now we get up in the morning, look at hills, and drive along the Ohio River among the relics and relatives of the people whose material lives we’ve been studying for 15 years now. Neither of us had ever lived in southeast Ohio before, but somehow, it felt like coming home.

Rural America has been a gift too. No, it’s not for everyone, but there’s a grounded feeling for us here. Open spaces, green landscapes, quiet roads. Before, we lived in the country in the sense that where we were just wasn’t yet convenient enough to be otherwise. Now we are well and truly in the sticks and happily so. Deer sleep under our back deck. (Or did until they realized that no one sleeps that close to our children in peace and quiet.) We live on acres (plural), so Andrew gets to regularly drive a tractor. This, he feels, almost makes up for the fact that there is no decent beer to be had at any of the local stores.

Speaking of things that aren’t for everybody: kids. But they keep us honest, keep us focused, remind us of what’s important, teach us as much as we could ever teach them, and make the world interesting. When the world feels unhinged, it’s a steadying thing to look out the window and see leaf-covered little people rolling down the hill in the backyard. Fear and uncertainty are timeless, but so are joy and delighting in small pleasures.

There is nothing like loss to remind one to value what remains, and over the last year, we are also especially grateful for cats. Yes, cats. Cats and antiques go together, apparently, same as peanut butter and jelly or glazed-door cupboards and breakables. David Schorsch’s Ross (best cat name ever) is the industry’s cool kid. Jeff and Beverley Evans are resting on their laurels for “most chairs” and have decided to start trying for the award for “most cats” instead. Tom Jewett and Butch Berdan’s Jimmy loves them even though they’re always off to another show. Jeff and Holly Noordsy have managed to find Jewel, the only cat ever able to resist what is, as far as we can tell, an innate feline impulse to push glass off high surfaces. And after a tough 2016 where we said goodbye to three of our loyal old friends, we’ve been especially grateful for the smiles our three fur balls bring. (Stop on by our Facebook wall and check out photos of our cats, and feel free to post pictures of your own antiques-loving kitties.)

And while we’re on the subject of quirky, eccentric, and challenging characters, let us just say that we are grateful for our antiques community. We may all be crazy, but none of us are lazy or dispassionate! In a world that sometimes seems to be moving at increasing speed, we love how connected we are. We don’t live in the small world we grew up in, where all the folks on the block knew each other and where kids saw the same pediatrician for 15 years and had the same second-grade teacher that their parents had. Our world is much larger, but thanks to our antiques world, our children are connected. They love the children of our friends and ask when we’re going back to Wethersfield, Ithaca, Springfield, or Chadds Ford. They have seen museum storage facilities, handled dinosaur bones, visited archaeological digs, and seen paintings by artists from Waterhouse to Wyeth and Wood to Warhol.

We are grateful for the folks at Maine Antique Digest. Visiting the office this fall and meeting everyone in person, seeing the institutional archives both in print and in human form, was humbling. There are so many people who have worked for years, watching trends and shows and auction houses rise and fall, and they have collectively made such an enormous contribution to the field. We are truly honored.

Almost as honored as we are by all of you. Andrew did the math recently. More than ten years, more than 120 columns, nearly a quarter million words. That’s a lot of reading and reflecting on your part, so thank you. May the new year bring gifts to you all, especially the gift of being grateful for what you have and grateful for what you have not.

We welcome ideas, tips, criticisms, and questions regarding “The Young Collector.” We may be reached  by e-mail <>, on Facebook (www.facebook.com/TheYoungAntiquesCollectors), or by writing The Young Collector, c/o Maine Antique Digest, PO Box 1429, Waldoboro, ME 04572.

Originally published in the January 2018 issue of Maine Antique Digest. © 2017 Maine Antique Digest

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