Thursday, August 14, 2008


In my childhood I wore a lot of hand-me-downs and was glad to get them. Finances were tight. Preachers (Daddy) and teachers (Mother) did not make a lot of money and store bought clothes were rare. I was better off than some, however, owing to Mother's sewing ability. There was at least a small, steady trickle of new items in my wardrobe thanks to her. In my early, early childhood, she made most of my clothes. In later years, we would make regular trips to the mill store in New Braunfels, buy a pile of new material, and she would spend the summer at the sewing machine so we could start off the new school year with a few new skirts and blouses to supplement the few store bought basics we could squeeze out of the budget.

I can remember one year when I was blessed with a big bunch of hand me downs from one of the ladies in our church. Her daughter was a sweet girl who was a high school senior when I was in 5th grade. Wanda was a cheerleader, which made her a thing of awe to us girls in grade school. Grades 4 through 12 shared the same building and we would hang around her during class changes and lunch breaks, just glad to be in her presence. Bless her heart, she was patience itself and never once indicated she would rather we stayed on the far side of the campus.

To be honored with the clothes that had hung on Wanda's back was almost more than I could ask for. I wore the tail off those dresses and remember them fondly, particularly a pale pink dress of the softest material that gracefully floated around my body.

I am headed somewhere with this, believe it or not.

I am in the market for a headboard for my bed or a complete bedstead. It's been a very long time since I have had one and I'm undecided about just what it is I'm looking for. I would like to upgrade from a full to a queen-sized bed. But, on the other hand, I would like an antique oak bedstead and if I go the antique route I would need to stick with a full-sized bed. I got to thinking yesterday about second-hand furniture. Which put me in mind of hand-me-down clothes.

While I still don't mind wearing clothes that have been handed down from relatives or well-liked friends, I have an aversion to buying clothes in the thrift or consignment stores. I want to know who wore them before I commit to wearing them myself. Likewise, I am not interested in second-hand furniture from unknown sources, even though I know that many people find wonderful pieces in the thrift stores.

But I caught myself up short yesterday while mulling this over. I have no problem whatsoever snatching up a piece of antique oak furniture and feeling great glee as I do so. I would replace every stick of furniture in my house with antique oak pieces that would be treasured for so long as I had custody of them, if I could afford to do so. Likewise, I would gladly wear a vintage item of clothing purchased in an antique store. So what makes the difference between buying at an antique store and buying at a thrift store?

Age and distance from the original owner. That's all I could come up with. At some point an item stops being second-hand or used and starts being an antique and acquires a patina of desirability. All it takes to change the perspective is a few decades.

They say that an item can be considered an antique when it reaches 50 years of age, which means I am now an antique. I must say, however, that it is still somewhat of a shock to wander around an antique store and spot the very toys that were played to death in my house, with outrageous prices attached to them because they managed to survive to the present.

It almost makes me want to think twice about a few pieces of furniture from my childhood that I am intending to cart to the thrift store in the near future. Almost. But, I guess familiarity breeding contempt is another form of perspective. What I have come to hate, someone else may see the beauty that resides therein. It's all a matter of perspective.


1 comment:

RMG said...

I wore a lot of hand-me-downs too. Stuff older than me.