Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Voice in My Head

It is the end of March and that means one thing...

The Round Top Antiques Fair is back and it's time for Cindy's Spring vacation. I try to take a brief holiday every year at this time. It is not only Antiques Fair week, but it is the height of the Texas wildflower season (not so hot this year, but any bluebonnet is a good experience for a Texan), my birthday is just a few days away and a vacation is the best present I can think of, and I have a major work crush looming in May so a little rest beforehand is a very good idea. (I have a whole different batch of good excuses to take a few days off in October when the fall Antiques Fair hits.)

My friend Suzanne and I headed out bright and early this morning for the fair, determined to see how many different locations we could hit before we ran out of steam. If you have never gone to the Round Top Antiques Fair, it is hard to describe. From Warrenton to Round Top to Burton to Carmine to Fayetteville to Shelby, field after field of normally empty land springs forth with tents full of antique dealers from all over the country. To see everything you would have to spend three or four days running non-stop, but we usually pick a day and hit our favorite locations, check out one or two new sites, and then crawl home in late afternoon to collapse into an easy chair with our feet cursing us steadily far into the night.

I have made a lot of purchases at the fair in the 20 or so years I have made this twice annual trek. Anyone who knows me well can attest to my addiction to golden oak furniture and Texas history books. I have purchased oak desks, oak night stands, oak bookcases, oak mirrors, and lots of Texas history books down through the years. I had every intention this year of making another large purchase. I am on the hunt for a couple of nice oak bookcases, preferably with glass doors. We went prepared with a pickup, blankets and bungee cords. And two checkbooks.

We began at my number one favorite location and I had gone exactly two vendors into the first building when I found an oak rocking chair that really spoke to me. I seriously thought I would be bringing home an oak rocking chair, but I was still in good physical and mental shape at that point and reminded myself that I do not particularly like rocking chairs, I already have two rocking chairs and I did not go to the fair with the intention of buying a rocking chair but of buying a bookcase...and I walked on.

One of my favorite vendors who specializes in rare Texana history books recognized me immediately and cheerfully welcomed me, knowing full well he would be selling me something before I left. The only county history that I really wanted was a little pricey, so I settled for a 1939 Austin phone book and a small volume of two stories written by O. Henry and set in the Texas Land Office (O. Henry once upon a time worked at the Texas Land Office). We talked briefly about a book I'm looking for and then I mentioned that I just couldn't talk myself into the Wharton County history this time around. He immediately grabbed the volume, did some calculations, and knocked about 20% off the price. I now own the book I've missed out on several times around on EBAY.

There are three vendors in the same cul de sac of the building who all specialize in golden oak pieces and my first real temptation of the day came when we turned the corner and saw a dark mission style bookcase.

It was a beautiful piece of furniture and I seriously considered bringing it home with me, but something held me back. Around the corner I ran into another oak bookcase that caught my eye.

I probably should have picked this one up. The price was right, but it wasn't what I saw in my mind's eye for either of the spaces I want to fill. I walked on, rounded a corner and came face to face with a beautiful piece that carried a price that was several hundred dollars under what I estimated would be the market value.

I was strongly attracted to this piece that had come from an estate in Indiana. The vendor explained all the unique features of the piece. I was almost sold.

And then the voice in my head started talking.

It sounded very much like my mother. And, in fact, it was my mother.

I learned most of what I know about buying antiques from my mother. This golden oak addiction I suffer was inherited from my mother. I knew she would have appreciated the finer points of this piece, but there were a couple of problems.

First and foremost, the topmost trim was a small stick and ball arch. One of the balls was missing. Secondly, two pieces of a brass railing were in place, but there were holes where another piece was missing. Did either of these flaws affect the practical use of the piece? No. They did, however, affect the value of the piece and that's why it was priced so low. Was it fixable? Yes. Could I camouflage the flaws? Yes. Would it bother me to know the flaws were there even if no one else noticed it? Yes.

Bottom line, I knew that every time I looked at the bookcase in my home, I would hear my mother pointing out the flaws. I knew she would understand the purchase, but bemoan the fact that I had settled for less than perfect.

I had to walk away.

I saw other bookcases throughout the day that I would have been proud to own, but none of them spoke to me like the damaged piece from Indiana.

Somewhere out there is the right piece of furniture. If there is anything else I learned from my mother in the matter of buying antique furniture it is to wait for the piece that really speaks to you and then don't hesitate to buy it when you see it. You may get only one chance at it. Better to do without awhile longer than settle for second best.

So my find for the day was a Wharton County history that I've wanted for a long time. It was enough.


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