Incredible vintage stuff Tuesday

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So I missed Thrift Share Monday yesterday. I have a good excuse, though. I was in New Jersey, attending the funeral mass for Mark's grandmother. She was an incredible woman who had a wonderful, full life and died at 96. This post isn't about her, though--though I was blessed to have known her, she's not my story to tell.

This day-late post is about her house and the treasures within.

I've heard stories about this house for years. It's a connected duplex, with two discrete halves connected on both the first and second floors by hallways, with a shared basement and attic. Though I've never seen a set up quite like it, apparently it wasn't all that uncommon back in the day. For many years (from the late 1940s or early 1950s, I believe), the house was occupied on one side by Mark's grandmother, her husband, and her four children (one of whom is Mark's mother) and on the other by Mark's great aunt (his grandmother's sister) and her husband. Through all that time, there have been almost no changes to the house or its contents. Mark's aunt, who is a bit older than his mom (maybe about 70?) told me she remembered the house being re-sided when she was a little girl, and a roof being put on when she was a young adult. The washing machine and dryer in the basement, as well as the boiler, were replaced in the 80s. Other than that, everything is pretty much the same.

Which is to say, it's pretty much my idea of heaven. Mark knew it would be, and prepared me, but I still ran around exclaiming over everything I saw in a way that was probably not quite polite, given the occasion. There wasn't a piece or two of nice mid-century (and older) furniture--there were rooms full. Every totchke, every glass or cup in the kitchen, every square of wall paper--it was all perfectly, resplendently, old. There was almost nothing there I wouldn't have picked up and considered buying in a thrift store.

But there were two highlights.

First, Mark and his dad took me down to the basement to show me where Mark and his brother and their cousins had spent so much time as children. It was a basement--work bench, laundry, etc. Except that every thing on the work bench, every can of varnish or paint, had a pristine mid-century label. As I was oohing and awing over them, I almost missed the chairs.

The room was more or less lined with perfectly lovely mid-century lounge chairs. Several wooden framed ones with cushions, and two absolutely perfect turquoise naugahyde ones. I gasped, ran over to them, and began to pet them lovingly while Mark and his dad laughed at me.

Then, later, Mark took me up to show me the "kids' bedrooms" in the attic. On an exposed shelf, I noticed a row of pristine vintage hat boxes. When I mentioned them to Mark, he grabbed one and looked inside.

They were full of perfect condition vintage hats, circa 1930s-1960s. There were probably six hats, wrapped in tissue paper, in each of the four or five boxes. Church hats. Party hats. Feathered headbands. Mark's great-aunt was a jazz singer. She kept costume hats. And they are all in perfect shape.

I so nearly cried. Just touching this amazing collection was a privilege. Being able to see these things in their native environment, before they are separated and given away, or sold, or (please God no) thrown away? An unbelievable joy.

This, my friends, is why I thrift. To be able to see these things that have lived such long lives, and occasionally to bring them home with me. But seeing them like this, as they were used in the lives of people I know, is so much more amazing. I am so honored to have been invited to take a peek.

6 Comments

While your squeals of delight may not have seemed appropriate for the occasion, I can imagine that Mark's grandmother would've been happy that you loved her home and things - just another way of celebrating her life. I'm sorry for your loss.

Wow! What an amazing story. I would have loved to be there! Are there photos? So sorry for your loss!

I agree with the first commenter. She probably would have loved your appreciation for her cherished belongings. My next door neighbor's mother died a month ago today, and she is having to clear out her mom's thing today (along with her sisters), because their stepdad wants it all gone. It is so sad that no one has room for it all, and a lifetime of collectibles will just be split up and mostly sold off. I am glad that you are someone who will treasure and maintain whatever does end up being passed on to you. Cheers! (I came across you through the link on Apron Thrift Girl's blog.)

My semi-grandparents (long story but the cousins of my grandfather - all grandparents died before I was born) had the most amazing collection of furniture, art, decor, randomness. My semi-grandma was very proud of her collection, bought with their paltry funds as newlyweds, inherited from relatives, or scored by her yard sale/picking ways (she was the original American Picker). She used to say she buys for her own pleasure, but the pleasure of her relatives hoping they will find them just as lovely. She used to say things like, "When I die, be sure to get this, it's worth money and I got it by..." and then would tell some amazing story.

I think the joy you had would bring joy to his grandmother. I know it would have to mine!

Grace, I'm so sorry for your and Mark's loss. Though it does sound like Grandma had a full and wonderful life! I am rooting for you to get the chairs, because A. You will love them. Not just "Oh I think they are FABulous' but will actively, happily, appreciatively, love them. B. I am a chair JUNKIE. Can't get enough of them, astounded by the number of mid-century chairs I find at my local Goodwill for 10 bucks. I'm not kidding. I am running out of room for them, and I'm considering letting go of the Danish modern settee I have because I can't find cushions for it and apparently, I'm never going to make them, despite having bought upholstery fabric for the very purpose. SIGH. I digress. C. Because they are a part of your and Mark's history, and what even better treasure to have than things that have a story. D. CHAIRS. Yum. It would be a Good Thing for them to come to you, and I hope that whoever is to make the decision will realize you are the best person to get them, for all the reasons stated above, and more.

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