Thursday, June 28, 2012

Guest Post: The Lovely Beth Ables

I am so excited to have Beth on the blog today!  We have never met, but we are true kindred spirits:  both former English teachers, bibliophiles, writers, wives, mamas, and lovers of good music.  Someday, we will have the best coffee date ever. Until then, 140 characters and some emails will have to do.

This is one of the best things I've read about loving vintage things EVER.  Beth, you are a gem.

When Amanda put the call out on Twitter that she was on the lookout for a few guest bloggers while she and her sister were on vacation, I offered as soon as I saw it, though I had no idea what I’d actually write about. I write over at my blog, Tiny Bables, mostly about motherhood and my family life as it continues to evolve. So I’m thankful for a challenge, a change, and a chance to do a bit of reflecting on my love of vintage.
I feel like I should first confess that I’m not really a thrift-er. While I do enjoy a chance to rummage through a good thrift shop (in person or online) every now and again, it’s not even close to being a regular habit. I do, however, love vintage: pieces (whether a dress or a plate or a dusty book or a tiny sterling coffee spoon) with a story, with time spent elsewhere, will always hold a certain draw for me.

The more I thought about what to write here, the more I realized that my love for “old things” winds its way further back in my life than I might first-glance think. Maybe I could blame it on my interest-leaning-toward-obsession of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. Instead of playing house, or doctor, or school when I was little, I played pioneer: complete with calico dress, sunbonnet, and outdoor cooking demonstrations (much to my older brothers’ embarrassment). Let’s be honest, I still sort-of wish I could work at Williamsburg. Where’s my butter churn and spinning wheel??

Aside from my living-history aspirations, I loved playing dress-up.  But unlike other girls my age, my dress up box (a vintage Ivory soap crate from my dad’s first job at Proctor and Gamble) brimmed with 1950s and 60s finery from my mom’s dances and bridesmaid duties. Here’s where it gets unreal, though--because she is a mere 4’11”, and during her teens and twenties barely weighed 93 lbs, I could almost fit into her clothes! Her tiny gloves, the veiled hats, the tulle and taffeta—what crinkly, beautiful memories for me (if only I could still fit in them today). 
In middle school and high school, my love of vintage explored more modern eras: my first car was a 1970 Volkswagen Superbeetle: bright red with only one owner before me—a little old lady from Pasadena (get it?), California.  I named her Eleanor for my favorite Beatles song, and could be found in my original Levi orange-tag bell-bottom jeans putt-putting to a Dave Mathews Band or Jump, Little Children show. (oh, the 90s…) Even in college, I worked at a consignment/vintage store in Forest Park Birmingham called Zoe’s. I’d wear a furry leopard-print 60s hat with my black Gap jumper without batting a glittered eyelid. 
But why this love of what some might call “used,” or “worn out”? Even my home today is filled with new-only-to-us and not brand-spanking things. I can count only three pieces of furniture in our entire house that we purchased new (and one’s a Target sale ottoman, the other a couch from a discount warehouse). We decorate with old typewriters, cracked-spine books, lost-and-then-found-by-us treasures…every nook holds stories.  Even my son’s favorite toys are ones that our parents have pulled from their attics from our old toy chests. While some of this has to do with the fact that we are both teachers and don’t have the finances to buy a new living room set or re-do our bathroom, I don’t think we’d have it any other way—even if we could afford it. 
And here’s the quiet revelation I’ve had through thinking and writing this out: I love vintage because I relate to it. Vintage is not perfect, but it’s unique—it has character and is celebrated for its patina, its experience. Vintage does not look quite like anything else, it’s not on-trend—it is its own trend. Vintage has a history that is not ignored, but is one that becomes part of the item. It’s a little out-of-the-box, and those that celebrate “old things” appreciate that.
I know I certainly do. I’ll take a story over shiny any day.

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