antiques et cetera
Browsing the oft-impossibly narrow warrens and dens of antique shops filled with fragile, glassy esotera, with five year old boys in tow, is not a pastime for the faint of heart. Timid pattycaking doesn’t get it done: A resolute parental disposition bordering on downright meanness is required yet the classic tools of cajolery and bribery will serve useful or lo and behold wretched Garbage Pail Kids cards should reveal themselves, count your lucky stars and let your arm be carefully but slowly twisted. One blustery afternoon on the way home from school (after paying down the mortgage on our library card) dear Oliver Fern and I visited the antique shop which is next door to the small Italian restaurant that makes the best lasagna in the city (strata of delicate handmade pasta bringing to mind the buttery softness of chocolate consumed in the shade of a warm July afternoon) and found this tidbit tray from the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909 here displayed as it was for several weeks with the rare dirty old magic horseshoe against the mirror of the sidetable where I work but relegated since to that infamous junk drawer which contains scrabble tiles, Lego blocks, expired seed packets, coins of unknown international origin and certain other antiquities of objectionable taste. The proprietor of the shop told the funniest story for Oliver Fern, about his grandfather who was suffering from dementia at the time and I know you’re thinking dementia could not be funny at all but trust me this nugget was and could’ve been funnier still had I not been distracted by poor Oliver Fern concentrating so hard to comprehend the grown-up nonsense I thought he might collapse with catatonia onto the rickety table before us, causing a very fragile-appearing globe containing marbles galore to go a-smithereen-shattering. Antique marbles surely must cost an outrageous fortune and we cautiously shimmied to safety out the door.
On the subject of antiques and whatnot, earlier this winter I finished Betty MacDonald’s landmark The Egg and I along with Paula Becker’s Searching for Betty MacDonald (incidentally, Becker is the co-author of an informative work on the A.Y.P Exposition) and last month while enjoying coffee and a chat with one of Seattle’s preeminent dark horse historians who lurks amid towering library stacks, whirring copying machines and the taller-still conifers of the north end, I was invited for a short tour about the grounds of the old sanatorium where Betty MacDonald was treated for a spell of tuberculosis. Believe me on this, the day thereafter a convincing brochure from the nursing home tucked in the very shadow of old Firland Sanatorium arrived in the mailbox attention to my mother-in-law who has lived with us both in spirit and junk mail as her continuing myriad correspondences travel to us instead of the afterlife as would be more appropriate yet indeed that cruel irony I feel closer to her than when she was alive and part of me is honored to receive the odd letters from her old acquaintances, mailers for excitingly revolutionary hearing aids and infuriatingly numerous ghost subscriptions to such fine magazine publications as Farm Country Cutesy Stories and Nauseating Nostalgia (my pleading-best efforts at cancellations astonishingly rebuffed at each turn). If colorful marketing materials are to be taken at face value, the relief of assisted living under the tall trees thereabouts the old sanatorium is boundless except during the occasional two hundred year windstorms which have the potential to bring enormous firs crashing down through the rooftops although the various infirm and memory-impaired will barely notice as they monitor the steady drip of updates down their RSS feeding tubes which are checked at least twice each half hour.