Monday, May 12, 2008

Antiques: They're not just getting older...

What a great way to start the week: Mother's Day presents (a tile with a flower formed by my son's paint-covered finger tips being my favorite), cake and sunshine, at least here in Rhode Island.

And it's only going to get better. For one, my mother's birthday is this week. And so is the Brimfield Antiques Show (and frankly, not necessarily in that order). Brimfield, in case you are not familiar, is a town in Massachusetts, and is the location of the largest outdoor antique show in New England (perhaps beyond) and features 5,000 dealers from all over the country, who for six days display their furniture, glassware, artwork, garden accessories, and every collectible item you can imagine.

The show runs three times a year - May, July and September - and I do my utmost to spend two opening-to-closing days there in May and September.

You walk miles through dusty fields in the heat, in the cold, in the rain - as the case may be - to find the perfect something, or the strange something, or just to learn something. You pull a heavy cart to carry the stuff that will fit in it and then later battle pedestrians and traffic to pick up the stuff that won't.

You get filthy, exhausted, sore. It's heaven.

My oddest Brimfield purchase: An iron turtle that I had to have to act as greeter to the patio I had just designed for our back yard (see him in the photo above, lower left corner). I'm too embarrassed to tell you what I paid for him, but he cost a couple of bucks a pound, and it took two men to carry him to the yard.

Brimfield has yielded all sorts of great finds - a cowboy costume from the '40s that my son loved for as long as it fit; a gorgeous oak barrister's bookcase that I sold for more than I paid for it when I decided to switch it out a few years later (when's the last time that happened with new furniture?), the commode next to my bed that once held a chamber pot and now holds decorating magazines. I've bought more trinkets, prints and collectible Christmas and Halloween decorations than I can remember.

I even stole something once, although I swear I didn't mean to. I was shopping a hardware booth when I found a drawer knob that I needed. I asked the dealer how much and he said "free." I thought he meant: Free as in, it's so small and I don't want it, just take it. Actually he meant free as in one-two-free. We worked it out, but I've avoided that particular row in that particular field for years.

If you get the chance, drop by Brimfield or another antiques fair in your town. As a general rule, antique or vintage items are a better value than new ones and they give you the chance to add a little personality - or a really big turtle - to your home.

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