Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Passing on My Passion for the Past

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Passing on My Passion for the Past

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicole Johnson McGill, Times-Union staff writer

I think my passion for old things is a bit strange at times, but I'm OK with that. After all, I've had 35-some-odd years to get used to it, and I know how to work with it.

But I do worry about my 9-year-old daughter. Sometimes I see my strangeness rubbing off on her, and I'm not sure she's ready for it.

My preoccupation with "junk" can be traced back to my grandfather.

He was a garbage man and, let's just say he loved to bring his work home with him. My mother used to joke that he was the inspiration for the Fred Sanford character on Sanford and Son.

(Before I go on, let me say that I already know this is probably one of those stories I should keep to myself, but there's no turning back.)

Anyway, Papa Dan had a knack for finding stuff on curbs and even at the town dump. He'd haul them home on the back of his pickup, clean and fix them up, and my sister and I would have something "new" to play with.

Once he brought us these two life-size cloth dolls. They had elastic on their hands and feet so we could attach them to ours and dance with them. He even hauled home a model train after running his route one day. We never could sort it all out to make it work. Perhaps that's why it had been thrown away.

Even then I remember wondering about the past lives of those items. Who had owned them? What children had played with those toys before me? Did they get them for Christmas or their birthdays? What kinds of beautiful earrings and bracelets were kept in the old wooden jewelry box, and what was served on that pretty tray?

While you won't catch me digging in the neighborhood trash cans, new furniture and dishes don't do much for me. But take me to an antiques shop, a garage sale or even a junkyard and I'm in paradise.

Few things in my apartment are new, something my children are starting to notice perhaps after one too many trips to thrift stores. …

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