Thursday, January 15, 2009

Once upon a flea market

This is one of my favorite pieces of art. It is a delicately hand-drawn original, minimally tinted, surrounded by a slender frame that includes a matching green stripe, and I think it is just beautiful. I found it probably 25 years ago in a flea market and grabbed it up. It has something written in a language not my own nor one I recognize and so has a lingering air of mystery about it.

The once-monthly flea market took place in an old abandoned super-store - HUGE! I lived for that second weekend of every month and wandering through the relics of the past, the stalls of old books, feathered hats and hat pins, faded steins from Germany, weathered hand-carved sideboards, stacks of Life and National Geographic magazines, bins of old postcards and sepia photographs, stacks of lovely blue transferware plates with only the slightest chips to add a little character. I rarely missed going until a little lively baby came into my life, and being sans babysitter, flea market days were over. I think it is about time the girls and I started back!

The flea market where I got this treasured art is long-since gone, but there is another where many of the same vendors moved. If you can find a place to park in the lot with cars practically stacked on top of each other and have a good pair of walking shoes, you can take a look!

Normally I do not like crowds but for some reason I do not mind it at the flea market. I love the air of anticipation of finding a treasure that emanates from those around me and how everyone's eye of desire is different one from another. I bask in the history surrounding me in all the items used by long-ago people. I look at a worn hand-stitched handkerchief and wonder whose hands lovingly stitched the colorful patterns. Who read by the soft glow of that graceful kerosene lamp?

I have taken the girls to a local antique mall many times, but it is so different from the bustle of the flea market; we are usually the only ones there, I guess because it is open seven days a week and is not as grand as the flea market. I love exploring with the girls and talking about all the treasures we come upon. By 6 or 7, Lily was pretty accurately able to distinguish between Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Thai designs. Being totally fascinated with cultures, places, peoples and history, she loves a good jaunt through the antique mall, while Jing has her eye out for old dog books and figurines of lions or cats.

I feel at home there among the hand-tatted lace and rich wood and quilts and old books. Sometimes I feel I was born into the wrong time, loving more simple ways and pleasures and the values more prominent in the past, but I guess there is a lot to appreciate of modern times as well. I'm glad there is something left of the days gone by for my girls to enjoy and experience, and I hope someday they are guiding their own children through the relics of yesteryear so that no one ever forgets those who went before us, and so that they can live on in the love in someone's else's eyes.


  1. I love to think who's hands objects passed through, or who walked into old buildings. My daughter, on the other hand, hates old things and is positively scared of any mention of people who have passed on.

  2. Wonderful post, Jan!! I, too, love flea markets, auctions, and treasure hunting. I rarely go in an antique mall, tho - it's just not the same. Our house is furnished with treasures from the past - and from Asia - and it all goes together perfectly!

  3. Wonderful journaling Jan. I'm another flea-market lover, but haven't been to one since BC (before child).

  4. For me it was a street of antique stores that I would visit after work when I was 20 with my coworker. We would cash our paychecks and wander through all of the different shops. What a beautiful treasure!