A moment in time
There’s a series of junk shops on the corner of Highway #7 and Marble Point Road in Marmora, near where my mother lives.
I stop there whenever I’m visiting. Sometimes I walk away lucky, but most of the time I’m not lucky at all. There is no pretense here. The store doesn’t aspire to be something it’s not. In fact, there is an awful lot of crap here, and it’s hard to wade through it all. I cannot call this an antique shop. That would be a whole other brand. This is basically a group of indoor yard sales, except that part of the stock extends into the outdoors, and is therefore subject to the elements.
I have always avoided the outdoor section. Musty books and old lampshades don’t hold very much appeal for me. I never thought I’d find anything there. But this time, the outdoor section seemed larger than usual. A sign informed me that the stores were closing for the season and Â ”no reasonable offer will be refused!
My eyes ran across the detritus of people’s lives. Oh lor,’ it is ever depressing to think about the things we accumulate and hold dear, only to have them end up selling for deeply discounted prices on the side of the road.
I was looking at piles of old cutlery when I saw It. I picked it up and held it in my hand for awhile. It felt warm. I brought it inside to pay. I had no idea how much this item was going to cost me.
I held it up to the proprietress. She snorted with laughter. “Oh my,” she exclaimed. “Haven’t you found a treasure!”
There was a lot of sarcasm there.
I didn’t react. If I’m bargaining at a junk shop in which there are no prices printed on anything I don’t show love, don’t show fear, and don’t show extra interest outside of regular friendly behaviour. The trick is to maintain a poker face, because if you don’t, the price will change, and it won’t be in your favour.
I should mention that in addition to my finding, I also held a new bottle brush in my hand, something I needed to scrub the sticky bits tomato soup from the bottom of the Emma and Sarah’s thermoses. (What’s the plural of thermos? Thermii?)
“So how much?”
I didn’t actually say those words. My face said it for me.
The verdict came down: fifty cents for both.
As I handed her some silver she took a closer look at what I had just bought.
“That thing must be 100 years old,” she clucked.
“Who knows?” I said. “I just like the story it tells.”
My 25-cent treasure was an old wooden spoon, one side of which was eroded by decades of stirring.
I bet it was the only mixing spoon its former owner possessed. Maybe it was a wedding present. I bet she stirred hearty stews to warm her family on cold nights. I bet she stirred everything from batches of custard, cookies and, big batches of jellies and jams, filling for tourtiere, and porridge to fill the tummy on chilly mornings.
I can’t even begin to imagine how much this person must have cooked in order to wear down a solid piece of wood like that. I like to think that it’s been worn by both love and hard work, misshapen by equal measures of joy and strain. How many times around the pot did it go? How many hours was it used? What is it doing, practically discarded, by the side of the road?
I bet her hand wore this spoon like a comfortable old shoe.
I own four wooden spoons (not to mention a few whisks, a blender, and a food processor) but I really only use one of my four spoons. It used to belong to my grandmother. It calls to me when something needs stirring. Those other spoons, they just stand there in an old sugar jar, ignoring me and looking bored. Why did I ever think I needed so many wooden spoons?
Our family spoon – likely on its third generation of use – isn’t perfectly straight anymore either. It leans slightly to one side but it fits like a glove, but will probably never see as much action as the one I bought on in the junk shop at the side of the highway.