Thinking about my favorite cozy books this week caused me to look around on my shelves and dust off a few of my old friends. Some of my favorite non-fiction books about home and hearth are by Emilie Barnes.
Published in 1996, this slim volume has 7 chapters with topics such as the importance of family heritage, caring for heirlooms, collecting and storage. Emilie writes that she inherited very few material goods from her family, but she is rich in stories and tradition and says that these are some of the most important family heirlooms. The beauty of antique and vintage items are appreciated even if they came from someone else’s family. She has several suggestions on where to look for them, her rules for acquisition (#1 is to only buy what she loves) and what to do with the new treasures, and how to store the things that cannot be left out on display. However, she does encourage daily enjoyment of as many things as possible. And if something becomes a little tarnished from love and usage: “Those signs of aging are evidence of contact with real people and real lives. In place of that flawless, factory-bright finish, your timeless treasure will have the sheen of love and grace and character.
And, like a human being, your treasure will be all the more beautiful for having lived a little.”
She places particular importance on handmade things, whether it was the shelf made by your grandfather, the lopsided clay pot made by your kindergartner or a crocheted doily you bought at an antique mall or thrift shop. The importance of recording the origin, names on old photos and family stories is illustrated by many personal stories sprinkled throughout the book.
One story that particularly spoke to me was by her brother-in-law, Kenneth Barnes:
“All the years that I was growing up, a picture hung in my bedroom. It depicted two small puppies napping on a table and a tiny kitten with its smiling face raised high in between them. The caption read “Suzie.” Many nights I went to sleep looking at Suzie and her companions. The frame was old and hung from a nail by twine that wrapped around two thumbtacks, one mounted in each upper corner of the frame.
When I married and left home, I left “Suzie” behind and never thought to wonder what would happen to her. She was simply part of my childhood life, along with a ship clock with tin sails I had won for selling newspaper subscriptions. After my father died, Mom had a garage sale and part of the departed treasures included “Suzie” and the clock.
Thirty-two years later I was asked to speak at a meeting some four hundred miles from home. I asked my wife, Paula, to join me on the trip, and she agreed to do so under the condition that we spend a few days afterward roaming the territory. (I’m not really much for shopping and sightseeing, but she loves to browse in old shops.)
After the meeting I was driving down a divided road in a rainstorm. Suddenly to my left I saw an antique shop that pulled at me like a magnet, tugging on me to make a U-turn and come back. This I did. As I roamed from table to table looking at all of the discarded treasure, my eye traveled to a picture leaning on a fireplace mantle. The frame was very old. The twine that hung from two corner thumbtacks was dark from years of collecting dust. And there, in the center of the picture between her two sleeping companions, was my old friend Suzie. On the same mantle sat my clock ship with its tin sails.
There was no doubt in my mind of the authenticity of my find! The merchant made a sale, and I then realized the meaning of the phrase, “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” In this case, a timeless treasure because all those years in between faded quickly and, for a brief moment, I was that ten-year-old looking at my smiling friend Suzie, which I still cherish to this day.”
There are lots of interesting quotes throughout the book, such as this one by Jane Austen: “Her plants, her books…her writing desk…were all within reach…she could scarcely see an object in that room which had not an interesting remembrance connected with it.” Or this one from Flavia Weedn: “Some of its mane is gone, the paint is chipped, but that’s what makes it so wonderful. Don’t you just know it was well loved!”
The artwork by Sandy Lynam Clough, is romantic and evocative.
Timeless Treasures would make a nice gift for someone you know who loves family and vintage treasures. It makes a nice gift just for yourself, too.
A quick search on the internet showed a lot of copies available, starting at $.01 +shipping.
It’s a lovely book and I highly recommend reading it with a nice cup of tea.