My daughter insisted tonight that we read Library Lion for the 30th time this week. It's a little long for her, so she's identified the pages with the most writing on them and thumbs to the next page for me. One page she likes to look at has an illustration of the lion sniffing around a library card catalogue. It occurred to me that the mere mention of a card catalogue renders this beautiful book a dated classic. Like the mention of penny candy or chocolate egg creams.
We have a card catalogue in our house that we use as a stuff/crap-organizer (paper, pens, scissors, coupons, etc.). We also have a 1930-something Royal typewriter that my parents found for me when I was in college. (I used it to write love notes to some of the guys I crushed on, including two T.A.'s in the philosophy department. The typeset was a nice touch. It worked for me.) Another relic in the house is the amp I keep in a closet--I think it's from the '50's, but got it for $20 at an antique store in Maine with a beat-up electric guitar I later swapped with a friend for her beat-up acoustic.
We have an old grain cutter in our attic. When Heath saw it at a yard sale in our neighborhood, his love for cool-looking old stuff flared up and suddenly, there he was, dragging it down our street, like a hunter with a deer slung over his shoulders, into the house. It's kind of a nice piece of furniture until you realize it can't do much but support a few picture frames and take up space. It has a scythe-like apparatus that scares the shit out of me, even though it's probably dull from not having been used since... um, whenever people used to cut grain with this thing.
Relics don't hold the same cache as antiques. Antiques are precious, maybe worth something, have sentimental value--like my grandfather's mandolin he somehow managed to bring from Europe, along with his family and what few possessions he had, in 1948. I think of him every time I look at it. The grain cutter: I think about when we might have our next yard sale. Relics take up space unless you can put them to good use, like creative recycling. Antiques are things you'd save from a fire. My grandmother's solid, wood, hand-made nursing chair: an antique. A wooden beverage crate in our basement: relic. We have many things like these in our house.
Which is probably what separates our house from those that look really put-together and all adult-like. Our relics/antiques take up space without purpose, at least for now, until our bright ideas hit. Or until we're really out of space because the kids' toys are taking over. At the end of the day, Heath and I are people who love innovation and appreciate the skill and artistry of what went into making stuff. (Note: we fell in love with our house for it's 1902 charm; only later did we learn none of the windows opened.) Now it's up to Heath to figure out what to do with the grain cutter, and me, what to do with that old wood and glass medicine cabinet I found last summer that's sitting around in the foyer.
I know the day will come when I show our kids the record player and record collection, play something for them so that they can really hear and feel the lick of the needle on the vinyl, tell them how important the sound of that was/is, that digital recording can't quite capture it. And I know that the real relic in the house will be me.