I like old stuff. I haven’t always – when I was little, it didn’t matter to me at all, and I had no “eye” for it. You know, old furniture, old items of interest, old “stuff.” However, after Cheri and I were married for a couple of years, and finally were able to start furnishing a house (parsonage), we realized we could buy lots more furniture and furnishings, at that time, then buy brand new quality stuff. So, we started going to farm auctions, and checking items for sale in the paper. I learned how to refinish items, and to minor repairs, and to find replacements for drawer handles and such. Two of our favorite items is a step back cupboard that had been coated in 10 coats of paint, and a small Norwegian red painted corner cupboard that came out of a small pioneer place along the Sheyenne River. We nestled our finds in amongst the stoneware crocks that fill our home. We also managed to be blessed enough to receive pieces that both sets of parents no longer wanted, or that came from my Grannie after she moved in with my folks. One of my other favorite pieces is a primitive, square-nailed painted corner dry sink that I believe came originally from my great-great grandparents’ home in Iowa.
The trouble with liking “old stuff” is that there is a great deal of “old stuff” to be found! For me, it’s never been an investment/financial thing, although I’m sure if we were to just put everything up for sale, we could make a pretty penny off of everything. After all, who wouldn’t want a complete collection of large Wade English Tea nursery rhyme figures, that used to come in the tea boxes? See what I mean?
There was a phase I went through when I found myself captivated with old spoons. I was drawn to carved, hand made wooden spoons, which up here in the northland tend to be Scandinavian spoons, with some of them being given as wedding presents and others very utilitarian. At that time, wooden spoons were pretty cheap, and so was I, so I amassed and nice little collection. My spoons range from one that would barely hold 1/8 teaspoon, and another pair of hand carved scoops that probably were used to scoop flour or beans or something from larger barrels. Some of them are as plain as dirt. They were made to be used. Others, however, are plain, except for a handle that someone took the time and care to carve a nice little figure, or bric brac on the edge. I’m not sure which ones might have come over from the old land, because they have no history – just mystery in terms of what they had been through, who used them, and how they ended up in my hands after more than 100, or even 150 years. To top it off, I have a painted green little wooden rolling pin, with comical extended handles. I can imagine Lena saying to Ole, “I need a new rolling pin, but I need the handles big enough for my big hands!”
When we finally moved into our home, and seemed as though we might settle here for a while, instead of packing to move in six years to another parsonage, I pulled the spoons out of their wrappings, and displayed them on a shelf in my office. Please understand – they are not in a museum. I don’t get any visitors, and it really is my private office. I do, however, get the joy of just sometimes sitting in my office chair and looking at someone else’s craftsmanship and old, old work that now I can enjoy. When we cleaned out Mom’s house, I found in the garage an old wooden and brass fold-up ruler that must have at least been owned by my grandfather. How many things did it measure? How many times was it pulled out of a pocket in a pair of bib overalls? What did it help make? Today, it sits with pride amongst the spoons, opened to a v-shape, just to show off its fancy brass joint.
Part of my “fourth life,” the life I am now living, since retiring from a daily work or career, in which I really do have more time than ever to be creatively idle, to enjoy the shape and framework and painting and finish of the different things that are part of my life, I find myself wondering what’s next. What will I find next that displays beauty and whimsy or strength and craft? Or, as well, what will become of the items that make up the Cross estate? I’ve told the boys to take whatever they want – when the time comes – but not to be loaded down with what they have no interest in. So – stay tuned… there may be an auction yet. In about another 25 years or so, hopefully.
What we love and admire is really a very personal choice. I’m not saying to act like Scrooge McDuck and spend our time diving in gold coins in the vault, but there is nothing wrong with enjoying, and finding joy in admiring the things that create our home. I say that, so long as the joy never comes at the expense of enjoying another human, or admiring and cherishing them, not as part of our home, but part of our lives. “Stuff” breaks, or turns to dust – that’s what makes them stuff. The people we intentionally gather to be in our lives have eternally more value and place, and deserve our hearts. We share our lives with them, and are honored that they share their lives with us. That’s a nice thought – we are never part of a collection. We are part of someone’s life. Time to go pickup Cheri.
Word of the Day: caesious. Pronounced see-zee-us. Now, if you were a Roman back in the day, you would pronounce it k(aye)-ay-si-us, but in the Middle Ages, the hard “c” became a soft “s”, so that words like “excelsis” ends up with a soft “s” for the “c.” Anyway, our word today comes from the Latin, caesius, related to caelum. Caesius means “bluish or gray green.” The “caelum” means “sky,” so when you look up in the sky on one of those days when the sky is a darker blue, then it comes closer to caesious in its nature. By the way, our word also means any kind of plant that has a waxy, bluish grey coating. A blueberry is sort of “caesious-ist.” It’s a pretty color, unless you are thinking of zombies…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.