The Antique

The Antique

From Chicken Soup for the Grandparent's Soul

The Antique

My six-year-old granddaughter stares at me as if she is seeing me for the first time. “Grandma, you are an antique,” she says. “You are old. Antiques are old. You are my antique.”

I am not satisfied to let the matter rest there. I take out Webster’s Dictionary and read the definition to Jenny. I explain, “An antique is not only just old; it’s an object existing since or belonging to earlier times . . . a work of art . . . a piece of furniture. Antiques are treasured,” I tell Jenny as I put away the dictionary. “They have to be handled carefully because they sometimes are very valuable.”

According to various customs laws, in order to be qualified as an antique, the object has to be at least one hundred years old.

“I’m only sixty-seven,” I remind Jenny.

We look around the house for other antiques besides me. There is a bureau that was handed down from one aunt to another and finally to our family. “It’s very old,” I tell Jenny. “I try to keep it polished, and I show it off whenever I can. You do that with antiques.” When Jenny gets older and understands such things, I might also tell her that whenever I look at the bureau or touch it, I am reminded of the aunt so dear to me who gave me the bureau as a gift. I see her face again, though she is no longer with us. I even hear her voice and recall her smile. I remember myself as a little girl leaning against this antique, listening to one of her stories. The bureau does that for me.

There is a picture on the wall purchased at a garage sale. It is dated 1867. “Now that’s an antique,” I boast. “Over one hundred years old.” Of course it is marked up and scratched and not in very good condition. “Sometimes age does that,” I tell Jenny. “But the marks are good marks. They show living, being around. That’s something to display with pride. In fact, sometimes, the more an object shows age, the more valuable it can become.” It is important that I believe this for my own self-esteem.

Our tour of antiques continues. There is a vase on the floor. It has been in my household for a long time. I’m not certain where it came from, but I didn’t buy it new. And then there is the four-poster bed, sent to me forty years ago from an uncle who slept in it for fifty years.

The one thing about antiques, I explain to Jenny, is that they usually have a story. They’ve been in one home and then another, handed down from one family to another, traveling all over the place. They’ve lasted through years and years. They could have been tossed away, or ignored, or destroyed or lost. But instead, they survived.

For a moment Jenny looks thoughtful. “I don’t have any antiques but you,” she says. Then her face brightens. “Could I take you to school for show-and-tell?”

“Only if I fit into your backpack,” I answer.

And then her antique lifted her up and embraced her in a hug that would last through the years.

Harriet May Savitz

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