Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Knick Knacks & Artifacts 2/18/09

We are a family with knick-knacks.
One example: The kitchen shelf holding cookbooks is lined with toy figures. This is my wife’s doing. If you know her you don’t believe me, but it’s true.
There are two Power Rangers, Gumby’s little horse Pokey, a tiny, bulbous, flesh colored baby in a diaper, a two-inch metal figure of Bugs Bunny and Wile E. Coyote, a bobble-head doll of Dwight from the TV show The Office, Dexter in a space suit from the children’s show Dexter’s Laboratory, and three old matchbooks; one from Max Robinson Real Estate, one from Billie Caldwell’s run for Auditor long ago, and a vintage Jim Dandy matchbook with that red-headed Jim Dandy kid on it clutching a burger and licking his lips.
We keep a reasonably clean house, so cleaning around this stuff gets a little laborious. Still the knick-knacks and artifacts accumulate.
In the little den where I’m writing this column a floor-to-ceiling bookcase has items of major, minor, or incidental meaning wedged here and there. There’s an antique brass fan I bought by accident at an auction in a box of items, “too numerous to mention,” a full-size wooden bowling pin found behind a couch in my in-law’s house, a tiny A & W Root Beer mug from my childhood cradling a huge palm-sized marble from my father-in-law’s childhood, and an Ertel’s soda pop bottle I found in the creek in Tipton when I was a kid. That’s just the left side. Two shelves on the right side hold (but are not limited to) a whiskey crock, a large beer bottle I found in an out-house pit, a fist-sized cast iron acorn from an iron fence, and old cigar tins. On the wall nearby hangs a mounted bear head that was shot by my wife’s grandmother in the U.P. of Michigan.
No, we don’t live in a sports pub.
I suppose a reasonable person would say, “Enough is enough, get rid of some of this stuff.” But since there aren’t any reasonable people around here, we press on.
At Christmas my kids got me a giant glass bottle to hold more of my cork collection.
Yes, that’s right, a cork collection.
For years I’ve been saving corks from bottles of wine consumed at weddings, holidays, dinner out with friends – you name it. On the side of each I write the names of the people who helped drink it, the event and date and put it in a jar. Above the kitchen cabinets is an assortment of antique containers filled with 20 years of corks. I suppose I oughta stop. Maybe after that new 5-gallon bottle is filled.
The windowsill above the kitchen sink is a whole-nother matter. It holds all the little artifacts we’ve found in the yard of our Victorian-era house while gardening over the years. Ceramic marbles, a porcelain arm and leg from a doll, a brass button with an “FD” in the center and floral patterns around the parameter, fossils and random shards of colorful pottery are clustered together. Added here and there – a tiny celluloid deer from my wife’s grandmother’s long-gone kitchen, an impossibly round, palm-size stone I found and a ceramic green snowman with black hair our oldest son, Cal made in elementary school. Again, I’m just giving you the high points. There’s actually much, much, much more stuff it would take pages to explain.
In my day job as a Realtor, I routinely show houses with every knick-knack gone, every countertop clear, and every bookshelf free of personal photos or mementos. We Realtors are always telling sellers, “Declutter, declutter, declutter!” But like an accountant who can’t balance his household checkbook, the clutter simply grows in this Realtor’s house.
For home selling purposes, decluttering creates the feeling of openness. It also creates a fantasy for buyers, inviting them to imagine, “When I buy this house, this is how I’ll live.”
No, you won’t.
But some people get close. I visit friends’ homes and wonder why they don’t have a stack of mail on their dining room table like we do. Where’s the little jar of shells they found on vacation in Florida? Where are the bird skulls, buckeyes, even more fossils and antique medicine bottles, you know, stuff like we have among the bookshelves in our living room? They probably crammed it all in closets before we arrived.
We Meyers may be hoarders, but we’re hoarders with a taste for the unique and antique. But someday when we die, somebody’s going to have to deal with all this; like the little Chinese terra cotta soldiers my parents sent home from China that sit on the fireplace mantle, or the unusual stone and architectural glass objects clustered around the hearth, or the . . .

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