A stack of 1960s Mad Magazines, flame and turquoise and mustard Fiestaware, a fake leopard fur coat. A quarter-size violin in a black cardboard case.
Rainbow mounds of beads, dishes of mother-of-pearl belt buckles, baskets of wooden spools, some with thread still wound. Pitchforks, spades, combat helmets, buoys and cowboy boots. A life-size leather horse.
Shelves of Steiff stuffed animals that remind me of the bristle-haired terrier and goldfish I used to have on my bed as a child. A cancelled Pepsi Cola Bottling Company paycheck for 74 dollars and change. A curled black-and-white portrait of a seated, laughing baby, staring brightly into the camera, with a neat cursive inscription on the back: “Helen or me. Keep.”
Al and I wander through dozens of booths on the last day of the July Brimfield Antique Fair, as exhibitors pack up their goods. The afternoon is humid, 90 degrees once again, and we stroll and poke without buying. Occasionally we ask how much, but the price is always too high and we don’t have the energy to bargain.
One table is stacked with milky green glass dishes that match some of our Passover set, passed down from Al’s grandmother to his mother to us. “Are we missing anything?” I ask as I finger a small 10 cent bowl. “No,” he says, rolling his eyes.
Al inquires about the price of a Red Sox pennant, similar to one he has in our basement. “Twenty-five dollars,” says the seller.
I open a wooden trunk that reminds me how I shipped my bulky clothes and desk supplies and a senior prom portrait of my boyfriend and me to college in a black-and-brass trunk that got misplaced. It took nearly a week to locate it. I missed the portrait the most. We broke up that Thanksgiving.
We walk by a drill press, a radial saw, Sears power tools like the ones that filled my father’s basement workshop. There are tables laden with steel chests that contain stacks of shallow drawers. My father used to store his screws and nuts and bolts by size, neatly labeled, this way. I pull open one of the drawers. Empty.
Al sorts through a bin of hardcover books. I imagine the Louise-Nevelson-like sculptures that could be made from keys and doorknobs and letterpress trays. We admire an old leather barber chair.
Sharing a fresh squeezed lemonade, we head back to our car, drained by the heat, glad our energy timed out in synch, proud we resisted buying any of the same kind of junk we don’t need more of, pleased just to point and nudge each other when we discovered something odd or ironic or familiar.
As I drive us back home on the Mass Pike, I wonder: What will I leave behind that might find its way onto a flea market table, picked over, bargained for, set back because the price is too high?
And I wonder: Whatever happened to Helen and her sister, with the beautiful cursive script?
A zinc bathtub, a white lace bridal gown with crystal beading, a mannequin’s arm. A black-maned rocking horse with a red saddle.
A hand-painted Chinese checker board, a vinyl Barbie case, green glass Coca Cola bottles. A tin milk cooler.
Cobalt champagne glasses, a silver flute nested in blue velvet, a neon orange life preserver. A wheel of fortune.
Evelyn Herwitz blogs weekly about living fully with chronic disease, the inside of baseballs, turtles and frogs, J.S. Bach, the meaning of life and whatever else she happens to be thinking about at livingwithscleroderma.com.