I had a wonderful time combing through trash and treasures last weekend at a few of New York City’s flea markets. Some of the booths were selling brand new, or never been worn linens, shoes or handbags. And they were lovely. But not what I want to see when I am in a dirty parking lot with sweat dripping down my back and harboring wishes of wearing a hazmat suit in such close proximity to some questionable merchandise. I want to see stuff I can’t see in Bergdorf’s circa 2018. I want to see items that are tacky, beautiful, cast away and foreign, and also yet strangely familiar.
One gentleman’s booth housed what may be the finest collection of household sterling silver pieces this side of the pond. Gleaming fish forks, apothecary jars with highly polished lids and water pitchers with bone handles elevated that nasty booth into what I imagine could be a well turned out estate. I was enchanted. And very inspired to polish my own silver collection–very soon.
There were trays of costume jewelry that broke my heart. Just imagining the pride once felt by the women who collected them. And here they were on West 25th Street languishing with no one to adorn.
Truth be told, I saw too many items I actually own from my own grandmothers hand me downs. Too many times I thought to myself, yikes, I have those candle sticks, I have that dish, I have that fake Hermes belt buckle (yeah, yeah). And items called to me from the past. That the very son I used to feed with a Barney spoon just like the one peeking up from a cutlery pile, had met me for breakfast just hours earlier, now a completely independent adult.
That’s the kind of flea market experience I want. To be transported by the crap from other lives, including my own other lives, to feel things I may never get to feel again or make sure I spend time making sure I do.