I learned a great lesson about love, collecting and the passing on of heirlooms this year, and now is the perfect time to share.
This photo was taken (by me) at a different outdoor antiques fair, but I'll use it today to show you how vintage ornaments (usually $1-3) can be displayed for sale - in one layer, gently cushioned in tissue.
On the day of this story, the ornaments that caught my eye were in an open, unmarked box. I wandered down the series of tables to the vendor, a quiet woman in her late sixties, and asked her how her ornaments were priced.
"$16 each. But that's because these are the real-deal made-in-Germany blown-glass ones from the 1940's."
"How nice," I said, "they are beautiful, but that is a little too much for me. Thank you, though," and I started walking back toward my husband, who happened to be in the direction of the ornament box. She followed and when she got to the display, she stopped and started talking to me about vintage ornaments in general. I responded with, "It was this pale pink one that caught my eye."
"Oh that one was my mother's, here, you can have it," she said lifting the ornament from the box.
What? Why would she give it to me? What was happening? Then I really heard what she was saying as she walked back to her tissue and bags. Yes, there was mention of her dog that had been getting into her tree; he even tried to chew one lately. But she also said, "I don't have any kids" to me...twice.
When someone repeats something in the same few sentences, that is the real message and thank heaven I caught it. This women had decided to "pass down" her mother's ornament to me. By singling it out, I had unknowingly shown her that I would be a good steward for her treasure, and when she told me that it was her mother's she guaranteed that I would be extra careful when I put it away each year.
The surprising thing is that I didn't cry on the spot, as I am now while I write this.
"Merry Christmas, dear woman, your heirloom is safe with me."