Friday, January 13, 2012

H is for History

Me with my doll
I love history.... Well, I haven't always loved it.  High school History class seemed to be a vague collection of unrelated dates and battles which held no particular meaning for me and threatened my GPA.  I don't know whether it was age, wisdom (or both) which led me to the discovery that history is actually the interwoven stories of life.

Innately I must have had some sense of this all along, even though I didn't connect the dots. I have always loved "old things." When I was a little girl I went antiquing with my mother.  Being the youngest by five years, I was her ever-present side-kick.  While she examined the lovely wood furnishings (she has exceptional taste), I wandered here and there in search of treasure. I was always particularly drawn to phonographs and some times other amazing inventions of the post Civil War Industrial Age.  All I knew then was that there was beauty in its looks (design) and there was romance in its memories.

I went to college in what was then a fairly small town in Virginia. You could easily walk from the upper campus blue stone buildings to the town square.  And yes, it was a square with the county courthouse building symmetrically enclosed by perpendicular strips of road (thus "Court Square").  Main Street and its tributaries still contained proprietary businesses such as an occasional small antique shop, general store, and cozy college sandwich nooks.  Jess's Quick Lunch has been there forever.... best hot dogs in town.

Anyway, as a freshman I loved to walk downtown and scour a certain vintage clothing shop.  I found a wonderful cardigan sweater there with a deep front "v" of one black, one red, and one white stripe. I also bought a great black pencil style party dress.  My mom thought it was a little strange for me to wear someone else's old clothes (which is understandable for what her generation had been through), but I felt incredibly artistic and pretty.

Across the way from this shop there was also an antique dealer. His place wasn't large or plentifully stocked, but in a glass case on a small wooden shelf sat a tiny one-legged doll which I fell completely in love with. I had not yet read Rachel Field's Hitty Her First Hundred Years, but I found myself wondering about her history. Perhaps this is where my adult love for dolls was born.

Okay, so back to the present.  I  just finished reading A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff and, other than the premarital interaction, I found it to be an extremely well-crafted, enjoyable and sensitive story all about the magic of vintage clothing and the healing power of friendships. The unique characters along with their back stories compel you to appreciate and care for them; and the plot hangs delicately on the the threads of an unsolved historical mystery.

“What I really love about them (vintage clothes)... is the fact that they contain someone's personal history... I find myself wondering about their lives. I can never look at a garment... without thinking about the woman who owned it. How old was she? Did she work? Was she married? Was she happy?... When you buy a piece of vintage clothing you're not just buying the fabric and thread - you're buying a piece of someone's past.” - Isabel Wolff

I hadn't actually intended to mention the book in this post, but as I reflected on my fascination with "old things"... boxes with hidden compartments, 1950's wedding dresses, Ada Lum cloth dolls, vintage children's books, black and white photos... I thought again about this novel and how "objects" contain the mysteries of history... the interwoven joys, sorrows, laughter and tears of our lives.

 Josef Original figurines
I am linking to Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday.  You can find wonderful posts brought to you by the letter "H" here.


  1. Love all things "historical" too. Great H post!

  2. I've always loved history. And I like your explanation of connect dates and battles - a fine explanation of what so many school history books contain. {:-D

  3. visiting via Alphabe.. am a new follower now..
    loved the H and the G posts! History is something I get lost in too sometimes.. the dolls in the photo - really cute..

  4. Is it just me, or is it just that fact that as we grow older we appreciate history more and more ... I love vintage and old, just for the the hidden memories and past lives that such articles possess ... what a wonderful post Steph ... you really spoke to me with this post ...

  5. Love the 'mysteries in history'! I like old clothing too. Just gets my imagination going! LOL!

  6. Thanks for the vintage stroll through your personal history. Love the photos.

  7. I'm attracted to house windows, especially those in historic areas, for similar reasons. I always find myself wondering about the life and times of the people who have lived in the home over the years.


Thank you for your comments. They help me feel that I am some how connected out here in Blogland and not just writing to the air.


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