It started as an outing in search of a small china cabinet but turned into an afternoon steeped in memories and nostalgia. A couple of years ago, my mother gave me her wedding china. It’s stored in a kitchen cupboard in the Little House in the Bush. But it deserves to be seen. The challenge has been finding a small enough cabinet that’s vintage enough to suit the house. I’ve scanned Kijiji periodically but so far, nothing has come up. Today seemed like a good day to go hunting.
We head into town. There’s a small antique shop in what used to be Fort William that was closing its doors and had priced everything to sell. Sweetie and my sister Lulu agreed to come along. Lulu is visiting this week and generally has a low tolerance for shopping but this sounded interesting and didn’t appear to be too onerous.
Once in the car, I say, “There’s another shop I want to go into as well. It’s just around the corner from the antique store. It’ll only take a minute. Let’s go there first.”
Brief pause. Then, with some suspicion, “Well, OK. Since it’s on the way.”
First stop, Furniture Recycle. We wander about. Lots of interesting stuff but no china cabinet. Moving on.
The antique shop is picked pretty clean. No china cabinets but there is still some lovely china and glassware. Lulu and I ponder several pieces. I purchase a lovely set of Candlewick glass cake and cookie plates and a small depression glass candy dish. Because we need more places to set out candy. And cake. And cookies.
“That’s the Five Roses Cookbook!” she shouts.
“What??? The Five Roses Cookbook???” I exclaim.
The woman looks startled as Lulu and I begin blathering about what a great cookbook it is and how our mother learned to cook with that book and baked birthday cakes from recipes in that book and…. The woman says, “Oh fine,” and hands the book to Lulu. Lulu! Not me. Lulu! And because everything was 60% off, she pays the whopping sum of $2.00 for it. Lulu reminds me of the “I spotted it first” rule. Fine. As we leave the store, I mention there is another antique shop at the end of the street and well, since we’re here…
Antique store #3. Filled with stuff. Wonderful stuff. Beautiful stuff. Unusual stuff. No china cabinets. We discover a stash of vintage Christmas ornaments including a treetop angel. It’s the identical angel to the one we grew up with. It’s pretty, delicate and surrounded with a halo made up of tiny threads of fiberglass. Every Christmas, at least one of us kids would end up with bits of fiberglass in our feet, howling for them to removed. Easier said than done of course because, well, they were fiberglass. Invisible. We buy her anyway. We can’t leave her there. We also find six large ornaments that remind us of the ones given to each of us by our grandmother. Still in the original box. Original price $1.69. For the box. Today’s price: $5.95 each. We buy them anyway. Because they remind us of Nana. Lulu remarks that everything on the shelf was part of someone’s Christmas once. How sad that it’s wound up here. We agree our ornaments will have good homes.
We head to the glassware. I buy a set of matching teal blue glass cups and luncheon plates. And two very unusual pink depression glass shakers shaped like people. We spot dishes and glasses that remind us of our grandmother, our mother, our neighbours. And moments in time. We reminisce. Lulu comments that there’s very little Finnish glass to be found in a place with the largest Finn population outside of Finland. The Finns make beautiful glass. She wonders if it’s because it’s handed down, not bought in estate sales.
Lulu mentions she noticed a section of cookbooks. We dash to the bookshelf and start systematically going through every book on the shelf. Success! Another Five Roses Cookbook! Equally battered, annotated by the original owner and starting to come apart. For $15.99. No matter. I head back to pay for my treasures. We pass the woman from the previous shop who gave up the first Five Roses Cookbook. I hide mine and hurry past. I mention to the store owner that Lulu just bought the same book down the street for $2.00. The owner looks at me and says, “I’m not going out of business.” And then agrees to a small discount. She has been wrapping and packing while we were cookbook searching so we’re out of there fast. Before the other woman who gave up the book sees what we’ve found.
“Since we’re here in Fort William,” I say once back in the car…. Groans erupt. “But there’s another shop not far from here.”
Antique shop #4. Not much there. Well, that’s not quite true. In addition to a few antiques, there is some vintage clothing, a coffee counter and a tarot reader who is loudly shuffling cards and staring at us. We politely say hello and move past. Lulu ponders a little dress as a possible gift but decides against it. Sweetie on the other hand has engaged in a lively discussion with the shop owner about coffee and buys a package of expensive coffee beans. We do not have a grinder at the Little House in the Bush. And Sweetie doesn’t drink much coffee. But he has been searching for the best beans ever since we were in France two years ago. So now we have beans.
As we head to the car, we start to pass a somewhat scruffy looking diner. Lulu wants a cold drink. It occurs to me that I’m starving. Not surprising since we ate breakfast six hours ago. We go in and it looks like a cross between the coffee shop of a little hotel just down from the street where we grew up and another coffee shop not far from Lulu’s first job. It’s all formica and stools at a counter and a motley assortment of ‘50s style tables and chairs. There’s a real milkshake maker. And a game called “The Challenger” that tests how steady your hands are. And a cranky waitress. But the food is fantastic. The fries are fresh cut and tasty. The turkey salad sandwich is homemade. And the milkshake is perfection. It comes with the extra shake in the metal container. Sweetie has ordered the shake. Lulu and I devour the extra.
We head back to the car. “So there’s one more shop nearby….” This time, there’s no groaning, just resigned acquiescence. We’re not exactly sure where it is but after a bit of driving around, we find it. Sweetie is intrigued before we get in the door because there’s an ancient Evinrude boat motor in the window. Just inside the door, there is an old dog named Bear. He’s basking in the sun and thumps his tail in welcome. This is another place of treasures. Lulu finds some cobalt blue tumblers in a drawer. She buys them. She tests her theory about the lack of Finnish glass. The store owner concurs. I find a pink depression glass platter. I buy it. Sweetie tests an electric guitar that’s been made from a piece of wood that’s been buried and allowed to mold, then cleaned and turned into the face of the instrument. It’s beautiful. He ponders. It’s $550. He puts it back. Reluctantly. Lulu examines some jewellery and I spot a ring. It’s a bit gaudy, bits of blue glass set in sterling silver but it appeals. I buy it. Lulu agrees it’s gaudy and I should give it to my sister. I remind her of the “I spotted it first” rule.
We pile back into the car and aim for home. I am delighted with my purchases. Lulu acknowledges that it’s been a pretty good adventure. Sweetie grunts. It’s been an afternoon of treasures and memories sparked by kitschy collectibles and vintage glassware. More stuff deserving to be seen. And still no china cabinet.