By Laurel Harris Durenberger
When I was a kid, I used to go trash picking in the alleyways behind our Baltimore City rowhome. Now, you might think: “Why, that’s a little bit odd” but oh my goodness, the treasures I would find. Often, when folks would pass away, their families would just toss away the things that they no longer wanted. The huge cans and bags awaiting the garbage trucks were a summer playground for me. I waded through these ‘toss-aways’ but instead of trash, I saw incredible stories that were represented by the items. I remember an elder artist whose family had thrown away: Victorian scrapbook albums, small, decorative wooden boxes, art and supplies, books and so much more. The treasures I found behind her home told a story, they told her story! I squirreled away so many of those things and have them to this day. They trigger thoughts about the life I imagined she lived.
Another place that I would forage when I was young was the prop room at my families theatre in Long Island. I remember, one summer, while doing props for a production of “Peter Pan,” I was tasked with making a fairy light. I went ‘picking’ for a lamp that I could re-wire and make it seem as if Tinkerbell was speaking. I found a lovely art nouveau piece that was perfect! It had a new life, admired by audiences throughout the run of the show.
It is clear to me that my fascination with vintage treasure when I was young led me to my choice to open an antique shop now that I am grown. The inventory in my shop is often acquired through working with families and exploring the objects in the homes in which they grew up. Or, going through the truly precious things that were kept through the downsizing process. I truly love listening to the stories of how objects were used and cared for and the family traditions in which “things” became the centerpiece. These stories are the core of my business. ‘Old stuff’ and its reuse and re-homing is how I spend each day. I research, clean, repair, and display an amazing array of treasures.
The holiday season is, perhaps, one of the most precious times for so many families. I adore listening to stories about holiday decorations from Halloween straight through to Easter. I eagerly listen to tales about making ornaments, finding the Christmas pickle, the dreidel game, elves and pixies, Santas, nutcrackers, dying eggs, and all of the treasures entwined in so many more celebrations. Ornaments hold so much love and are a testimony to the enduring traditions that are the soul of each of our families. They are treasured until the very last relative can no longer care for them. This is where I have come to find my true purpose…to shelter each of these treasures until I can find them a new “forever home.”
Laurel Harris Durenberger is the owner of Time’s Tin Cup Vintage Emporium at 410 Main Street in Boonton.