Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Old Tin

It was Beth’s favorite thing to do whenever they visited second-hand shops. There was always an old tin filled with vintage jewelry. Usually a trove of tarnished, gaudy baubles, there was invariable a treasure that made it worth purchasing the whole thing.

Beth opened the blue cover decorated with butter cookies and pushed through the broken strings of beads and heavy brooches. Single earrings that have long since been separated from their pair lay like fallen sentries.

Beth grinned as she tugged on a long necklace. “And there it is. Bingo.” The large tootsie-roll like beads were lacquered in red and black. Carved in a Chinese pattern of dubious authenticity, the beads clacked together under the shop’s fluorescent lights.

“It’s hideous,” Callie said.

“It’s perfect.”

Beth’s intention suddenly dawned on Callie and she laughed. “For the lamp with the red velvet shade?”

Beth held up the necklace. “Cut them into three or four piece segments, and hang them around the bottom of the shade. It’ll be the best ugly lamp I ever made.”

It was another of Beth’s passions. On trash days, she searched the neighborhood’s sidewalks for abandoned lamps. Only the tackiest or most bordello-worthy would do. Once refurbished, Beth gave the lamps to friends and family who had a wry appreciation for her art. Beth and Callie’s Somerville apartment featured a small octagonal living room that was impractical for furniture. It became their shared art studio, where they got buzzed and critiqued each other’s projects. The lamps stood in the center of the room on the paint-speckled floor, illuminating the space with rainbow hues when colored light bulbs were used. Rubenesque cherubs adorned the tops, plastic beveled gems sparkled, and random objects were pasted on the shades. They never ceased to draw amazed reactions.

Callie plucked a gold pin in the shape of a heron from the tin. “Put this on the side. Its shadow will be cast on the wall. Fits with the theme, don’t you think?”

“Definitely,” Beth said. She put the pieces back in the tin and closed the lid. “Five dollars well spent!”

As Beth paid for the jewelry, Callie looked at the clumps of jewelry strewn on a nearby counter. An array of neons, pastels, and heavy Goth pieces from the 1980s filled a tin of her own at home. Callie perused these high school-era relics from time to time, with memories drifting over the decades. It was a strange sensation to look at the collections of jewelry offloaded to a second-hand shop by surviving relatives and wonder how her own would look on a similar counter years from now. Some of the pieces in Beth’s tin reminded her of her great-grandmother. It was a fugue of generations, threaded together with shiny trinkets precious to interconnected hearts.