I’m completely transfixed by the timeworn and riveted by the road-weary.
However, as I’ve revealed in my tirades on National Geographic, batched tomes of Reader’s Digest Condensed Books and archaic stacks of Encyclopedia Brittanicas, it is an affliction not soon passing. And, of course, this is not to mention my affinities for chalkboards, mason jars and storied wooden boxes. But I digress.
When we first moved into The c. 1905 Good House – which is the ultimate shrine to the timeworn and road-weary – I found its (many) character flaws charming. I still do, but I’m seeing the light on renovations. I bickered for a while that we must leave just this one ballustrad in the bathroom all chippy, because I found it completely endearing that some puppy (of the five families who lived in the home in the century prior to our claiming it) had chewed on it.
My husband – as you probably are, dear reader – quickly wrote me off as insane and promptly carried on with the repair work. It’s ok. I know that puppy chewed there, and that subsequently our ducks (Yup. Ducks.) were raised in the same bathroom until they were yard-ready. The same could be said of our children.
All this to say that if it is well-loved (reference the story of my new/old bike), ancient, dilapidated or otherwise of questionable origin, I am likely to be immediately smitten. My family suffers these quirks in that I’m likely to scoop things up for them at antique shops (fortunately, my mother and sister are accommodating, if not enabling) or to place junk higher on my covet list than something new. Reference the aforementioned Good House as an excellent example.
And so, imagine my delight one blustery Saturday afternoon in January when my husband went out to check the mail, paused for what I thought was an odd amount of time on the front steps and slowly walked back inside examining a piece of paper with a mixture of interest and incredulity. It was (is, rather…) a 1936 property deed for Benton County.
At best, a scrap of paper – ironically, something I have increasingly tried to eliminate from my life. We both looked at it again and again in the coming days.
- Had it blown from a customer’s hand who approached a nearby bank to place it (or remove it from) a safe deposit box?
- Was it part of a stash from our self-confessed packrat neighbor’s flea market finds?
- Had the cruel North wind blown it from the Benton County courthouse, the nearby annex or the downtown Rogers Historical Museum?
- Was it nothing but trash – an irrelevant piece of the past with no purpose, destined for the recycling center or the burn pile?
More than its recent origin, I wanted to know all about the past it symbolized. As a writer, I could barely stand the stories it represented. I sipped my wine and examined it, imagining and concocting. Who was this single man who conveyed the property, with this firm reference to his marital status seeming at once conclusive about his means and at the same time judgmental about his lifestye?
And perhaps best of all, to me, were the opportunities in the arrival of this scrap of paper. As an avid adolescent reader of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, I was beside myself.
- Should I hop immediately in my car and drive to the non-specific Benton County location depicted on the deed?
- Was it better to simply stop by the courthouse and inquire about its origin and owner?
- Ought I to put out an APB and inquire for information and track down the original parties and their descendants?
As a story-teller, could I let go of this piece of history? Is it an essential document or a negligible scrap lost in the pages of an abandoned book?
In the spirit of choosing your own adventure, I think I’ll simply taper off. However, I’m anxiously awaiting the reader’s preferred ending.
And here is to those scraps of past and present that keep the stories winding onward.