Why is it Etsy has become so popular? Why do cars line the road for a few folding tables of old things at a yard sale? And why are my spirits lifted just by poking around an auction?
The last question is mostly because I'm a little weird, but overall, I think it's nostalgia. Finding those things that instantly transport us back to a moment in our childhood. Touchstones of more innocent times.
I had just such a moment yesterday when I came across this old metal dispenser for "Foil, Wax and Paper" towels, having spent the majority of my childhood using one exactly like it that was mounted to my parent's kitchen wall.
I didn't have any particular fond remembrance of this handy contraption, but when I came face to face with it at a thrift store, it was as if a time-machine had sucked me back to the 1970's.
For just a moment I could almost hear Patsy Cline playing on the radio, smell the coffee from the percolator on the stove, and feel the scratched Formica counter top that sat underneath this useful dispenser. I was a child in my parent's kitchen again.
This phenomena is part of what fuels the vintage Etsy shops, too, I think. An object sparking that memory or special feeling you'd all but forgotten about until you saw it again.
For example, I once got a lovely thank you note from the woman who bought this squirrel cookie jar from my Etsy shop. She said it was exactly like the one she'd grown up with - it had been broken when they moved her mother out of her house into a nursing home. She was so thrilled to find this one to replace it and put on her own kitchen counter.
A little squirrely time-machine.
Another woman bought these vegetable wall plaques for a similar reason. She said ones just like it had hung in her grandparent's house when she was growing up and just looking at them took her back and made her happy.
We all have a little treasure or two around our houses, I would bet, that we keep because they remind us of some sweet memory or much loved person or place. And if they've been lost, its fun to discover them again on the shelf at the Goodwill or in an Etsy shop.
The house where the metal dispenser once distributed foil, wax paper and paper towels is now gone. So, while I didn't buy it, I will cherish that fleeting moment it gave me when, for just a second, I was standing on my tip toes in a little stone house in New Jersey reaching for a paper towel.