I Believe In Keeping The Past Alive

Oct 27, 2016

Essayist Elizabeth Bare.
Credit Erin Cassidy Hendrick / WPSU

I believe in keeping the past alive. Just take a step into my 1880’s house and you will find yourself surrounded by an array of mid-20th century furniture, paired with eclectic decor from a variety of centuries. Many of them are from my grandmothers, who sadly passed away recently. When these articles first arrived at my house, it was very disorienting. These things did not belong here-- they belonged in my grandmothers’ homes. But as time passed, these objects became a part of our daily routine. Now I’m used to things like the chalk portrait of an anonymous young man hanging in our hallway and overseeing our daily affairs.

Ever since I was a child, I loved to collect old and quirky objects as well as learn the stories behind them. I realized everything around me had a story. Things that seem mundane have a narrative of their own that is impossible for me to ignore. So I deliberately choose to surround myself with these stories. If an object doesn’t have a story or a memory attached to it, it is worthless to me. I believe strongly that by continuing to use and care for objects from the past, we are perpetuating our collective memory as human beings.

These histories are even more important today. We live in a “throwaway” culture that exhibits a near disdain for anything that is not current, entertaining, or selfie-inducing. Keeping the past alive requires a deliberateness: not relinquishing the value of things simply because trends have shifted. I suppose there is a part of me that also inherited that Depression-era frugality of my grandparents, which is far removed from today’s excess. The fact that I am always willing to reuse and repurpose has always saved me money and helped me get through tough financial times. This outlook has helped me live within my means when others are unable to do so.

One great example of my frugal-yet-vintage lifestyle is my home itself. My husband and I had a tight budget when buying a home--almost unbelievably tight by today’s standards. But that was fine with me. I always planned on having an 1800’s fixer-upper, and that’s exactly what I got. Despite its quirks, I love my house. We are continually modifying the space for a modern lifestyle, yet we also strive to respect the home’s history as a company house for brickyard laborers.

Recently, I posted a photo on Facebook that just so happened to have my avocado green, mid-60’s stove in the background. This beast of an appliance was present in our home at purchase. After posting my photo, it became a minor social media sensation. I can’t believe how many people were intrigued and interested in my 50-year-old stove. I have to admit, I could pass on the avocado green. But the stove cooks like a dream, so why get rid of it? I took its tiny moment of internet celebrity as a compliment to my belief in making the old new again. I believe in keeping the past alive.   

Elizabeth Bare is the youth services coordinator at Holt Memorial Library in Philipsburg. She lives in Sandy Ridge.