once upon a time long, long ago, in a neighborhood we can no longer afford to live in, we rented a charming two bedroom apartment at the very top of a hundred year old brick six flat that was untouched by time. on the ground floor of this old building lived the elderly landlord and his tiny wife. they kept a dusty shop in the front and kept house in the back. the shop was filled from the wood planked floors to the tin ceiling with all manner of penny candy, plastic toys, games, novelties, sunglasses and souvenirs from decades gone by. even the prices, marked in black wax pencil, were untouched by time. everything was in it's original packaging.
we made a habit of wandering into this shop on a regular basis for a visit or to pay the rent. it was like stepping back in time. often we found ourselves staring in wonder at all the goodies on the shelves and inside the old glass display cabinets. no matter how many times we looked there always managed to be something we'd never seen before. embroidered hankies in decorative boxes wrapped with satin ribbon bows. vinyl wallets with cowboys and bucking broncos printed on them. pens and matching printed stationery in sweet gift boxes, wind up tin toys and gravity activated celluloid walking toys. board games of commerce and geography, anklet socks and tootsie pops, key chains and pocket knives. saving up for a treasure now and then became a favorite pastime. and hurrying down the creaky stairway, around the corner and thru the heavy shop door to make a purchase was a thrill. we secretly planned to buy up every last vintage item we loved in the place - and live happily ever after.
years passed. we got married, our son was born, and we continued to add to our little hoard. we did a good deal of our christmas shopping in the little shop downstairs, wrapping the presents in the colorful pristine papers that were older than we were. even the tinsel for our tree (and most of our ornaments) came from those shelves. our boy got his first teether and his first fringed cowboy vest there. every month when we paid the rent the old landlord came out from behind the counter and gave him a free pretzel stick. his tiny wife admired our robust child and pinched his cheeks. the brass bell on the door clanged as we went in and out. all was well.
then one day everything changed. we came thru the door, our eyes searching for our next great find, and i think a gasp came out of my mouth. a picker had discovered our sleepy little shop and in one brief morning he'd bought almost everything of a certain age he could find from the stock. then he loaded it into his truck and drove away. sad gaping empty spaces pocked the room. we stood like two deflated balloons, whining our sorrow. the boy and the landlord were unaffected by our loss. they were already busy with their latest pretzel transaction.
in time we all moved on. the boy is grown tall. the dusty shop is now a fancy restaurant. the landlord and his wife are gone. the narrow streets are lined with finer cars and bigger homes. the freight train no longer makes its sugar delivery to the candy factory down the block. but happily, a few of the small things we acquired there are still with us. a ceramic juice pitcher shaped and glazed like a ripe orange, a pair of cufflinks, a deck of old maid playing cards, a glass paperweight, a doll dressed in a bride's gown and all of those christmas tree ornaments. in the original packaging.
now i have my own little shops. and this bike reflector, brought home from our landlord's long ago is sitting on the shelf in my daisy chain vintage shop. someone will see it, feel the same thrill we did and take it home. maybe they will hang it on their wall or mount it on their bike. or give it as a gift to someone they like to smooch. whenever they see it they will smile. and live happily ever after.