Thursday, August 20, 2015

Queen of Hearts

This past weekend Jeff took me to a special store called Queen of Hearts. Sounds like the perfect store for Bad Alice, doesn’t it? And it is.

Queen of Hearts is an antique store that houses staged displays from different dealers. Oh my God, I wanted to just roll around in the glory of it all. There were wonderful pieces of furniture, some of them as-is and some of them gussied up in interesting ways. One section had cookie jars. One gentleman specialized in vintage license plates. There were more cigar boxes than any Pinterest crafter could ever want.

But it was generally the small things that caught my eye, like the set of pink mixing bowls with the strawberry motif, and the casserole dishes - you know the ones - with little flowers. Most of them flooded me with a sense of nostalgia. A spinning wheel like the one in my paternal grandfather’s house. A butter churn like the one I found in my maternal grandparents’ basement. A straw purse with hideous flowers like one my mom had. Old Butterick patterns. Jeff even found some books on record, pulling out by chance one that contained Black Beauty with, of all things, my first name written on it in marker.

By that time I was beginning to feel a bit teary eyed. I missed my parents. I remembered my mom cutting out fabric on the kitchen table - she never pinned but instead weighted the pattern pieces with table knives. She had an old fruitcake tin filled with buttons (I still have those buttons) and an old Whitman’s Sampler box filled with thread, some of it so old it was on wooden spools. I remembered my dad’s old cigar boxes filled with arrowheads. In storage there are two old, heavy black typewriters much nicer than the ones I saw on display. Soon a chain of associations led me further afield. When Abby was little my dad found a huge lot of Matchbox cars at a flea market and gave them to her. Whenever I open the cabinet where I keep our spices, I smell the same timeless scent I smelled in our spice cabinet growing up, and I’ve stashed my mom’s recipe box there. In one section of the store I found a few old thermoses, the kind with the glass interiors that always broke. How many times I went to drink my lunch milk and found shards floating on top. Whatever happened, I wondered, to the metal Laugh-in lunchbox I used in first grade, with a paper name tag held in place by grubby scotch tape curling up at the edges?

Oh, I wanted to buy so many things, as if I could somehow recapture the best moments of my childhood and carry them with me when I left the store. Instead we left with a set of sundae glasses, something my family never owned, and surprised the girls with ice cream and fudge sauce.


  1. Immediately, I see the straw purse with hideous flowers like one my mom had as well, lol. And a fruitcake tin filled with sewing notions from my gran is in my craft closet. As is the cigar box of my mothers india ink set. So much of this resonated with me - the smell of the spice cupboard?!?! Oh that is so true, why had I never made that association before? Good thing I have you to do it for me. What a magical place! Sounds like a wonderland, indeed.

  2. When they say that smell is one of the strongest triggers of memory, they weren't kidding. I've always loved almond-scented things because of my mom's Jergen's lotion. I thought that was the best smell ever when I was little. Yes, spice cupboards. It took a while for mine to acquire that really strong scent (which in my case probably comes from spills and cracked lids). Now if I could just find the Betty Crocker cookbook from 1960 something.

  3. Is it very far from where you live? Sounds like a great place for finding gifts, especially gifts to yourself. Wish we had something like that around here.

  4. It's very close to where I live. Everyone should have one. I could spend hours wandering around. People must, because there's someone selling coffee, sandwiches and pie in the back. What I love is the fact that all that stuff I thought was awful and tacky is suddenly a find. I also love the mix of as-is with the creatively refurbished. There's a set of strawberry pink mixing bowls I have my eye on, and I found an anniversary present there. I won't say what in case the hubs runs across this.

  5. Made me remember a lot of things from my childhood. Those glass mixing bowls that were white inside but colored on the outside with the holdy-handles flaring out on each side -- the dark turquoise one, the one with the ugly shade of green -- and the various Corningware dishes. The smell I would love to smell again was my grandmother's shampoo. She had brilliant, snow-white hair and used a blue shampoo called Halo. I have never been able to find any reference to it as an adult.

  6. Oh! I remember a commercial for Halo shampoo.. As soon as I read the capitalized word, I remembered "Hay-Low, everybody, Hay-Low, sung by, I don't know who. But I can still hum the tune. Stuck in my head now, an ear worm. Pfui.