For six years now, I’ve written my column for The Tennessee Magazine, and each month I receive more than 100 letters from readers. When I first started, I expected to hear only from the 50-and-over crowd, but I’ve been delighted to read letters from children and grandchildren about precious little things they’re received from the homes of their beloved elders. Cookie jars, planters, books and tools seem to be fairly common items. Sometimes they send pictures of furniture and larger items, and their notes are so sweet.
In this upcoming holiday shopping season, I would suggest that instead of negotiating mall crowds, sales ads and the latest tech gadget, poke around the house in search of more personal gifts.
I am often asked to appraise items in homes around the state, and most homes I visit have a stash of small gift items stockpiled and set aside for Christmas and other gift-giving occasions. Often purchased on a whim by thoughtful ladies for visiting ailing friends, they are generally stored in a guest room or hallway closet. There may also be small toys to brighten the eye of a young visitor. There’s always a good number of what I call “nice lady gifts” that include stationery, handkerchiefs and such. Teenager gifts such as pop culture school supplies are also in abundance. While these gifts are fine, they can be forgettable throw-aways. Your objective is to be remembered by your loved ones, so why not give something that will be a lasting impression of you?
Let me suggest a few items you may no longer use but might change a friend’s or family member’s outlook — giving his or her home history while honoring you, the giver.
- Granddad’s workbench, tools, tackle box, hat or cane might appeal to people in their 20s and early 30s. In fact, the newest interior-decorating trend is to sand and finish workbenches for use as kitchen counters. They’re rugged and attractive and have important history.
- Typewriters are popular as objects of art. Good gracious, this may even encourage writing complete sentences again! I’ve been in your homes and know you have 1950s and ’60s stationery supplies, clipboards and pen sets. Dated office machinery or accoutrements might delight the under-45 crowd.
- I know you also have antique trunks, shelves and floor lamps. Your grandchildren’s rooms would get a boost from these 1960s pieces. Although I don’t advocate painting antique furniture made before the Civil War, we probably need to lighten up about painting things made after 1900. Even if the recipient wants to paint this mass-produced furniture white, part of your past would live on in their homes.
- Silk scarves, sparkly jewelry, 1960s fashion and printed linens are popular again. Matched sets of picnic linens with strong colors and quirky prints will make your granddaughters gasp. It’s a nice opportunity to share your memories and remind younger generations of our flamboyant youth. Mid-century (1945-1970) party platters and bowls are also popular. Many of you have these in their original boxes stashed over the refrigerator.
Shopping at home, to me, means rummaging around in the back lot of our possessions. Everything old is new again when it is embraced by our offspring — and we’ve already paid for it.