If it’s old, worn and rusty I love it. Chipped paint, worn and rubbed with use, rusty wheels to grow vines on, tool boxes re purposed with flowers in them, old advertising boxes, a chicken coop door – these things hang on my wall, these things have a story, they have character. Hands touched them so much that they left a story, even ordinary events like making dinner.
The kitchen handles of the 40’s were often painted red, some of the paint has been worn off from so many meals being made. These items remind me that the ordinary tasks of taking care of my family is something people have been doing long before I lived. When I handle these everyday items you can almost see the hands that worked them so much to be that old and worn. They would probably laugh to know that we collect their old canning jars, tablecloths, tools and other objects to decorate our homes. A home with vintage and antique items feels inviting to me, it’s like I can feel the heart, the love and the dedication that made something that can not only last– but see the years of use. I love old, worn and rusty things and I tell Mr. Greene that when he is old, worn and rusty I will love him all the more.
I was traveling alone with my kids, who at the time were three and five. The kids needed to stretch and I really needed to look at little local junk, antique and curio shops. Paxico, Kansas – population of 221 – had two such shops. The first on the north side of the street had a lot of glass and I needed to get out of there before my kids spent all of my money for broken glass. The next one just to the south was wonderful. It had piles of vintage linens, a new tablecloth I was pretty sure would fit my table. It didn’t but I love it all the same. They had wonderful old clothes which always make me sad as they are never a size I can wear. Stacks against the wall of old prints, a box of street signs, I picked two (street signs are an obsession with me).
My kids were getting anxious… I could spend hours in here. Heaven really. Then I saw it, on the wall hung an old school map from the 1950’s, the price written on a 3×5 card was $800, which was totally worth it. I moved a glass doll out of my daughters hands, knowing I couldn’t buy the map, but something in my heart said to look closer.. why tease myself I couldn’t do $800? But I did look and in my awe I realized that I had added a 0.. it was only $80!! I felt faint, tingly. The anticipation and desire had met in a perfect moment! I could have this, it cold be mine and in a vision of foggy clarity I knew where it would hang on my wall. The whole trip of 1049.4 miles alone with 2 small kids was worth it in this moment, this would be enough. Placing my purchases on the counter adding up to just under $100 … amazed, elated, giddy…
I handed over my credit card while chatting happily with the clerk and she with me. Suddenly the clerk looked perplexed and said “Oh, we don’t take credit cards.” No problem, I thought and took out my debit card. Patiently she said, “we don’t take cards … at all”
Okay, this is fine… don’t panic, “where is the ATM”? I didn’t have any checks with me, who travels with checks!? This is when my heart started to race, was I sweating? “We don’t have an ATM in town” What!?? No ATM.. where was I? I was in Paxico, Kansas. She called the local bank, sure enough they only do business with local people. I was not local. The closest ATM was 60-70 miles down the road. The room was spinning— joy was being ripped from my hands. That was it, the end … I had a schedule I was expected… I couldn’t be taking a 140 mile detour for … sniff….
She was talking and it took me a moment to realize what she was saying – And this is why Paxico Kansas is so stinkin’ cool – She told me to take the map and send a check when I got home. I, not computing what she said in the moment, had to ask how much for shipping? She repeated, “take the map in your car and when you get home send us a check” and handed me the store business card. “So, you want me to take the map home.. not pay anything now.. and you will trust me to send a check..?” I asked in surpise.
“And you trust me to do that… you trust people to do that?”
I started assuring her that I was trust worthy, surprisingly she seemed to believe me… that I would send a check. I picked up my map happily, amazed at how cool this was. Not only was I going to get my 1950’s map, I was getting to buy it in 1950’s style. Outside of Paxico store alarms go off on items you have already paid for, we have identity insurance for us, the kids and the family cats, and two forms of ID just to check my kids out of the Ikea play area. Security replaces trust. And it’s what living in NOW means, but in Paxico you can still live like it was THEN. I sent the check with a handwritten note. The 1950’s hangs in my reading nook. It is old, the metal is a little rusty and it is worn on the edges from the hands of the teacher teaching the future of Kansas, about the world outside of Paxico. I am glad that Paxico is still there and I can visit when I want to take the time to travel back in time. Next time, I will bring lots of cash and my check book just in case.