This is how I start most daily conversations with Chip.
“Ok, so you know how I am, right?”
He wearily draws out a long, “yeaaahhh” because he knows.
I break the news this time. I have a new collectable.
I collect things that strike a fancy. When I troll for collectables, I never share with shop owners what I’m looking for. “Just looking….” I trill brightly like a bored housewife shoplifter. But for me, I’m on safari and I don’t want to be led directly to the game to shoot it. I’m not Dick Cheney. It’s the hunt I enjoy. I wish they had catch and release antiquing. Stand next to it and take a picture, then go home and brag about it.
On safari last week, my eye was caught by a collection of celluloid brooches. I’ve never collected jewelry. And surely there can be no collecting on sabbatical. There’s the tiny house, the suitcase restrictions, the budgetary concerns, the vacant looks from immediate family when I share details of poking around antique shops---no, no, not practical at this time. Best to forget this brief doomed love affair, leave it to die alone “English Patient” style, legs broken in a cave in the desert. Yes, still talking about antiquing. It can be that tragic.
No harm just having a look on the Internet. The jewelry designer, Lea Stein… born in Paris in the 30s…art deco styling…vintage 1960s to the present…. affordable, portable, plentiful…hmm…maybe I could ask for one for Christmas….no no no, it's silly, let it go.
Then yesterday, as I walked into town, a well-dressed older woman in a tweed suit walked toward me. As she passed, I noticed a brooch on her lapel…a little celluloid cat….and not just any cat…a rare-ish Lea Stein Art Deco/Egyptian cat that not half an hour earlier I had seen on the Internet. I felt like one of those people who see the Virgin Mary in the eggy swirls on their french toast. I saw angels…I heard trumpets…I tackled her from behind.
“Excuse me, maam, maam…can I ask you is that a Lea Stein pin?”
“Uh, I don’t think so, it’s just a pin I bought at a store in London a few years ago, but you know, everywhere I go people always comment on this pin.”
I shook my head impatiently. Nothing worse than rookies walking around wearing collectables and not knowing it.
“No, no it’s a Lea Stein pin, I’m sure.” I explained I had just been looking at her pin on the Internet. I leaned in and pawed at it like Vincent D’Onofrio on Law and Order:CI. “Turn it over and let’s look for the marking.”
She took a moment to scan me for the “craz-uh” (it was questionable at that point) then put down her bags and turned the brooch over to check. Sure enough, the Lea Stein insignia was there. I told her the pin was worth about 90 pounds, which shocked her. “I didn’t pay nearly that! But you know, my six year old grandson asked me a few years ago if he could have it and I told him no. Then he asked if he could have it when he died”. With that, she burst out laughing but all I could think of now was her grandson in his casket wearing her brooch. Ok, two dotty women meet on a bridge…the start of a very bad joke. Time to go.
I made a beeline for the antique shop and plunked down 42 pounds for the little fox above. Never mind that it looks like a giant cicada on my sweater. It’s mine. I love it. I want more.