Ancienting


" … old treasure like me would never come up for auction, anyway."

The Antique Road Show appraisers speak of patina, and seem to worship it. The hapless owner's grandmother refinished the piece eighty years ago and stripped off at least ninety percent of the chair's value. In its present refurbished state, it might garner no more than a few hundred bucks. Had grandma been less of a go-getter, a few tens of thousands, maybe a hundred grand on a good day. What was once a treasure will now remain kitsch, authenticity forever compromised.

More than half of what some derisively refer to as The Aging Process involves retaining the deepening patina despite pressures to refurbish.
My mom and The Muse's mom, who never met, shared one trait. They were both infected with pretty much every decorating craze popular through the sixties and seventies. Both bought auction furniture and "antiqued" it, a process by which patina was removed and replaced with white paint and gold trim, as if Louis XIII had owned a depression-era pine chest of drawers. Granted that their furniture purchases' original patina never echoed any hint of eighteenth century heritage, but their updating removed what modest dignity those pieces possessed, replacing it with something called antique but clearly of more modern vintage; old pieces pretending to be even older as a way of preserving their youth.

The experts insist that vinyl windows insulate the old house better than the old wood windows ever could. Small panes replaced with hardly convincing vinyl strips overlaying a single piece of glass, meant to look like genuine muntins separating individual panes. Even from a distance, they appear simply phony and cheap, swiping patina. And they are cheap, certainly cheaper than millworked muntins painstakingly hand-set with putty and paint. We had the choice when replacing the hail-damaged front window of this place. The vinyl would have been half the price and better insulating, but the purpose of an aging place should not be efficiency. Leave efficiency for the newer kids on the block.

I'm growing to understand that I need not perceive aging as a process of losing youthful capacities, but one of gaining ever enriching patina. I could answer one of those daytime TV ads and go in for a makeover to become an antiqued version of myself, but I can't quite countenance the vanity. My grey hair demonstrates a certain dignity, and while the younger ones call me "sir," I figure that's a small price to pay for my patina. When I met The Muse, her hair was brown. Now she claims that it's gone platinum. "Finally blond," she says. I slap a fresh coat of paint on the front of the house, but it lost all hope for patina when the builder covered the rough cedar siding with paint in the first place. This place will earn its patina in ways I cannot imagine. A scant twenty years old when we bought it, it will never grow old enough during our brief tenancy to achieve anything like Ancienting, anyway. It'll be forever a new house, one less crafted than constructed, true to its blueprints, just like a hundred others in this neighborhood. A thousand years from now, it still won't be unique.

Ancienting accentuates inherent uniquenesses. What earlier in my life might have been hobbies or distant aspirations have, through long practice, become identity now. There was a time when I didn't write, or didn't write very well, when finding the time to write was an eternal challenge. Now I'm challenged to find time for all the other normal supposed-to-be-imperatives in a life increasingly disinterested in keeping up any appearance of normalcy. I am not just who I am, but who I've become, seemingly little before this patina started laying down upon my once green wood. I do not pine for those pre-patina days. Somewhat shopworn to the unappreciative eye, I embody nothing so much as myself now. I no longer find myself pining after being like anyone else. I am my own role model now, a one of a kind curiosity of a piece, unmatched to anything else in the room. I catch hints of earlier use in the worn spots along my arms and legs. The need for a little restoration might be indicated along the midsection, but my present condition issues shouldn't greatly affect my auction price. Of course, an old treasure like me would never come up for auction, anyway.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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