(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)
I usually spend Friday afternoons out and about exploring local antiques shops. My weekly deadlines have been met and it’s a treat to have the quiet time to myself.
I’ve done this since I moved to Spokane and it’s a ritual I look forward to each week. Frequently the owners are in their shops, prepping for weekend traffic, sometimes already putting out items picked up at the morning’s estate sales, and I can stop and chat. Or, when it suits me, just quietly browse. Even when I travel, I try to find a few minutes on my own, searching for a vintage souvenir.
Last week I made my rounds and stopped by Tossed and Found on north Monroe. I’d been looking at vintage Valentines all morning, thinking I would build a February 14th column around some sweet paper find. But, as it always is with treasure hunting, my Valentine arrived in an unexpected way when I spotted a small heart-shaped lock on a table and picked it up. The black paint on the body of the lock showed its age, faded and chipped in a few places. The hasp had that true rusty patina that comes with time and exposure to the elements. Stamped on the front was the patent date of Feb. 25, 1896.
I stopped looking at postcards and paper. I’d found my Valentine.
Since I brought it home I’ve carried the lock around the house like a child with a favorite toy. For a few days it rested in the dish where I drop my earrings and watch each evening. Then it spent a day on my desk as a paperweight. After I photographed it, the lock lay on the table next to the chaise lounge where I like to sit and have my coffee each morning. From time to time I pick it up and run my fingers over the surface as my mind plays over words and sentences, searching for the perfect line for whatever I am writing. I feel the weight of it and imagine the places it might have been. The little lock is a perfect example of the Victorian philosophy that even the most mundane objects should possess beauty by design.
I considered looping a ribbon over the hasp and wearing it as a pendant. It’s the perfect weight and shape for a keyring. Of course, if I can find a key, I can use it as it was intended, to secure something I want kept private and safe.
So, some may get cards and flowers. Others will celebrate with jewelry and wine. But I’m happy with my discovery.
I like to think I have a lock on Valentine’s Day.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. In addition to her Home Planet , Treasure Hunting and CAMera: Travel and Photo blogs, her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org