I like old things. Of course, I’m something of an old thing myself these days (though it wasn’t kind of you to point it out), but apart from that, I like the comfort of familiarity: old jeans, boots that know the shape of my foot, shirts with frayed collars, tools with shiny places from repeated use, a pocket knife with a blade worn down from decades of sharpening, books that fall open at favorite passages, a saddle that shows years of use and years of care in equal measure, all the old things whose performance and idiosyncrasies you can count on.
I like old houses too, with stairs worn from generations of feet, butcher block tables concave from preparation of countless meals, floors that slope from south to north, wooden newel posts worn smooth and shiny from thousands of touches by hundreds of hands, known and unknown. (Remember Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life?”)
Don’t misunderstand. I really appreciate my mod. cons.: heating and air conditioning that actually work; water that comes out unstained by rust; roofs that don’t leak; DSL; and radiant heat in the floors would be nice, if I had it. But I like the known, the used, the loved and appreciated, an air of the loved and lived in, and a sense of the character of people who did the living. Darleen regularly comes home from the market with copies of “House Beautiful” or “Architectural Digest,” and while I can admire the beauty of some of those homes (some make me wonder if they were designed by a blind descendent of the Marquis de Sade, or someone with a really distorted sense of humor) I can’t see myself living in any of them.
I have two leather chairs I bought in New York the year of the bicentennial, when the tall ships sailed up the Hudson. After almost four decades of hard and regular use they are now very—pick one—worn (if you’re charitable) or shabby (if you’re less forgiving). I have made necessary repairs to the leather over the years with super-glue, and they should be good to go for at least another decade or so, if I can persuade the cats not to use them for their pedicures. They are my more attractive version of Marty Crane’s hideous Barcalounger on “Frasier.” And like Marty Crane, those chairs hold as many memories for me as they have held bottoms: friends I still occasionally see, friends separated by distance, friends separated by change or choice, friends separated by death.
There will come a day when there is more super-glue than leather and I will have to discard them, but until then, I think I’ll go get comfortable and read a book.