Where I heard about it:
The original source (Reston library page links back to this):
For the mini: deep in the forest, government, charming, heirlooms, flabbergasted
I'm a believer in keeping kids out of trouble, so I regularly go to the flea market they have Saturdays at the old barn down the road from us and look through some other generation's heirlooms for charming toys, not-too-sharp but old-fashioned tools, and funky old clothes. Things like that. The staff is composed of volunteers from the town's historical society. They have great stories to tell about some of the items but the kids aren't all that interested in the shopping part and they prefer surprises, so they stay home with their mom. She's very tolerant of all this but just doesn't get as excited as the rest of us. Someone in this family got the calm gene. It was clearly recessive. Anyway, when I get home, usually relaxed from the fresh air on the walk, I clean up my finds and put them into these trunks we keep up in the attic. When the kids get rowdy we send them up there with a purpose and they'll hunt through the detritus to create their own, themed entertainment.
I'll say stuff like, "Josh, chill already! Go upstairs with your sister and put on a play. There's a new bonnet in the attic I think you'll both get a kick out of." The bonnet I had in mind was an old ratty velvety thing with big long ostrich feathers and bows everywhere. I found it the winter before last. You'd think some old, stuffy lady wore it to the opera - except that carefully centered on every bloody bow was a campaign button for the local dogcatcher. Some of them had pictures of the guy holding cute little dogs. Lots of them had hearts drawn on with silver ink. So maybe some old, batty lady wore it to her son's campaign to become dogcatcher. My daughter Josie loooves dogs and Josh would get a laugh out of its absurdity, so I bought it. Thirteen bucks. Worth every penny - it's been a hat, a basket, a mask, a hunchback's hump, and a disco ball. Not so old now. Jess does like that part - the performances.
One time last autumn I found a pristine Lone Ranger lunch box from the '50s and hadn't even opened it up to look inside when some greedy antique dealer snatched it OUT OF MY HAND and ran it off to the payment desk. Ugh. Hate those pushy types. I was flabbergasted but it wasn't like I had a personal stake in the matter - I don't collect lunch boxes or anything; I just thought it was a fun show - so I shrugged and let the box go. For my own amusement I stomped home (as if a thwarted villain) through the falling leaves muttering, "Who was that masked man?" I hoped it turned out to be full of dried-up snot. Or government documents marked CLASSIFIED - DIRECTOR - EYES ONLY with sections blacked out and it would freak the dealer out but would turn out - upon closer inspection and after frantic, sweaty, palpitating moments - to be a pile of mimeographed charts from some textbook interspersed with pages of amateur radio call-signs. Classic grade-school-maturity disinformation campaign. I'd feel vindicated. So at lunch that day I told Josh & Josie the classified bit as if it had really happened. Had them hook, line, and sinker for a good long while before I laughed and told them I'd made that last part up. Got hit with a few pillows, but they repeated the story to their friends. I've found some suspiciously phony papers in the attic since then.
My current favorite find, which the kids also love, is this '70s yearbook I found this spring. All hippies, every page, I swear. Peace signs and tie-dye shirts; the whole bit. Even on the teachers. We like flipping through to read the weird signatures and captions and to guess at what the heck was going through the administration's mind when they had it printed. Josh now wants to tie-dye everything he owns. We've indulged him here but his dress shirts are off-limits until AFTER he has worn them for an actual event. Never thought I'd have to say that out loud, but I did. Josie loves the long hair on the guys and uses the pictures of long-haired male teachers in the book to remind me that I could grow mine out some more. And more. And more. She wishes, but I'm nice about it. I'll pull one of my curls as straight as it will go and tell her, "OK - it's longer!" She likes that. I was a little kid in the '70s, so the whole hippie bit is pretty alien to me as well. The page of Senior Superlatives has categories like "Hairiest Chest/Legs" (yes, the legs winner was a girl), "Longest Trip" (from the photo, this wasn't exactly referring to road trips) and "Grooviest Van" (we do have a minivan with some crumpled wrappers, like the winner, but ours doesn't have shag carpet and lava lamps and beaded curtains and even the kids don't ask me to add these). One particularly memorable picture shows a group of half-naked, muddy kids doing some kind of rock worship deep in the forest. They were kneeling with their heads down in a circle around this one big rock; their hands were on each others' bare shoulders and bare backs; their butts were up in the air. Maybe they were looking for teeny-tiny 'shrooms. I hope they found some, because they don't look very comfortable in that position. The caption wasn't very helpful - "Junior class field trip to Albertson farm." Probably the yearbook editors goofed up or were goofed out when they put this page together. Could be "field trip" was code back then for 'shrooming, and Albertson was some specific drug. Or they could have been performing "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Dunno. So for this, like everything else I bring home, we make up stories.
Have to finish up today's shopping quickly. It's hot as all get-out today and is only going to get worse. More importantly, I have to hurry home because today is my wife's birthday and the kids are making lunch for all of us. Jess doesn't know it yet - I think - but I've been buying antiquey things for her too. I have a special trunk in the back corner of my workroom. Those old ladies may have been batty but they did a mean trade in silk and lace underwhatevers, and there are a few I can't wait to see on my Jessie. Not right away, of course. I have a nice pair of 14K earrings (also from my favorite shopping site) to give her at lunchtime, in front of the kids. But hopefully tonight Jess and I will make up our own stories with what's in her trunk, and maybe she'll get excited enough to make a few trips to the flea market herself - for my birthday.
Happy Birthday, Sweetie!