In the short time that Michael lived, he was our dear friend whom we loved — he still is. He made us laugh and cry at the same time. We were never without adventure and something to do when he was around. As teenagers and young 20 year-olds, we always knew where we would be spending every day off, every weekend. We would be at Michael’s house, creating something, or in his 10-year old, beat-up Dodge traveling to find treasures. My sister, Jayne, and I learned the art of antique hunting and flea market finding, collecting vs. investing, treasures for pure delight or for re-sale value, from our dear friend, Michael.
On one of our antique-hunting trips, we had just crossed from Jersey into Pennsylvania and found an old barn out of which was piled high, in rag-tag fashion, jumbled together, what would be identified to the naked eye as … junk. Right up our alley. Michael had rules when we were on these trips: You buy what you love, don’t just buy because you think it might be valuable and can be re-sold; never buy because of the money aspect, you buy because you love it.
I remember, even now, row after row of bottles and glassware in that barn — the sun shining through the window illuminating every piece — making them sparkle like dusty diamonds. We walked up each and every aisle carefully eyeing, touching, tapping and flipping bottles, glasses, plates. “Only buy what you really love”, I had to remind myself. So we scanned each shelf carefully, while Michael pointed out the real-deal carnival glass, depression glass, the cut crystal and the pressed glass, the old and and the reproductions.
With care and diligence we looked for just the right piece from that barn of riffraff. We separated and went our merry way out and about all the property that the owners allowed us to pick through. We planned to meet up later and show our findings, our treasures. Michael was an expert at this. He had spent years cultivating his skill with his Aunt Julia and his cousin, Joseph — hanging out in their basement was one of life’s pleasures. The place was teeming with several ancient rocking chairs, many of which rocked, randomly, by themselves on many occasions. An assortment of tables were always in the process of being refinished, with sanding and staining supplies at the ready. In this place, we were surrounded by silver tea sets, Nippon, Majolica, cut crystal. Here was our haven. We sat, told jokes, reminisced, and discussed finds. We planned our next trips. And we laughed at the story of the cat-with-the-chipped-ass. This was the epitome of Michael’s “only buy what you love” belief taken a little too far for his comfort.
We had not been in Pennsylvania more than 5 minutes, when we stopped at the junk barn. Meeting up later, we all showed our treasures — a piece of flow blue found in the back room, a brass ink well found on a shelf high up, and a black plaster cat with a large, gaping, white hole where its tail should be … shown proudly and lovingly by my sister, Jayne. “But it has a chipped ass” was all Michael could seem to stammer over and over again, blinking … And, finally, in a tone of complete bewilderment, he asked “of all the things that are here, why? What will you do with it?” “I love it,” came the reply from my sister, Jayne. Well, … who could argue with that? And so the story came to be: 5 minutes into Pennsylvania, on the first day of our weekend treasure-hunting excursion, rummaging deep in the back rooms of an old barn, Jayne found and, subsequently, bought, the find of the century: the-cat-with-a-chipped-ass … because she loved it.