Sometime after giving birth to my first child, but before getting the third one out the door for good, something weird happened.

I can't pinpoint the exact moment, but I'm guessing it was somewhere between learning to read with Dick and Jane and getting my first pair of parachute pants. I think that's when my memories officially went from "feels like yesterday" to "ancient history."


I've always enjoyed browsing antique shops. I'm intrigued by anything and everything from a bygone era, from butter churns to Edwardian jewelry; from 1930s Coke machines to 1950s barber poles; from old furniture to toys that would be considered, by today's standards, not merely unsafe, but lethal.

I've often thought I should have been born earlier — around 1920 instead of 1952. Then, as a young woman, I could have worn all those swell 1940s styles — open-toe platform shoes, peplum jackets, bobby socks. That would've been the bees' knees!

Even now, after all these years, although it doesn't seem that long since I was a kid, I can still happily spend a Sunday afternoon wandering an antique mall in search of treasures and collectibles.

That is, it used to make me happy.

As of last Saturday, I'm considering finding a new hobby. That's when I realized that today's antique stores are stocked to the rafters with remnants from my own past. And I'm getting ready to flip my top, daddy-o.

That day, Doug and I were perusing an antique shop ("Yesteryear's Leftovers & Useless Junque," on Route 66), and I spent the whole time uttering exclamations like, "Hey, I had a Raggedy Ann doll just like that one!"; "Yowza! Nancy Drew! I had every single one of those!"; and, "Holy cow! Saddle shoes and red rubber rain boots with buckles, like I wore in first grade! What is happening?!?"

At some point, I passed out; which is something proper ladies did back in the olden days, when their whale-bone corsets were laced too tightly. Of course, in my case, it wasn't the vapors that caused me to keel over. It was the shock of discovering that the trappings of my entire childhood, and half of my adulthood, were now officially considered antiques.

Luckily, the next booth contained a collection of bottles which long ago had contained old-fashioned patent medicines. A few even had some of the original contents intact. So Doug yanked open the antiquated medicine cabinet serving as a display case, seized a bottle dated 1917, and waved it under my nose. I woke up immediately. But not thanks to any 97-year-old remedy.

Rather, my eyes shot open and filled with tears because, over time, the original ammonium carbonate in that ancient bottle of smelling salts had decayed into some kind of noxious crystalline substance that reeked of sweaty socks and despair.

"Hey, don't flip your wig, chickie-baby!" exclaimed Doug. "We'll just hop in the jalopy and head to the malt shop." Dragging me past a display of tie-dyed t-shirts and denim bell-bottoms ("Circa 1968," read the dusty label), he said, "Let's share a chocolate malt and bop to the latest Benny Goodman wax on the jukebox. I hear it's a gas, daddy-o! Real gone!"

"Why not?" I replied despondently. "Far out." I knew Doug was only trying to cheer me up, but it wasn't working. In fact, the whole thing was bumming me out big time.

But, on the upside, my old Howdy Doody doll might actually be worth something on eBay.