I'm attracted to common old things. Some things used by members of my family are still functional, useful and are dear to me because they are.
I make kraut in a straight-walled, #5 crockery container that was a gift from my favorite uncle. So what that it has a crack and leaks? Its days are numbered, no doubt, but it works for now.
An ancient dinner plate fits just inside the crock to keep cabbage pressed down. It is the surviving member of my mother's everyday dishes. The cups, saucers and plates with bands of red and a gold edge were used at least twice a day for many years. To someone else it would just be an old scratched and faded dish, but it represents thousands of meals and conversations.
My father wound two clocks regularly. The “striking clock” bangs out the hour and half hour. It ticked away on the mantel when he was born over a hundred years ago.
Some people are not fond of having clocks striking all night, but it doesn't bother me and I don't have to wait long to discover the time without looking. It strikes with one “ding” on the half-hour. It is ambiguous between midnight and one thirty in the morning, but that doesn't happen often.
The other one was the “school clock” of Coosa School while my father was principal. An electric clock replaced it and Mr. Wiggley, the custodian, was discarding “this old thing” when dad claimed it. He wound it every week.
Stuck away in the back of a cupboard hides a platter. Delicate flowers line the edge, and perhaps a band of color, but the surface is cracked in fine lines and, but for the dim little flowers, the detail is only hinted. It is heavy and a mark on the bottom might indicate the creator if it was readable.
The platter looks unchanged from when my grandmother served piles of fried chicken or a roast from homegrown beef surrounded by potatoes.
The platter's origins were unknown to my dad. He knew where most family stuff came from, but that platter had always looked old, he said. Did it come from her Milam family, reaching deeper than her 1886 birth? Was it a keepsake from her grandparents?
There isn't enough detail to make a determination and its provenance certainly would not wander far from modest farm kitchens.
In thrift stores and flea markets I look at old things and wonder about the people to whom they were connected.
Joe Phillips writes his “Dear me” columns for several small newspapers. He has many connections to Walker County, including his grandfather, former superintendent Waymond Morgan. He can be reached at email@example.com.