Treasure hunting

August 05, 1994|By Helen K. Liberman

AFTER YEARS of chasing that elusive treasure, I finally found it. All those Saturday mornings spent going through family castoffs and discarded inheritances looking for that undiscovered treasure brought me face to face with my treasure.

This particular Saturday started like all the others. Up at six, drinking my wake-up coffee and going over the list of flea markets and yard sales in the newspaper. I numbered them in order of importance so that I would visit the most promising ones first.

Into my Reeboks and out of the house by 7:30 a.m. At the first flea market, I made my way quickly down the aisle, my eyes skimming the tops of the tables trying to be the first to claim the treasure. I moved quickly because if my treasure wasn't there I would move on to the next address on my list. After all, I didn't want to be late getting to my treasure.

Then I spotted an old friend sitting among the jumble of vases, cups and saucers and other paraphernalia. I stopped short and allowed the other treasure-seekers in the aisle to bump me into the opening in front of the table.

Vaguely, I remember the dealer asking if something was wrong. My face must have reflected my astonishment. Then I did something every veteran flea market shopper knows you shouldn't do: I let the dealer know how much I want an item. Well, love will overrule all rules and love is what I felt for that old friend.

I blurted out: "It's incredible. That's my father's shaving mug. It has his name on it."

Snatching it up and cradling it in my hands, I asked her if she remembered where she had gotten it. Looking at her stock number, she said it was part of a job lot, probably from someone who cleans out attics or it could have been purchased in a box from a charity.

I couldn't understand how that mug surfaced after 50 years. Turning it in my hands, I saw the crack running down the inside. The remnants of gold on the rim testified to its years of wear and to its former beauty. I could see my father, the mug in one hand, that stubby shaving brush in the other, stirring a froth of soap suds over the rim. No wonder it was worn.

Looking at his name still resplendent in the gold, I knew I would never let it go. Seeing my interest, the dealer informed me that shaving mugs are prized collectibles.

Then I violated the second rule of flea market shoppers: never pay the first price quoted. I quickly paid the price on the tag, nTC both of us knowing that I would have paid whatever she asked.

Did my mother leave it behind when we moved or did she tuck it into a box to be donated to a charity? I'll never know. All I wanted to do was take it home where it belonged.

I love looking at it in its place of honor on the shelf. I wish it could tell me its adventures of the past 50 years.

In the meantime, I am up at six having my wake-up coffee, slipping on my Reeboks and making a mad -- to be at the head of the line at the next flea market.

Somewhere there's my old Shirley Temple mug waiting for me.

8, Helen K. Liberman writes from Baltimore.

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