Slice of Life Tuesday: Finding treasures in unexpected places

 The Tuesday Slice of Life Writing Community is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at 

A lovely summer day of Washington County antique-hunting, brought my daughter and me to this magical place – McCartee’s Barn, in Salem, N.Y.  We poked around through the barn,  and found a dresser that now sits in an apartment in Morningside Heights, N.Y.    

Then, we turned our attentions to the house itself – and an entire floor devoted to art, antiques, collectibles and an assortment of beautiful and unusual things:
Everywhere we looked, there was something to feast our eyes upon. My practical daughter, needing everything from furniture to knives and forks, consulted her list, and her budget, and cut a disciplined path through the assembled treasures.  She was focused on the need to haves…but I was not.  There is not a cupboard, table top of storage unit in my house that is not already filled to the brim with dishes, and glassware, and stuff, so I had no excuse for doing what I did: I fell in love with this …. and I’m not even sure what it is!!!
Why? Because the instant I saw it I was transported back in time to my childhood in India.  Every summer, we’d take the train all the way from the bustling city of Bombay to Cape Comorin, a resort village at  the very tip of the Indian subcontinent where three oceans meet (the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea) and one can watch the sun set and the moonrise all at once.  The journey would take many days, and I remember passing the time for hours, just watching an endless succession of stunning scenery – mountains, ocean, jungles, farms.  And mealtimes were such an adventure, for someone would inevitable rap on our carriage door just as soon as the train had come to a halt at some station, and hand us one of these:
Each compartment of this “tiffin carrier” would contain something divinely delectable: curries, rice, Indian bread, pickles, relishes.  We’d feast for a while, and then reassemble the empty tins. And, at the next station, someone would rap on our door once again to collect our tiffins.  As a child, the whole process seemed magical to me: the appearance of delicious food just when we needed it, the spreading out of the feast – a tapestry of rich colors and vibrant scents, and then being able to enjoy this food as we watched mile after mile of endlessly varied and striking landscape roll by.   The tiffin carrier, summer holidays, the languorous journey – an interconnected series of long ago memories all returned to me when I saw the glass container.  It was much more elegant than the metal contraption of memory, true, but it came close.  I saw it, I remembered, and I was filled with the kind of warmth one reserves for special memories. I had to have it. 
I felt a bit foolish, and I tried to explain myself to Sue Clary, the lovely collector and proprietor of the “barn.” What would I use this for? I hadn’t a clue…I just knew that every once in a rare while, one stumbles upon a something that triggers memories of long ago.  The India I knew, the railway journeys we took, our childhood sea shore summers…all of these are so long ago and far away. But, when I stand still for a moment and look upon this little tower of glass, I am instantly transported back in time…I can hear the rhythm of the train, the roar of the ocean, and the sounds of my childhood. 
If you are ever so lucky so as to be in Washington County, N.Y., save some time for this wonderful place: 
You can also find the Clary’s on Facebook:, where you may well be tempted to pick up an irresistably beautiful  item or two.

12 thoughts on “Slice of Life Tuesday: Finding treasures in unexpected places

  1. Tara, we are a bit different since I routinely purge stuff from my house and don't have a single cupboard stuffed (well, the bookshelves overflow a bit) but your description of how an object reaches out to you still resonates. I have a collection of what I call the artifacts of my life which hold the stories I want to keep. And, those artifacts can pop up in odd places and start telling my story even if I've never held the object before. Your treasure is a great story, and worthy of the purchase. Thank you for sharing.

  2. I think I'm sorry you gave me the link, Tara, because while I love hearing about your trip shopping with your daughter and your "find" and time travel, I just had an estate sale & don't "need" one more item. Yet I would love to visit this place and have fond memories of once going antiquing in NY state when we visited friends-wonderful places! I love hearing about your memories-what adventures you have had! Thank you for sharing & I'm so happy you made this purchase!

  3. That is an exquisite piece of glass. I am a sucker for glass containers. I loved the story of your summers and the magical appearance of the tasty food. I wonder, do they still do that?

  4. Thank you Tara for generously sharing about McCartee's Barn and Bill and I! Your heartfelt childhood experience was wonderful to hear in person and as good the second time around!If you do not mind I would like to share this on my FB page tagging Suvir. Again many thanks, Sincerely, Sue Clary

  5. What a beautiful piece. I love to antique too and I enjoyed how you capture the magic of a delightful find. I've been collecting glass pieces for an assemblage–or glass sculpture project. Nothing quite as beautiful as your tiffin is in the current totem pole-ish piece, but I bet the cut glass would transform a sunbeam into rainbows in the right spot. Now I will have to keep an eye out. Thank you for sharing such a lovely piece.

  6. First of all, the first two pictures would make beautiful jigsaw puzzles! Secondly, I love antiques because of the stories they tell or the ones I think they tell…that part is more fun! Your story is beautiful. One day someone will look at those things and wonder about their stories.

  7. Such rich memories you have of your childhood in India. "But, when I stand still for a moment and look upon this little tower of glass, I am instantly transported back in time…I can hear the rhythm of the train, the roar of the ocean, and the sounds of my childhood. " I love these words-any of us could replace the words "tower of glass" with a meaningful object from our own childhood to be transported back in time. I think this would be fun to share with students and have them select objects that transport them back in time. I have one that I've wanted to write about for awhile now. Perhaps sometime soon, I'll tackle it for my weekly SOL!

  8. Hi, Tara! One of our local coffee shops is using tiffin carriers for lunches. There is delicious soup on the bottom, bread in the second level, and a cookie in the top container. Honestly, they make the lunches feel special!

  9. How wonderful it is to read your stories. I enter a world of discovery. First I travel through the beauty of this antique store and then find out you spent your childhood in India. What delights you shared. Thank you. I, also have enjoyed reading of your meet-ups with Bonnie and Stacey.

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