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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: