You might know Waterbury, VT as the site of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory, but another interesting, if lesser known, spot is the Waterbury Flea Market, which is held on weekends in a farmer’s field, adjacent to the large barn and silos.
While you can find a little bit of everything there, new and old, tools, T-shirts, dishes, books, and whatnot, I mostly search for old pictures,
postcards and ephemera – paper odds and ends, like tickets or receipts, that were useful for short-time use and designed to be tossed (but were saved instead.)
I am particularly fascinated by the old photographs of people – who were they? What were their stories? Their names are rarely written on the backs, so when they end up in a box at the flea market for 50 cents each, I often feel compelled to take them home and care for them.
For a while I kept a rotating gallery of these nameless faces lined up on my fireplace mantel. I thought it was a cheery thing to keep their memories alive by displaying them in this way. But then I was informed by a couple of house guests in a row that they felt creepy about having to spend the night on the couch bed in that room with the faces staring down at them! So I put them away.
Instead, I have been using these “Instant Ancestors” in my artwork, which is another way to honor these people of the past. In this piece, I have made up a story about the woman in the picture; I believe her name was Alyce and she was in a romantic relationship with a man, but it was not meant to be. He loved her more than she loved him, and one day in September she left, and all that remained for him was her memory. The scent and color of lilacs, their shared love of birds and poetry – all of these things reminded him of her, and of the passion they once shared.