“Objects Found” is a labyrinthine antique collection with something for everyone in the heart of Catonsville: any turn down one hallway could lead you to a dead end, so you have no choice but to back yourself into another tiny alcove. Treasure boxes are scattered throughout, filled with postcards or photographs. One black and white photograph is of a young toddler in large breeches and an even larger tunic; his head seems to sink below the surface as he stares with big eyes. He is no doubt eager for the posing to be finished so he can eat or play.
Wander away from the pictures and up a short staircase into a room with two open closets, one with Christmas ornaments (on sale) with a Baltimore Hon flamingo to greet you. The other closet is devoted to music (Schuberth’s Serenade), records (“Learn to Hustle” and “French Folk Songs”), and Elvis.
Here in this closed in space of note scales and purple wooden mouth harps, I found my object.
My intent in visiting was to study the vintage clothing, the ones they advertise for Halloween (dress like a 19th century bride!), but I fell in love with a small wooden piano sitting on a shelf. It was not really a piano, but a jewelry box in the shape of a piano (I am reminded of my middle school grammar teacher stressing, “Things are not always as they seem”). The designated place for A through G hold no black and white keys, but blue fuzzy material for a small bracelet to rest in. When you open up the top of the grand piano, it transforms into staircase for storing pearls and earrings. On a whim, I considered buying this authentic looking commodity. I set it back down and then picked it up again, turning it on its back. Sure enough there was a rusted key at the bottom, revealing its true musical nature. How could a person ever make a piano jewelry box and not make it a music box as well? I almost put it back without turning the knob. It’s as if the object was too fragile for me to test it out. It’s not one of those green and white singing Christmas bears in the department stores that say “Try Me.” This was something different, something valued and beautiful, something rare.
Deciding I would regret not playing the song, my hand rotated the key slowly and gently just to get a brief sample of the tune, to see if I even recognized it. The first few notes were slow twangs amid the clash of Frank Sinatra in the background but the tune was a pleasing version of “La Vie En Rose.” I was in awe of the tiny bell notes turning out the French medley immortalized by Edith Piaf. Again I had the crazy impulse to buy it, it reminded me for some reason of being younger and using jewelry music boxes as houses for my tiny dolls I made from yarn and string. The box unleashed the child within, so to speak.
I was perhaps like the toddler from the old photograph sitting on a bench waiting for a picture to be taken, so he could go back to his imaginary world... The tune ended and I returned the grand piano music box back on the shelf to collect dust. My journey continues throughout the cluttered maze of ceramic, quartz, and nostalgia.