By Christina Capecchi
When we were married, my husband and I moved into a house that had never been lived in before. No nicks in the woodwork, no carpet stains, no glow-in-the-dark constellations stuck to the ceiling. A blank slate for a new marriage.
We marveled over its pristine condition, breathing in that new-house smell and sprawling across the empty living room.
Immediately, I started scheming about how to adorn the bare walls. Left to my own devices, I would’ve headed to the nearest Kohl’s and filled my cart with home décor of the live-love-laugh variety, but Ted urged me to wait.
Though I felt a bit sheepish after several months of inviting visitors into such a sparse house, I came to see the wisdom in taking my time, especially when we eventually found décor that felt unique. We inherited a painting by my great-grandpa, a crock Ted’s grandma had used to store coleslaw and an ice chest his parents had accepted as one round of payment on the sale of their first home. I bought a St. Andrew Daily Missal with a 1950 imprimatur at a church sale. And my latest find came through Craigslist: a 7-foot, century-old church pew. The seller, who was moving, traced it to California and accepted $200 for it, as long as I was willing to haul it out of his laundry room. It is made of pine, engraved with the doodles of restless children and smells like prayer.
The most loving response to a beautiful new home, I have decided, is to fill it with beautiful old stuff. I’m tethering mine to history, to pre-computer days and the values that seem embedded in the patina: patience, simplicity, togetherness.
My friends have the same impulse, scouring eBay and Etsy and then saving their finds on Pinterest under headers like “shabby chic” and “rustic elegance.” Anything old can be reclaimed or recovered, turned upside down, imagined anew — a pastry blender as a towel rack or note holder, weathered trunks as coffee tables, washboards atop cupboards, mason jars holding skeleton keys. Work pieces become whimsical: a dress form draped in costume pearls, peonies popping from a rusted watering can, a Remington typewriter perched on a dresser.
My sister framed family photos in an old window frame, one picture per pane. My neighbor decorated her home office with her parents’ first mailbox and rotary-dial phone, a whacky delight for her iPad-using kids. We feel the tug of the old-fashioned, of things that were not designed like Apple products. Somewhere deep down, we understand that the old is the perfect antidote to the new, that it adds meaning and contrast, salt to sweet.
In the same way, we are called to reclaim Catholicism, with all its artistry and riches, gilded and rusted many times over throughout the span of two millennia. It is the ultimate treasure trove, whispering to us with saints and stories, welcoming us with ancient rituals, waiting to be rediscovered.
No other Christian faith has our depth and history. Other denominations are modern re-castings of ours, the original. We may not have rock bands and frappuccino makers, but we have the saving grace of sacraments, which you could classify as vintage. The older I get and the faster our world moves, the more I appreciate an old, unvarnished hymn. Maybe life is to be performed in largo: slowly and broadly. And maybe, more than ever, we need the quiet power of Catholicism.
(Christina Capecchi is a freelance writer from Inver Grove Heights, Minn. She can be reached at www.ReadChristina.com.)