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Dust collectors (03/07/2010)
By Janet Lewis Burns

You might say I’m a nostalgic, love-at-first-sight collector. When I see it –I know it’s the thing. My heart skips a beat and hums a long-forgotten tune, and I’m smitten.

I was raised in a modest home, in cozy Lewiston, the oldest of four siblings. Ours was a secure and happy home, a house with good bones! Mary is 15 months younger than me. We spent many hours playing dolls and reading books on the enclosed front porch, where abundant sun flooded in through wraparound windows.

I’m not just sure when I realized that I’d lost my beloved Raggedy Ann. There are black and white photos of me, with my Annie Oakley pigtails, pulling her in a small red wagon. I cringe at the sight of those scuffed white, high-topped shoes and ugly white stockings - not Raggedy’s, mine!

In my free-spirited adulthood, my daughter Kelly gifted me a pair of Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, decked out in their nifty red and green outfits, and sporting red yarn hair. Poor things aren’t properly cuddled or taken on wagon rides, but merely displayed on our fireplace in the wheelbarrow, one of our Radio Flyer miniatures, and on the sled during the holidays.

When I cleaned out our former playroom for the final time, I found one of the Golden Books from my childhood. The back cover was gone and pages were creased and torn. There were fetching pictures of the playful Raggedy Ann and Andy! The first page bears the inscription, “To Janet, From Aunt Emilie, 1951.” I was six years old.

I recall reading that book to my grandchildren with such feeling and emotion, expecting them to embrace the excitement that had overcome me upon this discovery. They weren’t the least bit interested in the tattered book from Grandma’s childhood. The momentary, sentimental journey was my memory, not theirs. There is the milk glass, children’s’ mug, decorated with dancing circus characters in red, which had been stashed away in a kitchen cabinet. I was delighted to find another one in an antique store near Chetek, WI! Now they’re displayed with tea things, and my miniatures of instruments, household items, shoes, purses, and hats, even a red one with feathers.

The Norman Rockwell book of his paintings, that picturesque old barn book, the illustrated story of Amish life, breathtaking nature photographers’ collections, my black jazz band, Native American collectors’ plates, nature paintings, the nostalgic life of Elvis – all those treasures aside, my most poignant discovery has been the 8 X 10, black and white, torso sketch of a 12-year-old Jesus.

Remember the gospel story when Mary and Joseph searched everywhere for their lost son in Jerusalem? When they found Jesus in the temple, He proclaimed that he was just going about his Father’s business. At the time, they did not understand. (Luke 2:43-52) That’s the story that was told about this sketch of Christ’s youthful face.

I spotted this picture, in its varnished, dark wood frame, with a flimsy, brown paper bag backing and shoestring hanger, in a secondhand store in Winona 17 years ago. It was a heart- stopper! Could it be the very picture that hung in one of the spare bedrooms out at my mother’s rural Bethany homestead? I remember restless nights, as I slept out on the farm during thunderstorms, and fragments of the face on the wall, as flashes of lightning streaked its serene presence, from out of a rumbling, pitch-black, country night. The Wollin auction was held in 1991, out on “the farm,” as it was so affectionately dubbed by many adoring visitors over the years. Heartbeats of a beloved ambiance were silenced following the sale. I wonder what our family will save and pass on to future generations when we’re gone.

No artist’s signature graces Christ’s framed semblance, now on our bedroom wall. Will some collector, one day, recognize Him through ashes and dust of time? Through the most fierce of storms?

Janet Burns cherishes times spent on the former Wollin’s, Whitewater Valley farm. She can be reached patandjanburns@embarqmail.com. 


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