When you look back on history, it’s easy to read a few pages on the past and idealize an era while looking upon our own with disdain. The 20s were roaring and the 50s were magnetic, but it doesn’t take long to look back with nostalgia. Even the 80s, the decade of decadence and greed and jelly shoes, for Pete’s sake, now finds itself ensconced in the sought after category called “simpler times.” I don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the movies featured in Design Sponge’s Living In series (my favorite posts on the blog) feature movies from the past or set in the past, and often times both. We all want a bit of what we never had a chance at having.
Perhaps we idealize in our search for permanence. Life, while you live it, seems fleeting and vaporous. It lacks the significance of something with decades or centuries of history to lend to its value. We romanticize societal norms long gone and look to the past to inform our taste in clothing, design, and art today. Everything was better then.
I felt that way this weekend when I saw a mourning ring from the 1790s in the Erie Basin online shop. The Erie Basin blog is a new obsession of mine. With each new post I am down a rabbit hole of research. Art Deco Filigree craftsmanship, Walter Crane Wallpaper, and Victorian friendship broaches each had me considering their present-day counterparts. The mourning ring had me the most infatuated and amused. Their history is long but, in short, mourning rings are exactly what you imagine. Jewelry made and worn upon the passing of a loved one. You can read a little more about them here. It’s romantic and morbid and not fashionable today. Today, we have car decal memorials.
I understand the decals, to a certain degree. Were I to suffer the loss of a loved one (please, God, no), I can imagine the need to remind everyone of an existence that no longer is, one that is quickly disappearing into the vapor. It’s the choice of monument I find odd. We live in our cars, so that makes sense. We are seen by the largest number of people in our cars, so that makes sense, too. Where I get lost is when I consider the importance we ultimately place on our cars. Yes, we allow the make and model to define us, but only temporarily. They are not heirlooms. They are often leased, rarely kept longer than 5 years, and frequently replaced. Sometimes I wonder what happens to the decal once the life expectancy of the car expires.
Do they scrape off the decal before they put an add up on Craigslist? Do they feel guilty when they do? Do they buy another decal for the new car? Do they feel guilty when they don’t? Sometimes I fight the urge to pull up alongside the person and say, “I’m so sorry for your loss. If you don’t mind, I have a few questions that won’t take but a minute of your time…”
Reading the description of the mourning ring on Erie Basin made me feel then was better. The image portrays a classically-styled lady standing over an anchor– probably to symbolize the mourning of a sailor lost at sea. So much better than a decal, right? A ring has permanence, significance, and more effectively pays homage to someone dear.
And that’s how you idealize an era after reading a couple of pages of history. Only a few short hours later, it hit me while driving home from an errand that as permanent and significant as a ring may appear when compared to a decal, there are still over 230 of them up for auction on ebay.
PHOTO CREDIT: All images from Erie Basin.