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Influence of our other parents

By Jami Wilmarth, 02/25/2016 - 08:39
Jim and Nick Wilcoxson

Jim and Nicki Wilcoxson, in the days before they passed and were living with Dorsey and me.

In October of 2000, my future mother-in-law, Mary Wilmarth, owner of Wilmarth's Antiques, took me to Round Top to help her and to experience the show. Her husband, Dick, was ill by that time, so it was just the two of us. (I remember having to drive all the way back from Austin in a moving truck by myself because Mary had had to fly home unexpectedly to be with Dick. That was scary; Siri wasn't born yet, and I didn't have great map-reading skills.)

It was during that show that I fell in love with everything about antiques. Mary had employed me to work with some of the antiques in her inventory, so I had already begun to develop an appreciation for early American furniture. As a single mom with very little money, I always thought to myself how cool it would be to have an antiques business, but the thought stayed filed away in my brain. There was no way on God's green earth I could ever afford even one antique piece, let alone full inventory.

Fifteen years later, Dorsey and I are married, and life is way different than I ever could have imagined. My parents, at the ages of 69 and 70 (quite young, to me), became gravely ill. My dad had stage IV prostate cancer, and my mom had had a debilitating stroke. After almost a year of unforgettable and unimaginable difficulty in caregiving, my mother had another stroke, this time fatal, and 10 days later, my dad died. I have another blog that began in January of 2015 which describes that journey. http://www.aginggracefullyisanoxymoron.blogspot.com.

Now, my parents knew nothing about antiques. My mom admired them, and she dabbled in collectibles and early 20th Century furniture my parents had inherited from their parents and grandparents. But my mom loved that whole antiques/vintage/craft show scene. She always thought Mary's collection of early American antiques was beautiful.

I don't think my parents would ever have imagined what I would do with some of the unexpected resources they left for me. I had had several different jobs and careers — newspaper and mental health — so antiques were a stretch. What did I know about antiques?

Then last September, something bit me and I started buying some antique "smalls" for our home. And then something bit me harder and left me with the thought, "Why not be an antiques dealer? This stuff is so amazing!"

I started studying everything early American ... everything colonial and about early settlements. I studied how these people survived (or not). I studied furniture styles and how they came to be. I built a library of books about anything early American, whether it's how settlers lived, or about the furniture, or about the utensils, cabinets, boxes, art ... you name it. I talked to dealers and studied their web sites. My next step in this learning process, besides time and experience, is to travel and spend as much time as possible in the New England states. Oh, darn ... that's rough.

And I started collecting more antique accessories.

The passion-for-antiques bug had bitten me, and I jumped in head first — so much so that Dorsey couldn't help but follow.

I now have accumulated more than just smalls and accessories. I'm most excited about my furniture pieces and the ones still to come. I'm thrilled to have Mary to mentor and teach me more. I'm excited to keep learning. I can't wait to dive into the shows.

Yes, I know it's hard work, and I don't care. If it weren't hard, it wouldn't be a challenge or hold my interest for long.

So, here I am. It's been not even a year since my parents passed. I can't even describe how awful that has been and how the grief has overwhelmed me. But my parents left me with resources to carry on with something I can love and enjoy. My parents gave me something to focus on in the middle of my grief.

Funny how things work.

I dedicate my new career to Mom and Dad. Thank you, once again, for always being there for me.