At a garage sale whose products were dominated by multiples of cheap, un-used Christmas decorations, her muted earth tones held a measure of warmth that seemed lost to the sea of Santa snow globes, tinsel boas, and questionably functioning colored lights. Her eyes popped out at me even in the dismal, fluorescent garage lighting. Besides, anything vintage kitsch will have my heart in a second.
For one dollar she was a bargain, even more so once I saw the slit in the back of her head and realized she was a piggy bank. Her symmetrically rounded forms were pleasing in my hand, and I liked the mottled two-tone color scheme, only strayed from with her metalic gold eyes. The faux-rustic texturing, dripping glaze and slightly off color application disguised her machine made origin in the regularity, and symmetry of her forms.
Through some quick googling, I now know that piggy banks gained their name from a common type of red clay called pygg. During the Middle Ages Pygg was used to make house wares, and housewives would drop their extra coins into a jar, eventually gaining these jars the name pygg bank. In the 19th century someone heard pygg and thought pig, and from there the piggy bank was born.
Unlike the functional origin of the piggy bank, I don’t envision actually using my little owl as a bank, but rather as a desk ornament. As an overly meticulous child I was perplexed by the concept of having to break the bank in order to get the money out (I was the child that never played with her dolls, just took them out of their boxes, changes their outfits, made sure their hair was still perfect, and put them back in). In reality having to break this bank isn’t an issue, as my owl bank has a hole in the bottom from which you can retrieve the money, but it gets at the fact that when I was younger, I felt like by using something I loved a lot, I would destroy it. In many ways this is the case, by using something, you often wear it out beyond future use.
It is use that gives something character, and gives it meaning. While it may take away from its shiny newness, it adds something in its place. What made my owl bank stand out amongst the Christmas decorations was that she didn’t seem so shiny and new, she seemed like she might have had a history. Her warm brown and beige colors didn’t shout like the cheap plastic red and green, and echoed a different era when those colors were in fashion, when she was used by a thrifty spinster saving up for bingo tokens. Finally though, she was now part of my story. I could now remember the partly cloudy, lazy Sunday morning I spent in one of my favorite activities, perusing garage sales.