One of my favorite sites in Redding, California sits on the corner of Shasta and Oregon Streets. A spacious, historic building that inhabits nearly a block. The Oregon Street Antique Mall. That store sends my antique-anticipating-heart racing when I step through the doorway. My last treasure hunt there, a lovely Roseville vase talked me into taking it home. Ridiculous, since none of my art pottery is even displayed now. They are all carefully packed in boxes. So what’s the obvious end for this piece of Apple Blossom patterned art-pottery? Easy answer. Still, I do enjoy it so much, decorating a small table, waiting for placement.
The Antique Mall’s two floors hold diverse riches. But for me, the prime attraction is Kate Barker, the winsome owner. Her welcoming style is genuine and folks flock to her store’s events & because they are great fun. And, because she supports other businesses with a passion. Historic Downtown Redding and Kate Barker have a close relationship.
A couple years back, the Oregon Street Antique Mall had been run by Kate & her husband, Phil Barker. But as they neared their 50th wedding anniversary celebration, Phil passed away. I watched Kate as she made the brave decision to continue running the Mall by herself. It was tough, of course. All the challenges that arose from operating a business were hers to resolve alone. Before, Phil had taken care of many hard things. Now Kate took it all on her shoulders, pressing on to a path she’d never wished to walk. But Kate wanted to make Phil proud. So she dug in, orchestrating new events to draw folks to Downtown Redding, learning to advertise on Instagram, and create memes for the Antique Mall’s Facebook page.
As the one-year anniversary of Phil’s departure appeared on the calendar, I longed to do something to comfort Kate. Something special to mark the day. Since she had recently admired the antique, crazy quilt hearts crafted my friend Geo, I contacted her.
Geo (Georgina Diehl) is a master at needlework and recycles antique crazy quilts by cutting up old quilt tops, forming small stuffed hearts or cats or Christmas stockings. The results are stunning and popular eBay items. I knew I’d called on the right person when Geo, touched by Kate’s story, cut into a new, antique crazy quilt to make a small heart featuring a pair of embroidered owls. It was a sacrifice of sorts. Geo may have had other plans for those owls, but she generously offered them to make something exquisite for Kate.
Backing the heart with a piece of velvet from an ancient opera cloak, Geo completed it quickly so I wouldn’t miss the looming deadline. The day I gave Kate the package, Geo had referenced her eBay dealer name – lavendergatherings – in the presentation, tying fragile lavender ribbon around the outside and attaching a lavender-filled sachet. Charmed, Kate turned it over in her hands, wondering aloud, “Whatever is IN there?” She opened it with ooos and ahhs. When she read the writing on the small paper heart attached to the back – “Forever Phil + Kate” – the tears came.
Because of Geo’s artistry and kindness, I was able to give Kate a unique gift to mark the day. The two owls – one larger, one daintier – represented the perfect pair, Phil & Kate. Love remembered and love remaining.
In Victorian times, when Geo’s crazy quilt top was first created, an owl symbolized wisdom, intelligence, protection, and vigilance. I realized these were all attributes and gifts I would wish for my friend Kate every day going forward. Only doubled.