Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Treasure Hunt

For me there is hardly an easier way to fill an afternoon than thrifting. I am capable of hunting through a store full of already owned goods for ages. Never really looking for something in particular, just something interesting. As a rule, if I go looking for anything I need, it won't be there. But, there will be eight of them there the week after I've bought it at Target.

I like to find old glasses with monograms for friends with the same. A partial set of beer mugs etched with an F for Finchy or a B for the Byham house. You just never know what treasures you'll find.

I can get carried away going through unwanted or vintage greeting cards. I love finding the one that was slipped in with the rest but was already written in. Dear Len and Sal, congratulations on your wedding. I stand for a second every time wondering if I might find Len and Sal. If they are still crazy after all these years I'd love to give them the card.

I can tell you from first hand experience what you should never buy new. Never buy a new 25th Anniversary tray or photo frame. There is always something that says Happy 25th Anniversary at a thrift store, even the bad ones. Never buy a new framed Monet print, its another guaranteed item right along with a bread machine.

I think I know why I love used things so very very much. It goes back to the weekend we had to clean out Dad's house. My brothers, sisters and I had to go through each and every corner unearthing everything familiar and attached to our time there. We dragged it out to the driveway, to the curb and to the cars. It was either salvaged by us or someone passing by.

Slowly my home was just an empty house. We bought a shredder and I sat there with decades of Dad and Mom's old tax documents shredding garbage. I lost track of time in tears reading through little ridiculous check registers with Mom's writing. Some of Dad's archive of unneeded minutia was just interesting. But he no longer had the luxury of storing forty years of tax returns or credit card bills from the early eighties with stores no longer in business.

I had a pile of what I thought should be kept and the rest went out. Everything from our parent's life passed through us like sand through a sieve and out to sea. Or to the self storage a mile down the road.

Dad really had no idea what was going on. I'm not sure he knew his house was gone and so was most everything in it. I think of that as I wander isles at some charity store. I think of the items from an obviously long established home. I think of the work it took someone to donate away everything familiar or had to for someone they love. Maybe someone who once took care of them and no longer can take care of themselves.

I just think its respectful to try to get things there first. A trench coat some son hates to part with, it reminds him of his mother, he passes it on hoping someone finds a use for it. Cause we can't keep it all. I know. Everything can mean something and you can bury yourself with sentimental stuff. Even a mostly used pencil has spirit if you let it. And maybe you decide that's it, you can't part with it. But you can pack up the dishes.

They aren't stores they are part museum, part charity, part halfway home, part graveyard. But most of all, they are a second chance and a happy ending.

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