I don’t feel like I do enough personal essays here. So here’s one that I’ve been thinking about for awhile. It came up in a free writing session, my love for thrift shops. My memories of them, from my childhood into my adulthood.
This might seem really weird to some people. Maybe the thought of wearing someone else’s clothes grosses you out. Maybe you think there’s nothing there but old outdated clothes with other people’s sweat stains in the armpits.
Maybe you grew up with expendable income. Good for you.
I grew up broke. Hell, let’s be fair, I’m still broke. We’ve got four people, a dog, a cat, one income, and I’m a self-published author. Sometimes, in order to have money to print my books, I have to get some jeans second hand. When I was growing up with a single mom who was a waitress, it was a similar issue.
But it’s really hard to feel like I was ever deprived. I always had nice things, quality things. I had Areopostal hoodies, Abercombie t-shirts. Even to this day, I get some awesome name brand stuff. My first pair of Clark shoes were from a second-hand store. They were $2.50. I also found a Thirty-One bag once. So, you know, maybe give the second-hand stores a little more credit.
Getting things at the second-hand store, you have to remember that this item lived a whole life with someone else. Sometimes, people leave reminders behind. Especially in books. I’ve found bookmarks, old shopping lists, coins, sticks of gum. For some odd reason, I also find that people like to hide things inside of yarn balls. I’ve found ashtrays, figurines, rubber balls. I have no idea why people make yarn balls around these things, but it makes things interesting.
I often find just what I need at second-hand stores. I mean, it’s kind of eerie. When I’ve needed clothes for my ever growing daughters, I never come away disappointed. When I needed good work shoes, I’ve found them. When I needed a coffee pot after my old one broke and I couldn’t afford to buy a new one, there was one left there for me. I even found the exact Thirty-One bag I’d been drooling over, for way cheaper than brand new. I can’t think that’s a coincidence. I absolutely believe that God stocks thrift shops.
I’m not the only one who’s had this experience! My best friend once found the exact decorative plate her grandmother used to have and was horribly lost in a move.
The best thing that ever happened in a second-hand store actually involved said best friend. We were hanging out just a few days after I was fired from my old day job. I was depressed as hell, and she was trying to cheer me up. I’d gotten my severance pay, and I was just hoping to find some nice Christmas gifts for my girls.
What we found was a copy of Elements of Style by EB White and William Strunk. I wasn’t going to buy it. I didn’t know when the next time I was going to have any income.
“I’ll buy it for you,” my friend said. She wasn’t in a much better situation. She was a college student with a little one, living entirely on grants.
Then, the lady who owned the store refused to take any money for it. Apparently, it had been there too long for her liking. Or maybe she’d just overheard us talking about what that book meant to me. One way or another, I took it as a sign from God that I was on the right path.
See, I knew I could bring this back around to writing.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever found at a second-hand store?