Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thrifting: A book with no words

I love going to thrift stores. There is a huge one downstairs from my office and a smaller one across the street so I spend many a lunch hour wandering the isles.
My fascination with thrift stores runs a little deeper than just the fantastic deals you find. It is a given that thrift shopping is like treasure hunting. When you find that perfect something for next to nothing it is a total rush.
For me, thrift stores are like reading a book without words. They fuel my imagination and take me on mini mental vacations every time I spend some alone time in one. A lot of people who thrift don't think about the fact that a lot of the things in those places are from people who are no longer alive. The things that are on the shelves, for some, are the only thing left in the world that belonged to them.
I know, they are just things right? But how many of us are totally attached to our things? How many of you have a most favorite shirt or perfect skinny jeans or favorite cozy sweater? These things mean a lot to us. They are our comfort belongings.
I'm sure when my time comes my diamond bracelet, earrings, and wedding rings will go to my daughter. But my favorite outfit would probably mean very little to my loved ones after I am gone and would more than likely end up being donated to a thrift store. They would have no way of knowing how much happiness these small comfort objects gave me.
So when I am perusing the isles of a thrift store I am thinking up stories of the people behind the things. When I find a gorgeous vintage Gucci bag valued at $500 marked with a $10 price tag sitting in a pile of Target duffel bags I think of the woman who owned it and probably cherished it. How she lovingly took care of it and that is why it is still in such great shape after all of these years. How she only used it on her most special occasions. I think about how she might have died. Was she young, was she old, was she alone? I think about the person who dropped it off at the store. Was it a daughter, a friend, a widower, or the people who run the rest home?
I see the wall of wigs and wonder about the women who used to wear them. These are not just Halloween wigs, these are wigs that were expensive and well taken care of. Was it a Cancer patient, an older lady facing hair loss, a trans-gender man? I look at the many empty Oxygen tank trollies lined up in the back of the store and wonder about how many years the owner smoked before they drown inside of themselves. When I come across a piece of clothing that reeks of cigarette smoke I wonder if it belonged to someone who belonged to one of those tank trollies.
When I see loads of brand new baby clothes with tags still attached I wonder about the family who maybe never got to bring a baby home they had been so excited about. I wonder if they donated all of the clothes because they were too painful to keep around.
I find comfort in the knowledge that someday, after I am long gone from this world, maybe someone will still be walking around in my favorite shoes.


Lei Lei said...

You, my dear cousin, are amazing!! I haven't seen you in years, but you are so deep, and intelligent sounding. I love reading your 'stuff'. Keep it up-you oughta write a book-about anything would still be interesting. love ya!

Michelle Auer said...

Thanks! You are too sweet. Much llove to you too! Maybe someday we will all have a family reunion or something?


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