I like life to surprise me. Not in the sudden-tornado-on-the-horizon sort of way, nor the sharp-wail-of-one-of-my-children-followed-by-a-trip-to-Urgent-Care sort of way either. More like today, when an impossibly soft houndstooth scarf in black and white caught my eye, folded all nice and neatly on the thrift store shelf. Impossibly. Soft. It’s a Chaps scarf, so of course I imagined myself wearing it while riding a horse through the woods with my long tresses artfully arranged just so. I did not come to buy a scarf, but $2.99 later I did so anyways.
And then there were the wool gloves with the black bow, and all of a sudden I’m ready for winter. For six dollars I’ve given my winter gear a cozy make-over. (My Peruvian knit gloves were becoming a bit of a nappy nightmare.) Trust me, when I’m nine months pregnant in December, I’ll need all the help I can get to feel feminine and elegant. (Is it even possible to feel elegant while waddling?)
Anyways, I’d gone to the thrift store to find silicone molds, often used in baking, which are terrific for soap molding. On average I find one per excursion, being few and far between, and today scored one that was for ice cubes and is perfect for molding our trial bars. But I came home also with a scarf, gloves, a sturdy mustard-yellow shopping tote, three Taste of Home magazines, one mold, eight hand-dipped candles for our Advent wreath this year, an old mason jar with a zinc lid full of dried berries, a hand-embroidered baby quilt wall hanging, and a cookbook for a grand total of $!4.00. The price of an average scarf or even just a t-shirt these days. Fun.
I love thrift stores. It’s a rare article of clothing for me which hasn’t born a little handwritten price tag. I love the unpredictability of it all. You go for kids snow pants and come home with a pasta machine. You go for a stock pot and come home with wool socks. This would drive a more goal-oriented person absolutely bonkers; the randomness, the disorder, the hit-and-miss of it all.
But as for me, and my budget, I embrace thrifting. With a wide smile. Suddenly my seven year-old wool winter coat will be infused with new life from my stunning new accessories. I’ll feel special in my classy gloves as I push my babies in the stroller, and every time I put them on I’ll remember that they found a second home with me for 3.00, and I’ll smile again.
This is an inherited thing. My parents are auction hounds and have been known to bid on a whole table of boxes of things at an auction’s end without knowing what’s in them, for a $1.00, for mere curiosity’s sake. And they find a pair of sugar tongs that’s worth $85.00 and we hoot and laugh at it all. I once bought six vintage wool and fur-trimmed coats for $1.00 and my parents were delighted. We find it the greatest fun, like a grown-up treasure hunt.
And this would explain why I’ll exuberantly tell you the price I paid for something if you verbally admire it. “What a beautiful dining room table you have!” “We paid fifty dollars for it!” “I love your shoes!” “Three dollars at Goodwill!” I. Can’t. Contain. Myself. Because for me, half the joy in having beautiful possessions is the dirt cheap price I paid for them. So much for so little.
I love thrifting not only for it’s surprising aspect, but also because things find new life, new use, in a new home. “Used” is just another name for “pre-loved”. I actually prefer to buy sweaters second-hand because you can see how they hold up after repeated washings. I remember buying a sweater brand spanking new from a real store once (yes, it happens that rarely), and finding after the first wash that it was pilled and lacking in all it’s original beauty. I took it back to return it and explained in a shocked voice that the sweater had deteriorated so much after just one washing. The sales clerk just gave me a “What did you expect?” look and refunded my money. Apparently I expect good quality, which I can find rather dependably at thrift shops.
So, how about you? Are you a treasure hunter? A compulsive price-teller? A go-to-the-store-and-buy-exactly-what-I-need-right-now type?
In the meantime, I’ll be gazing at my scarf and gloves and hoping that winter hurries up.